I've been feeling more and more "at home" here in Spain and in Europe in general. I don't miss having a car. Exceptionally small-sized coffees don't confound me anymore. Light-weight "track-style" sneakers are looking ever more fashionable. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not quite ready for a man purse or anything, but, who knows, maybe someday I will. Actually, I do carry my backpack a lot more than I used to and it is a little big... :-0
Soccer's another one of those things that I'm paying more attention to than ever. Obviously, with living in Barcelona, the F.C.Barcelona is a part of everyday life much like a local pro baseball or football team is in the United States. Still, I don't think that I'll ever be the biggest soccer watcher in the world...but...could I be a big soccer player???
A few weeks ago Vladimir was going to his weekly soccer game and told me that they needed an extra person and asked if I'd like to play. I had a bit of a cold so I wasn't up to the challenge but I went along anyway to check it out. Well, other than the massive soaking I got on the way there on Bicing, I thought that it seemed like a great group of guys and that I wanted to play. Two weeks later on a Friday night at 8pm, there I was, out playing soccer for the first time in probably 30 years (that's me on the right side of the photo):
It turned out to be a ton of fun. The guys who play are all about the same age as me and pretty much everyone has a few more pounds and a few less hairs on our heads than we used to. One of the things that I was super stoked on was the number of countries represented by the twelve guys that night. We had British, Scottish, Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian, Uruguayan, Bolivian, American (me), and possibly more! (Side note: I'm continuously amazed at how "international" my experiences have been these past bunch of years. The world is definitely getting smaller.)
The weekly games are played at a rec center's outdoor field in the Port Olimpic area of the city. They've taken one full-sized soccer field and put three smaller fields separated by nets across it. This allows for three games at the same time. The fields are in great shape and have artificial turf with loose black rubber pellets that makes it a fairly forgiving surface for an old guy like me to fall on.
Like I said, I haven't played soccer for more than 30 seconds since I was a little kid. It's hard for people here to believe it when I tell them that soccer in the U.S. is mostly a kids' sport. The few exceptions are universities, the pro leagues, or adult immigrants to the U.S. that continue to play. They can't even fathom that most people don't watch the games on television...
Back when I did play, I was probably not very good at offensive positions (based on what I remember and how I played last week) so I ended up playing goalie a lot. Well, after about 15 minutes of non-all-star play, I found myself back in goal (again). It felt strangely familiar, like an old pair of shoes. After letting two shots into the net, I started getting into the groove of the position. The hardest part was making myself not be afraid of the ball coming at me at such high speeds. I think that I did better as the game went on and a couple of folks even said that I seemed (more) natural in goal. That's me on the left about to stop the ball from going into the net:
I can't express how much fun I had playing. I know I was terrible (at least one guy told me so!) but they didn't tell me to not come back. I can't wait to play again and maybe, just maybe, next time I'll hear GOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!
Thanks Vladi (with me in the photo above) for the invite and to Diana for taking the photos!