Sunday, April 29, 2012

A social life is born and Contemplating my memoirs


Hey guys!

For the first time in weeks, I actually have some things to talk about.  I’m really excited about my blog actually being entertaining again.  In the last 72 hours I’ve gone out socially for the first time in Enkoping, been offered a job and excelled at training.  Hopefully I’ll start playing really well and then the blog will be interesting for soccer reasons, but until then you’ll have to settle for hearing about my social life.

First you should know that I’ve been doing quite well in training.  I still make my fair share of mistakes, but having the confidence of my peers and time to work on my game has helped me a lot.  This is really the first week that I’ve not been worrying at all about playing time or if I’ll earn a contract or anything else.  I’m just going to training and focusing on improving.  I think playing as a winger is helping that process, because I have so much to learn about the position.  It’s always easier to work hard to improve when you know you need it, as opposed to training the same thing that you’ve been doing for 10 years.  It’s been paying off.  We had a intrasquad scrimmage with the teams evenly split between starters and reserves and I scored two goals.  My team won the game 2-0 so of course that will loom in Siggi’s head when he selects the team for our game Wednesday.

In life things have started to become more fun in Enkoping.  I’ve kind of come to accept my apartment as the place that I will live for at least the next three months.  I think I’ll go to IKEA (obviously) and get some stuff to spruce the place up.  Ironically, getting stuff from IKEA will make my place feel more like (my US) home.  As of right now, the only thing I have on the walls of my room are some newspaper cut outs and an enormous American flag.  Not to mention the green sheet acting as a curtain.  I give you all my word that by the end of this week there will be some changes around here.

Anyway yesterday training was very simple.  We just did some finishing drills and some 5v2 and called it a day.  We training in the morning since it was Saturday and no one had any schedule conflicts, and it was fun because there were a lot of people around.  They were they for their own various reasons, but it was nice to train in front of a crowd.  You’ll be happy to know that my team dominated the finishing competitions, but perhaps unhappy to know that I contributed absolutely nothing to the cause.

After training, I went home and immediately cracked open a beer.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve had any alcohol of any kind, so with the following day free and 5 days until the match I felt safe in having a couple beers that have been in my fridge since a week after I got here.  Then I went over to Fabian’s house and hung out with the guys for a few hours.  Fabian and Siggi had bet on a series of matches and for once they actually won, for a jackpot of 20,000 SEK so they were in a great mood.  Also in a great mood (and completely hammered at 5:30pm) was a big sponsor for the club.  We saw him by chance because Fabian offered to buy drinks at K14 since he won so much money.  I don’t know the sponsor’s name, but I wouldn’t mention it anyway.  He was hilariously drunk and after two minutes of talking I was offered a job!  Whether or not the job actually exists is up for debate, but I’m sure if he does offer something then it will be not-so-difficult and have good pay.  A nice combination if you ask me.  After a few minutes at K14 we went back to Fabian’s before we headed to the house of some of their lady friends.

-Sidebar-

If you ever happen to be with a group of college-aged Swedish guys who are about to go over to some girls’ house, then bring something to read.  Something that will take time, like a textbook on String Theory, because the guys you are going out with WILL take a minimum of 90 minutes to prepare.  I’m convinced that Fabian, Daniel and Robert are all secretly competing in some sort of reality-fashion design tv show.  I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that they take so long to get ready because they are actually creating and sewing their outfits on the spot for when we go out.  It would actually make the 90-minute time frame pretty impressive.

-end of Sidebar-

So we get to the girls’ place and we’re having a good time.  I was enjoying myself even though I didn’t understand 90% of the conversation.  One conversation I did understand (because it was in English) was a hilarious exchange in which Daniel tried to convince us that incest (yes, incest) shouldn’t be illegal.  Amazingly, this wasn’t the first time Daniel had brought this up, which made the conversation even funnier.  He wasn’t defending incest, just saying that it shouldn’t be against the law.  If a brother and sister love each other, he posited, then they should be able to be together and get married.  Of course we all saw no place for civil discourse and immediately wanted to know if Daniel had a sister and what she looked like!

The time spent not understanding the rest of the conversation was a bit depressing, not least because I felt kind of like a chaperone.  None of the guys are within 2-3 years of me and the girls were probably the same age.  Now I’m no saint; I have no problem being romantically involved with an 18- or 19-year-old lady.  I’m a pretty stand up guy, but the law is the law and if I’m on the right side of it then I have no moral objections.  I figure I’m something like Bill Clinton: the more you know, the less of a saint I become.  That said, there was a pretty lady who seemed quite interested from that group of girls and then a couple more at the bar/club we went to afterward.  I didn’t go home with any girls because that’s not really my thing, but I will say this: I still got it J.  Even with the hair of a caveman I still got it!

As is customary after a late night out, I got up ungodly early this morning (9:30am.  Shocking, I know).  I went to McDonald’s with the guys, which has been a dream of mine since I got to Enkoping but where I’ve never gone since it’s a solid 30 minute walk from my apartment.  In Sweden the colors for McDonald’s are green and brown.  They still have the classic red/yellow signage, but the facility itself looks more like a Whole Foods than fast food joint.  A funny thing I’ve noticed about McDonald’s in Sweden(Gothenburg, Stockholm and now Enkoping) is that the cashiers are universally college-aged girls.  It’s kind of like in the absence of Hooters, hot girls just decided to give Mcdonald’s a go.  After Mcdonald’s, we all went to Café Wickman for what I affectionately call “birdwatching” .  This is when you set up shop somewhere and admire all the pretty girls that walk by or come into the establishment.  Feel free to use that term, btw.  You think you won’t use it, but you will.  My gift to you. 

That’s all for now folks.  I have a game in three days so I don’t know if I’ll get to a post before then.  I’ll have you know that I’m very close to starting my career autobiography.  It’s a mental battle in my head because the task is so daunting.  I’m trying to decide now if I want it to be 5000 or 50,000 words.  I could literally write 100 pages on my time between my last college game and now.  It’s a hell of a story that goes from Tampa -> Denver-> Bradenton, FL -> Baltimore -> DC -> Austin, TX -> Saigon, Vietnam -> An Giang (Nam)-> Can Tho (Nam) -> Indianapolis -> Tampa -> Ave Maria, FL -> Orlando -> Wilmington, NC -> Harrisburg, PA -> Gothenburg, Sweden -> Valkeakoski, Finland -> Jakobstad (FIN) -> Myllykoski (FIN) -> Enkoping.  That doesn’t even include the great non-soccer-related stories in Charlottesville, VA (2-3 hilarious stories); Philadelphia, San Antonio, Stockholm, London and dozens of road trip stories.  I put a picture up from the very early days of my Baltimore adventure.  As you can see, my autobiography could go on for quite a long time.  I’m just concerned that most people don’t really care about an unabridged account of the last 3 years of my life.  I’ll probably publish the short(er) version and keep the longer one for when I’m famous and write a book that people actually will pay money to read!

Til next time.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hanging at the Poorhouse

You know, one unique thing about Sweden and all of Scandinavia really is that the sun stays out much longer than anywhere else I know of.  I mean outside of the artic circle.  As it were, I am writing this at 9pm and it’s still light out.  It’s cool now, but I think that once the sun stays out all night I won’t like it so much.  Maybe the first night that the sun stays out til midnight I’ll do a video and post it here, who knows.

In other news, at my apartment (which I now lovingly call “The Poorhouse”) now has a working stove!  This is very big new in my world, as it opens up dozens of new things I can eat.  Up until now, the only hot food I’ve been eating has been prepared in the microwave or at a restaurant.  Now I can cook just about anything.  I still don’t have an oven, but a stove is great.  I’ll be buying some pasta and pancake mix soon!

Unfortunately the stove is still only one of many things that need fixing.  I still have no shower (or sink, remember.  Sink-gate is now into day 10 with no end in sight.), no cable and no lock on the front door.  The only silver lining I see in all of these problems is that it gives me a really strong case for reduced rent.  If they cut the rent to, say, 2000 SEK then I will happily live the upcoming months with no in-house shower and I’ll be able to just buy cable if I want.  Honestly with the 2000 SEK savings I could probably buy a shower head and install it myself.  I just need to get settled.  If I’m going to stay at my current place then I need to decorate the place and make it more homely.

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I love houses and decorating houses.  I’ll give you some time to question my manliness……….

Anyway I went out the other day to look at stuff for my room and found a lot of cool things.  The real find though was the greatest store in Enkoping and possibly Sweden: M Kladhuset.  This clothing store is the first legitimately cut-price store I’ve seen in this country.  It is similar to a TJ Maxx in America.  The store has a hilarious collection of products, from all sorts of clothes to paintings to air fresheners to sewing needles.  I actually bought some sewing needles and thread and sewed up a rip in one of my jeans.  I know, I’m amazing.  If you want me to sew some of your clothes, let me know.  But be warned, you may not like my prices!
Back at the Poorhouse, I have been watching Netflix like it's my effing job.  Right now I'm powering through season 1 of How I Met Your Mother.  I just finished 2 seasons of Ancient Aliens (they butcher the phrase "clear evidence", btw) and I've also started watching a british show called "Luther".  I have 10 hours a day of complete downtime so I've been zooming through shows, not to mention watching soccer games online from nearly every continent on the planet.  For all the bad things at the Poorhouse, my TV-watching setup is pretty awesome!

That’s all for now.  Training has been going well, so I’m happy.  The sun is just now setting so that seems like a hint for me to wrap it up.  The next game can’t come fast enough but until then I’ll be training and exploring a bit more of Enkoping!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Matchday 2

Hey hey hey!

Yesterday was my first game of the season.  I got the start and played the full 90, so I was pretty pleased with my fitness.  However, there weren’t many more positives for me to take from the match.  We lost 2-0 and really were never very dangerous.  I can count on one hand our chances to score.

The game was against a team called IF Sirius.  They were tied in points for a promotion place last year from division 1 to Superettan, but didn’t get it because of goal difference.  Needless to say they were a pretty good team.  As always, I’m not going too deep into the match because that’s not necessary but I will make a few observations. 

We played the match tactically in a way you would expect against a strong opponent on the road.  Rather than constantly high pressure, we sat a bit lower than normal and only pressed if the opportunity presented itself.  I think that’s how we should always defend, but that’s neither here nor there.  We were looking to find the spaces in behind, specifically to me and the striker.  We thought before the match that Sirius’ left back would be marauding forward the whole game, leaving the space he vacated for me to attack on the counter, but he mostly stayed home.  I know that Sirius scouted us in our preseason match against Vasby and maybe they anticipated that we would look for me with passes behind their backline.  Or maybe the left back simply didn’t feel like running.  The result of our tactics though was that Sirius had a large chunk of possession, but mostly in the middle and back thirds.  Our possessions were short and direct which actually led to one or two decent chances in the first half, but took a lot of energy to create.  The second half was a bit different as Sirius essentially adopted the same tactics as us, leading to both teams having a fair bit of possession in safe areas, but no one really threatening goal.  I almost got in on a pass at around the 70 minute mark, but the goalie beat me to it and again around 85 minutes, which led to nothing when I chose to slide a cross on the ground when I maybe had a good enough angle to shoot.  We had a few good shots from outside the 18, but the goalie made a couple fantastic saves.  That was the game.

Our tactics have affected me in a unique way within the team.  Even without knowing Swedish, it was made quite clear to me (in Swedish and English) that Siggi wanted to get me and Joel in behind the defense.  We wanted to get the ball there and get it there as soon as possible.  This is great for me; I’m fit and all too happy to be a focal point of our offense.  You could even say I’m honored at the faith put in my abilities.  Unfortunately, it’s not really the style of the rest of the players on the team.  From the first day I arrived here I noticed that the technical skill of individual players is very good.  That’s because the roster is filled with guys who like to play a short passing game, even to a fault.  I’ve already spent 2-3 games cursing my teammates for trying to be too cute when just booting it to me would actually work.  It reminds me a lot of my early days at the University of South Florida when I would wonder aloud why no one would make the easy pass.  I’m interested to see how these competing dynamics resolve themselves this year.  Will the players adjust?  Will Siggi change the tactics to what is probably more popular with the players, but less likely to be effective?  Either way I just hope that I can help out and really use my skills to win some games for ESK.

Aside from the match I was impressed with the city of Uppsala (pronounced: Oops-suh-la), where Sirius play.  Uppsala is a city in and of itself, but it’s also kind of a northern suburb of Stockholm.  From what I understand it’s kind of a place for people to live who work in Stockholm but don’t want to live in Stockholm.  The city also has a big college, so that will always boost population figures.  I didn’t see much of the city, but I saw enough to know that I will visit sometime this summer.

That’s all for now.  Another week of training is coming up then we go off to play Vasby United.  They, along with Sirius were the preseason betting favorites to be promoted.  I guess we’re running the gauntlet!  I think we can win the game though so there’s reason to be hopeful!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

First XI and Tangent-Rant

Game number 2 is tomorrow, and I’m excited because I’m eligible to play!  I’m also excited because I’ve been named to the starting lineup, so I’ll have an opportunity to show my stuff!

The last few days have been quite boring.  A bunch of us got together at K14 to watch Barcelona vs. Real Madrid and that was interesting, though the game itself was quite subdued as many of you know.  Since there’s not so much happening at the moment I’m going to use my time here to make a little observation and then go on a rant so bear (bare?) with me.

First for the observation: men in Sweden refuse to wear slacks, but insist on wearing button-down dress shirts and blazers.  It’s like every single day of the year is business casual in this country.  At the kickoff party a few weeks back, I noticed that every single guy there (myself included) was wearing jeans.  There were probably 50 men there and there were no exceptions.  Why do they dress like this?  I don’t think it’s a bad look, but I mean at some point you would think one guy would be brave and complement his blazer with a nice pair of dress pants.  It’s not going to happen though, the style is the style.  I’ll just have to continue living my life in one big H&M commercial.

In other news, Siggi told me today that he spoke with a newspaper in the area and that they might be interested in working with me in some capacity.  It could be that the blog gets reprinted in their publication or I could be doing something that they assign to me or it could all come to nothing.  Regardless of what happens with the paper it was very nice of Siggi to take the time to mention me to them.  He has no responsibility to ensure that I have work outside of the club, but he knows that the money definitely would help and he’s doing all he can to see that I have the best experience possible in Sweden.  I really appreciate that.  The way I’m treated by the club here is very good.  They don’t have a ton of resources, but they help in whatever way they can.  It’s very similar to the Harrisburg City Islanders, and the complete opposite of Crystal Palace Baltimore.

--------------------------------

I put that line there to signify that I will be going on a rant.  If you don’t want to hear my rant, then the blog is over for today and I’ll see you in 48 hours of so.  Trust me, I understand if you don’t want to hear about how awful my life is when I sleep 10 hours everyday and play soccer/watch Netflix for a living.  Honestly I get it.  Anywho…

My apartment-mate (I think I just made that term up, but oh well) is driving me crazy.  For the second time in like four days, I woke up this morning to him washing himself in the kitchen sink.  I’ve tried multiple times to engage him in some sort of communication, but he won’t have it.  Now realize, I’m not talking about us sharing our life stories, just basic cordial communication.  He won’t budge so things continue to be awkward.  When I hear that he’s out in the hallway or kitchen I simply don’t leave my room.  If I have to pee I hold it.  If I’m hungry I wait.  That’s just how it is at the moment.  Now if that was the extent of my problems (and up until today it was) then you’d never hear a rant about it.  I’d still joke about some of the stuff because I’m a humorous person and like to keep things light-hearted, but now two things have rubbed me the wrong way.  The first isn’t a big deal, but the second is a real problem.

First, like I mentioned earlier this morning I walked out of my bedroom and into the kitchen to brush my teeth.  I’ve been keeping my toothbrush in my room instead of the bathroom recently because someone threw my toothbrush away when cleaning up the bathroom.

I’m sorry, but Tangent-rant:

Who throws away someone else’s toothbrush?!  Think about this, have you ever thrown away another person’s toothbrush?  Have you ever even touched a roommate’s toothbrush?  Why in the world would I have a toothbrush in the bathroom if I thought it should be thrown away?!  If I wanted my toothbrush in the trash, I would have put it there.  I wouldn’t just leave it on the window sill next to the toothpaste and razor.  Whoever threw away my toothbrush had to consciously decide that somehow I didn’t want the toothbrush anymore, but I did want the toothpaste and razor.  Only an insane person or a dick would do something like that, and I don’t think any crazy people have been in my bathroom…but then again how would I know?  The lock on the front door doesn’t work.

Ok, back to the original rant.

So I have the toothpaste on my (new) toothbrush and I walk into the kitchen (because the bathroom sink is still on the floor) only to see my apartment-mate washing up in his undies.  That’s all fine and good, better than if he didn’t wash up at all, you know?  But he wouldn’t acknowledge that I was standing there.  Clearly I’m not just trying to watch him wash up.  I said excuse me multiple time and he had to hear me, but no response.  Finally after 20 seconds of just standing there I just barged in and used the sink.  I was a bit perturbed about that but it wasn’t really a big deal.  However the second thing is a big deal.  Tonight I noticed for the second time in as many nights the smell of cigarette smoke.  Last night it was kind of late when I got home from the Real Madrid vs. Barca viewing party so I didn’t pay much attention to the smoke smell.  I just figured it was coming from outside or something.  Today however there’s no doubt that the smoke is coming from my good friend on the other side of the wall.  Now I’m legitimately upset.  It’s one thing to be a dick, and to be fair this guy might be really nice but just doesn’t want to be bothered with me at the moment.  It’s another thing though to have cigarette smoke lingering in the house.  I’m not against people smoking cigarettes, I just don’t want to live with anyone who is smoking in the house.  Yet another reason why I need to move out of this apartment asap.  I’ve been looking, but it’s not easy to find an apartment in Enkoping.  Maybe I’ll go into detail about my apartment search sometime, but not now.  I’ve already made the post too long with my rant and tangent-rant.

Back on topic for the last five seconds, like I said before my first match and the team’s second is tomorrow.  Wish me luck!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Literal Poorhouse

Hey everyone!  It’s been a few days but I’m back.  The club had Wednesday off, so I decided to do one of my famed video updates!  I hadn’t done one in a while so I figured I’d show you my “apartment”.
video


video
As you can see, I don’t exactly live in luxury.  I’ve been brushing my teeth in the kitchen sink, which I think is a surefire sign of poverty.  At least the Swedish standard for poverty.  The only other thing I did on my day off was watch the Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich Champions League with a bunch of they guys.  Bayern won, but there’s no question that Madrid will win the return leg and go to the final (where they’ll play Barcelona, even though Barca also lost.)

Thursday was pretty interesting because I spent the entire day with Siggi, Daniel and Fabian.  In the morning we had a finishing session at the training ground.  For the last 30 minutes or so of that session we had a number of finishing competitions, with Siggi (much to his delight) being crowned the overall champion and me coming in 2nd.  When the session was over, I planned to go home and rest before the team training in the evening, but instead I was invited to lunch with the guys.  Siggi offered to pay for my lunch because I was the runner-up in the finishing competition.  In reality, I know that he was just being nice because he knows I’m currently in the poorhouse.  I’ve been here for exactly 40 days and I haven’t gotten a paycheck yet so I’ve been living on the money I had when I came over to Europe almost three months ago.  I don’t spend a lot so it’s ok, but it’s still a bit stressful to only have $100-200 to your name in a place that is not your home.  Siggi knows that so he helps me out.  The other guys realize this too and offer to pay for me all the time, but I typically refuse because I don’t really want a handout.  I have money, I’m just trying to save it rather than spend it on clothes and meals.  Surely that’s not so crazy?

Anyway we went to lunch at K14, which is kind of a de facto team restaurant.  I’m pretty sure we get special rates there and it’s the restaurant where the club wanted me to pay 3000SEK (kronor) a month to have lunch and dinner.  I refused so I’ll (hopefully) get that money in cash on payday.  If I don’t get that money there will be one upset cookie.  After about an hour and a half at K14, they guys wanted to go shopping, so we went around Enkoping looking at the most Swedish looking clothes on the planet.  Daniel, Fabian and I went to a 2nd hand clothing store, but realized it was only women’s clothing and left quickly.  At this point I thought we must be heading home, but instead we went to Café Wickman.  We weren’t hungry; our sole stated purpose for going to Café Wickman was to look at hot girls.  Keep in mind that this plan came directly from the coach.  We spent some time at the café then finally, mercifully, headed home.  Training was uneventful, but I was a beast and did well.  It was after the training that was interesting.

Siggi decided that we would watch a video of our match after training.  As has been noted many times in this blog, I do not speak a word of Swedish.  As such, any meeting held is really just a time for me to sit quietly with my thoughts while everyone around me communicates ideas with each other.  The only point I really picked up on was that Siggi really wants us to press our opponents.  I’ve never really been of the whole pressure school of thought on defending, simply because I don’t believe it’s effective.  People see it work for Barcelona and think anybody can do it.  You hear all the time, “It doesn’t take skill to pressure”.  Well yeah that’s true, but you DO need skill to actually have enough of the ball to have the energy to chase whenever you lose it.  Barcelona can press because they have 70% possession, they don’t have 70% possession because they press.  What that means is that if you have the best midfielders on the planet then of course you keep the ball so much that when you lose it you have energy to get it back.  If you’re not stringing 20-30 passes together at a time then it’s going to be difficult to constantly press.  You end up in a sort of track meet where you run like crazy to win the ball, then run like crazy to attack in the five passes you typically make before losing the ball.  I can do this somewhat because I’m quite fit at the moment, but for most players on this team it’s very difficult if not impossible.  Maybe Siggi rectified these problems with his comments in the meeting but I don’t know.

That’s all for now.  Today is April 20 and for some God awful reason it’s snowing.  We were supposed to have a small group of us do a morning training, but that got canceled because of the terrible weather.  Hopefully we can get some good work done tonight despite the weather.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Season Opener and Bathroom Breakdown


Howdy!

I say that ironically of course.  No one actually talks like that.  I know it, you know it, but the people of Sweden clearly don’t since a ton of people around here have been saying “howdy” to me the last couple of days.  Anyway I’ve got some entertaining stuff to tell you so get comfy.


Yesterday was our season opener against Syrianska Kerberan.  We lost, 2-1.  I ended up not being eligible to play because my immigration papers weren’t return by the Swedish office.  Syrianska weren’t amazing but they did have 4-5 really technical players.  They didn’t have a team plan at all, but when their top players got the ball they caused our guys problems.  Their first goal was a solo effort and the second was a classy free kick from the top of the box.  Our goal came at the very beginning of the second half.  I didn’t see the buildup because I was walking back to my seat at the time, but I did see the finish, a tap in by Mtaka Simba.  It was a game of two halves, each team dominating one.  Had we finished 2-3 great chances in the 2nd half then we would have won the match I think.

It sucks that I couldn’t play yesterday.  I really feel like I could have helped to open the game up.  You see, even though this club has four players who will rotate in the winger positions, I’m really the only true winger.  One is a more natural wingback, one prefers to play in the middle so he is always tucked in and the last guy doesn’t look to get behind defenses so much.  As a result, in the 2nd half I think I could have opened up the Syrianska defense.  They pretty much bunkered in the 2nd half on their two goal lead and we had a lot of trouble solving it.  We still created three really good chances, but a good save, a miss and a bad touch dwarted those opportunities.  If you want to know more about the game I’m sure the report on www.esk.nu is pretty good.

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Today I woke up to the interesting sound of two women talking casually in my apartment.  Technically my apartment is a small hallway with six rooms off the hallway.  The women were in the hallway.  When I walked out of my room to go to the bathroom, they greeted me and I immediately saw that my kitchen was flooded.  Not terribly, mind you, but there was maybe a quarter inch of standing water.  I walked further and saw this beautiful sight in the bathroom.


Fortunately, the women in my apartment were the owner’s wife and daughter and they called a plumber (or general handyman) to come fix the problem.  They came and I assumed everything would be okay.  Two hours later I went back to the bathroom assuming everything was fixed and I saw this.

Of course.

I pay 4000 kronor a month to live here.  I still don’t have a shower or cable and now my bathroom is falling apart and my kitchen is flooded.  I think May 1 might be moving day for me.  That’s all for now.  I’ll let you know how things are going!

P.S. You’ll all be happy to know that my immigration paperwork is now completed and I’m eligible to play the next game.  I hope I can earn a starting spot, but obviously that’s up to Siggi.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

PRESEASON IS OVER!


Today is the greatest day of the year for most soccer players.  It’s not April 15 for every player, but for me and my team it is the last day of preseason!  The team has long since gotten out of preseason mode, but there’s something extra special about knowing that the real games are starting and I can start to achieve the goals I set forth for myself when I left America 10 weeks ago.
Enavallen, ESK's home stadium.

I won’t do a recap of preseason since this blog itself is the recap, but I will list my stats from my time in Finland and Sweden.  In Finland, I played six games totaling 297 minutes and didn’t score any goals or make any assists.  I did however, help create three goals.  I know this isn’t an actual assist, but it’s better than a “Valderrama”, which is when you’re in the stadium when a goal is scored and you’re inexplicably credited with the assist.  Obviously Finland wasn’t the best time for me and the stats probably reflect why I ended up moving to Sweden.  I’ve been here for seven games and played 390 minutes.  I’ve scored 4 goals and assisted 5, as well as helping create one.  Hopefully I will be able to continue my rate of scoring during the season.

As for the game tomorrow, there’s really only two things on my mind.  First, my immigration papers need to be resubmitted Monday morning and accepted in order for me to play Monday night.  If that goes well, then I hope to get a decent amount of playing time.  I’ve scored or assisted in every match where I’ve played over 30 minutes, so I would hope that I get more than a ten minute cameo.  If that’s the case though, then I’ll do my best to play a good ten minutes.  I want to start, but for now the bench will have to do.  I thought that I had done enough to start, but then again I thought the same thing in Harrisburg and that didn’t work out so hot.  We’ll see what the future brings.

That’s all for now.  The last two days have been incredibly uneventful so I won’t rehash them.  I will say that I’ve been learning a bit of Swedish and everyone on the team has been impressed!  Maybe someday soon I’ll impress you all with my foreign language exploits!

Friday, April 13, 2012

ESK Kickoff Party and Paperwork Problems (Again)


It’s Friday the 13th!  I Hope your luck is good today!  Yesterday was the kickoff party for ESK.  Pretty much every club has a day like this, where you go to some place before the season and spend some time with the people who most make the club successful.  I should be clear that these are fans and sponsors, not people actually employed by the club.  Of course the employees have more to do with the club being successful than fans, though the fans and sponsors do provide most of the money that the club uses on my and my teammates’ salaries.  This event was a dinner for ESK, but with Harrisburg and CPB we had lunches for the same type of event.

I know I’ve made this clear, but it’s worth mentioning again:  I don’t speak a word of Swedish.  I’m trying to learn but right now when a Swedish person speaks to other Swedish people I have no idea what they’re saying.  That said, the kickoff party was about two hours of Swedish people talking to other Swedish people.  Obviously that’s normal and I don’t expect them to all speak English because one person doesn’t understand Swedish.  However, when this situation occurs (It also happened at a team bonding event in Turkey), I’m left feeling like Charlie Brown listening to his teacher.  I pretty much heard two hours of “womp womp womp, womp wompwompwomp.”  The saving grace was that the season ticket holders sitting at the table with me spoke fluent English so we were able to talk to each other and enjoy the dinner.  We introduced the team for the year and played some guessing games with songs before calling it a night.

In training before the kickoff party, we began to work on tactics.  This was a bit strange for two reasons: first, it was a bit strange that now was the time we decided to talk about tactics, four days before our opening match and, second, the tactics themselves are more or less the opposite of how we’ve played every other game.  We’ve been working on attacking as quickly as possible.  We want to get the ball from our defenders to the goal in as few passes as possible.  It’s not necessarily a counterattack because we plan on having more of the ball than our opponents, but it is a counterattack mentality.  I don’t want to give away too much of our tactics on the off chance an opponent might read this, but it’s definitely something different and it’s rubbing some of the team the wrong way.  We played a full field scrimmage for the first time since I’ve been at the club and by the end seemingly every player was frustrated or upset for one reason or another.  I guess it’s just that time of year when people are eager to get on the field and play.  Speaking of which….

I was on the 2nd team today in the scrimmage.  I’m not sure what changed between Tuesday and Thursday but I am no longer in the starting lineup.  Maybe I can get the spot back by the time we play on Monday but I’m not counting on it.  I’m just hoping I get in the game, because I don’t see Siggi putting me in if we’re winning.  He has one or two other guys who are more defensive-minded that can play as a winger.  I would think that my performances in the preseason will warrant some playing time, but I thought the same thing in Harrisburg and was frozen out of the team after the first game.  If not for the curse (maybe I’ll elaborate someday), I would not have played more than five games for the City Islanders despite the fact that I clearly brought value to the team.  I fear that history could repeat itself here and that’s very frustrating.  Since I’ve been here, ESK has scored 19 goals in 7 matches and I’ve scored or assisted 9 of them.  You would think that contribution would be on the field.  I don’t pick the team though so I’ll do whatever I’m told whether that’s starting or coming off the bench or sitting in the stands.

Speaking of sitting in the stands: regardless of what Siggi has planned for me I might have to miss out on the first match because of paperwork issues.  You might remember that I had some anxious moments on transfer deadline day getting everything sorted with the Swedish FA to play this year.  Thankfully all of that came through no problem, but now the Swedish Immigration Office has lost my papers and cannot/will not grant me work permission at the moment.  Without it, I can’t play any games for ESK.  Since presumably the office won’t open again until Monday morning, it is unlikely I will have time to resubmit the forms and have them cleared before kickoff at 7pm.  That means that I will almost surely not take part in the season opener.  What a bummer.  Fabian’s doing everything he can but he’s only human.  If he could do immigration’s job for them he probably would have, but instead their incompetence (we sent the forms in weeks ago) is costing me and the club.  I guess US government offices aren’t the only ones that are terrible at their jobs!

We’ll see how it goes.  This post is too long to put another player profile up so I'll do it next time.  Until then enjoy your weekend and I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April Showers and Daniel Alund

April in Sweden sucks.

I feel like enough of this month has passed for me to officially make that declaration.  It has rained almost every day and snowed on the other days.  The temperature hasn’t gotten over 50 degrees and I’ve barely seen the sun since I got back from Turkey.  It’s been so bad that I barely go outside on my off days.  The only things I’ve done this month are train, run and hang out at Fabian’s house.  Enough of my sulking though.

Today was our first day back training.  In the end we had four days off, from Friday early afternoon until training today at 5:30pm.  Of course that differs from what I believed, since the schedule that we keep in the locker room said we had training Monday.  Over the weekend Siggi decided to extend the break and NOBODY TOLD ME!  So I walked over to the stadium in the pouring rain and stood outside for twenty minutes before deciding that I was going to do some investigating.  I walked over to Fabian’s place, where I saw that Daniel and Robert were comfortably having dinner and watching AIK vs. Kalmar in Allsvenskan.  They were appalled that no one got in contact with me, but to be honest it’s mostly my fault.  I gave my Swedish phone to Fabian for the weekend so there was literally no way or anyone to contact me and let me know that the break was extended.  I decided to go to the gym and workout instead, but of course with my luck I walked all the way there only for the gym to be closed.  Great day.

Today was our first training back and it was pretty simple.  I won’t go into detail other than to mention that we played a scrimmage and I was in the starting team during the scrimmage.  It’s no guarantee that I’ll start the season opener, but if the game was tomorrow I’m 99% sure that I would start.  Hopefully I can hold on to the spot.

As promised, I will bring you some player profiles.  I should say profile, since I’m only going to talk about Daniel Alund today.  The “A” in Alund has a little circle over it, so it’s pronounced “auw” .  There’s no real corresponding sound in English.  The closest would be to say the word paw without the ‘p’.  Anyway, he’s in the picture on the left.  You can tell just by looking at him that he’s quite young.  In fact, he turns 20 during this season. The guy on the right is Robert Kjellman, but I'll talk about him another day.  These guys look so incredibly Swedish.

Daniel plays at the CAM midfielder in our 4-2-3-1 formation.  He is really small, like maybe 5’ 7” and 130 lbs., but he makes up for it with his creativity.  For my US readers familiar with MLS, a similar player would be Graham Zusi.  Daniel is from Stockholm and played his youth soccer with Djugarden, an Allsvenskan club in the city.  Last year he played for Vasby United in the same league that we’re playing in now, Division 1.  In between there is where Daniel’s story gets quite interesting.

Now I obviously didn’t know Daniel when he was younger, but he must have been a stud.  He doesn’t talk to much about his past teams, but he has mentioned that at 15 he went to play at Feyenord in Holland.  He stayed there for a couple of years before coming back to Sweden.  In addition to signing at Feyenord, Daniel had trial at huge clubs like Manchester United and also Fulham and Ajax.  He has trained with Cristiano Ronaldo and Clint Dempsey among many others.  He also spent a good portion of last season training with AIK Stockholm while he was playing with Vasby United, as the two clubs work together.  It’s cool to play with a player like that who has those experiences.  It also helped me a lot that he came to me after the first match and showed a lot of confidence in me.  His belief in my ability has helped me to integrate myself into the team.  Daniel is a player that will be making a lot of money in this game pretty soon, and I feel pretty honored to play with him.

Next time I’ll talk a bit about Robert, but I need to talk to him some more to have something useful to say.  Only six days until the season opener!  I can’t wait to get started!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

So bored I'm lifting weights and going on walks

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I’m back.

We had a training yesterday, and for the day after a game it was ridiculously difficult.  Things started off normally with a simple warm-up and about 25 minutes of 5v2.  For those who don’t know, 5v2 is a simple possession game that is now the biggest thing ever with teams now for some reason.  I personally hate the game, but it’s a laid back game and can be fun at times.  Typically it’s just a time killer for me.  It’s easier than running all over the place.  After that though things got tough. 

I should make clear that even though I’ve spent all of my time the past month around Swedish people, I don’t understand a word of what’s being said at training.  I’ve learned some key words specific to training, but in general everything’s that is said goes right past me.  For that reason I had no idea until it was happening that we were running fitness.  We split into two groups: the guys who played 60+ minutes the day before and those who played less.  My group (60+) had to run to midfield and back and the other group had to run that twice for each rep.  I assumed we’d do 4-5, but instead we did 12!  By six or seven I was gassed and by 12 I was barely holding my head up.

After the fitness we split into two teams and played 6v6 to full-sized goals in 4-minute games.  My team didn’t do great, but I scored as many goals as anyone so I couldn’t complain.  My team was playing with a youth team goalkeeper which didn’t help our cause either.  That was the end of training for the guys who played big minutes the day before, but for the rest of the guys there was more fitness in the cards.  I didn’t hang around to watch that.

One interesting thing is that in the past few days I’ve started to hear my first rumblings of dissent in the team.  This is by no means unusual:  In Baltimore we lived to complain and Harrisburg wasn’t much different.  What is interesting though in this case is that it’s not people complaining about playing time or style, but instead about the management of the team.  Any player would be annoyed by having such a difficult training the morning after a match.  It’s just that this confusion in training intensities seems to come at random.  I assumed before that the coach was giving the guys some explanation and I was missing it because it was in Swedish, but from what I’m hearing the guys have no clue as to what each day holds.  Maybe that’s good for some teams, but clearly it’s frustrating this team.  I should be clear that I don’t think this is a problem, just interesting.  I thought this team was more contented than the teams I played on in USL, but obviously they’re not.  The City Islanders were the 2nd place team in their league with us complaining the whole time so why couldn’t ESK do the same or better?



After training I went on the promised walk.  Well actually first I lifted weights but that’s too boring for even this blog.  I took some pictures on the walk and I posted them here just to show you a bit of Enkoping.  The field you see is our training ground.  It’s about 1200 meters from the stadium and we drive there most days for training.  There’s a training pitch at Enkoping, but it’s grass and if we trained on it now, it would be ruined in a month.  We have to wait for the grass to grow in and for that it needs to get warmer.  Hopefully that happens soon.  Anyway my walk was nice.  I went around the entire town of Enkoping in an hour, so you can kind of get an idea of how small it is.  There’s a lot more forest area than I thought, but that’s a good thing because it will make my longer runs around town more interesting.  I did nothing else the rest of the day except watch Netflix and Hulu.  I’ve started watching Battlestar Galatica so that should take up about 30 hours over the next few weeks.  I’m really cool, I know (You can’t argue that.  You’re reading my blog!).

Today I’ve done literally nothing other than lift weights about 9 hours ago.  The team has today and tomorrow off.  Normally that would be an invite to travel around and visit somewhere, but I have almost no money whatsoever.  I have no bank account in Sweden, but I only have about $200 so it’s not like I need a super safe place to store my stockpile of cash.  As a result I can’t go to Stockholm or Oslo or Copenhagen like I otherwise would have done with essentially 4 days off (we trained Friday morning and our next training is Monday evening).  I also can’t go over to Fabian’s house because he, Daniel and Robert are all out of town for the weekend.  I took this video in the town today.  It's quite bumpy because I was walking so don't watch if you're prone to get a headache from that sort of thing.  I hope you realize that in making these videos I look like an absolute creep or crazy person to everyone around.  I make that sacrifice for you!  I thought about going to the bar tonight, but I’m not nearly cool (or uncool) enough to go to a bar/club by myself.  The fact that I don’t speak a word of Swedish doesn’t help, though I’m sure anyone I’d talk to would speak English.  Fortunately for me, Netflix exists so the time has flown by.  And now I’m streaming a Barcelona game so life is good.  Besides, beers here are $10 a pop in Sweden so I’m saving myself some misery by staying home.
video

I’m going to profile some of the players on the team here this week leading up to our season opener on the 16th.  It will be good for the people who read this to have a face to put with the names I rattle off all the time.  The hardest thing will be getting the guys to pose for pictures!  I’m kidding, of course, as all Swedish guys not-so-secretly want to be male models and dress the part every single day.  I will have to work though to get a photo of our assistant coach.  He looks like what the dad would look like in a pamphlet about Swedish people.  When I get the picture you’ll understand.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Last Training Match

Hey everyone I’m back.  It’s been a few days and I’ve been working hard to get my fitness up.  I’ve also started lifting weights again.  One thing that I’m committed to doing this year is getting in the best shape of my life.  I’m not the most technical player so if I can be the fittest and strongest player on the field then I will have a chance to be good, even at a higher level.

We played a match today and lost, 2-1.  I played the full 90 and felt good.  The game was against Vasby United, a club that is favored to win our league this season.  Apparently they recently had some Russian billionaire take over the club and give them a bunch of money.  As a result, they’ve been able to sign four players from Allsvenskan.  They were a good team but nothing special.  If they are the standard-bearers, then we should also be considered favorites since we were pretty equal.  I assisted our goal, and played well overall.  I’m really starting to adjust to playing on the wing.  I think it’s the best position for my skill set so it’s good that I’m playing there.

In related news, I was apparently correct about guys not being totally honest about missing practice Monday.  You’ll recall that I questioned the fact that about 10 guys missed training immediately after a rest day.  Well it turns out a couple of guys lied about being sick/injured and now are facing serious consequences.  I won’t name names but there are a couple of guys who are in a very bad position right now with the club staff.  They may be terminated, but even if they aren’t I would guess they’ll be buried on the bench for a while.

After the match I went to dinner with some of the guys.  It’s been nice to hang out with my teammates off the field because it makes me feel more accepted.  Many of the guys mentioned to me that they thought I played well today.  I think that I’ve been getting better and it’s good to hear that my teammates agree.  Everyone wants the respect of the coach but it’s just as important in many ways for your teammates to like you and respect your play as well.  The only way I’ll make it out here is to have the respect of the people who I spend every day with.

Tomorrow we have training in the morning and then I will explore some of the parts of town that I haven’t been to yet.  I’ll try and remember to take some pictures so I can post them up here.  I have the weekend off, but I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere because I don’t have any money.  The field trip portion of my adventure will have to wait until after some checks come in.  Til next time!




Monday, April 2, 2012

My most boring post yet

I’m back but I don’t have too much to report.  Yesterday was free, but Siggy had asked me the day before to go on a run, so I did.  I ended up running away from the town because I wanted to go somewhere that I hadn’t been.  I figured it would make the run go by faster, plus I don’t like running in crowded areas.  People see you after 45 minutes of running but think you’re five minutes in and judge.  I didn’t need that.  Anyway I started going and quited quickly hit a dead end at the highway.  I made a quick left and ended up on a wooded trail.  That was great as those kinds of trails are the perfect place to run.  Unfortunately, I got lost and ended up on that trail for 40 minutes.  It even started snowing while I was running lost in the woods.  Eventually I ended up at home, but not until I had run for 70 minutes.  I had planned on 45 minutes.  I grabbed a bite to eat, cleaned up and went over to Fabian’s house to watch the AIK vs. Mjalby match. 
At Fabian’s house I again saw Siggy.  He had also come over to watch the match.  As a side note, I have no idea where Siggy lives (he’s the head coach for those who don’t know).   I would think Enkoping, but if that were the case he’d be at his house I’d assume.  Or maybe he lives in Stockholm, in which case it wouldn’t make much sense for him to come to Enkoping to watch a match that was happening in Stockholm.  Whatever, it’s not important.  In a funny piece of good fortune though, Siggy actually drove past me while I was running and saw me.  I didn’t notice him but it was the first thing he said to me when I walked in the door.  When I told him I’d run for 70 minutes, he was surprised and impressed.  I think the only thing between me and a starting spot at the moment is my perceived lack of match fitness.  Siggy seeing me out running on my day off (even though he told me to do it) puts in his mind that I’m working towards improving my fitness.  That combined with the fact that I now have 4 goals and 3 assists in 6 matches with the club bodes well for my starting chances.

When I arrived for training today, I noticed a couple of things.  First, our 12-day practice spectacular has been amended to a much more doable version.  We had previously been scheduled to train every day except one between now and our season opener.  Now, we have a training match scheduled for Thursday and three days off this week alone.  Good news.  The second thing I noticed was that almost half the team decided to sit out training today.  Now, I’m sure some of the guys were legitimately sick or injured, but I don’t believe for one second that 10 guys are incapable of training the day after an off day.  I have high hopes for this team, but we will never reach our goals if people are inventing ways to get out of training.  Training still went well though, despite the fact that it was snowing.  My team (blue team!) dominated every game and we worked on some fitness which made for a good first day back after a match.

Sorry for the boring post, but there’s not much to say about boring ol Enkoping at the moment.  Maybe next time I only have boring info I’ll just post on some completely random topic to keep things interesting.  Til next time!