If you’re reading this and a bit confused as to why you’re reading yet another graduation post, let me explain. While, yes, I did technically graduate and finish all my classes in December, there was NO way I was going to pass up the opportunity to graduate from YANKEE STADIUM in May (yes you read that correctly, THE Yankee Stadium). But I digress…
In between my last trip to NYC for Dave’s NCAA Championship and graduation I secured a job at my dream company, FOX Networks, as Distribution Assistant. Luckily for me, I already had a flight booked to NYC for Graduation, so I just canceled my return flight to San Diego and began securing my apartment, and finalizing my graduation plans.
The weeks leading up to graduation were a complete whirlwind. I began my first day back in NY by saying goodbye to a close friend, Etan, at the airport as soon as I landed. The following night was an award ceremony, followed by Dave’s first summer volleyball tournament, and before I knew it, my parents were in town to celebrate graduation 2.0.
NYU is pretty big (about 50,000 students), so each school breaks up and does their own graduation ceremony prior to the big Yankee Stadium Commencement. Luckily for me (and my parents), I went to a somewhat small school and program ( less than 100 graduates and less than 8 girls in my program) which meant a pretty quick ceremony. Unfortunately my graduation fell on the same night as the Ranger’s playoffs game but we couldn’t score tickets to go. Some might find it ironic that a few of my sports management friends ditched the end of graduation and headed to the Garden – talk about truly studying what you love!
We had a day between graduating as a school and NYU’s commencement in the Bronx so I took my mom to Hoboken for the day and then later grad alley on campus. I love being able to show her a new part of the city every time she comes – that’s one of the best parts of New York – it’s somewhat limitless.
It was the perfect day for a baseball game graduation – the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, and excitement in the air. A sea of students in purple robes flooded the gates into Yankee Stadium. Truth be told, I have never seen Yankee stadium filled with so many non-sports fans in my life. No joke. After venturing around the 100’s section, I found some sports management friends, then later my teammates and made my way to the 3rd baseline, where I would sit the rest of the ceremony. Though the ceremony was a bit longer than I wished, it was a pretty cool experience to graduate from my favorite ballpark. How many sports fans can say that they graduated from Yankee Stadium? Not many.
After commencement, we made it back to midtown for a lunch at an Irish Pub and a celebratory beer (Hey, I’m Irish!). I then showed my parents my new work HQ (News Corp), where we ran into my former intern boss, Chris Bellitti. He was a huge part of my post-graduation job success and it seemed only fitting to run into him just hours after officially “graduating”.
Graduation 2.0 was a huge success but I couldn’t have done it without the help of a few friends. A huge thank you goes out to my incredibly supportive parents and sister – thanks for putting up with me all these years. Thank you to all my friends, my teammates, and roommates for putting up with me the past four years – I could not have done it without you all!
WE MADE IT TO THE NCAA’S! Today we found out that we got an at-large bid to the NCAA DIII Soccer tournament, one of 24 spots left. Six teams in our conference qualified, including: Chicago, Brandeis, Wash U, Emory and league champs, Carnegie Mellon. This is the first time in twelve years that NYU has made the tournament. The second in NYU Women’s Soccer history, and the first time that it has been done via “at-large” bid.
I can’t put into words how an incredible of a feeling this is. Four years of blood, sweat, tears, broken bones, torn ligaments, bruises, and turf burns. I am so incredibly proud of all my teammates, past and present who have made this moment possible. This has not only been a personal goal of mine, but a program goal that was set four years ago and it is truly unreal to see how much everything has progressed in that time period.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet, because I’m so excited and there’s still a lot we have to do.We play Amherst this weekend at Nazareth College in Rochester at 1:30PM on Saturday.
As I sit here on my last bus ride to Gaelic, I find it surprising that I’m not overwhelmed by a flood of emotions. It is, after all, my last collegiate soccer game, the last game of my career.
Man, that’s depressing to write.
Today begin like any other day – I got up, got ready, met up with Phebe and headed to Coles. Four years of waking my tired body, and forcing myself to get out of bed. Four years of carefully evaluating pregame and practice meals. Four years of walking to and from second home, Coles. Four years of taping my body up, of icing, of stretching, and foam rolling. Four years of hopping in vans and buses just to get to our “home” fields. And after four years, it’s all coming to an abrupt halt.
It still hasn’t hit me yet. I’ve been reflecting on it all week but I’m still at a loss for words. How can I describe my four-year career in a single word? Ineffable – I don’t expect you to understand because it’s simply been indescribable in so many positive and negative ways.
Come December I won’t have mandatory workouts, or meetings or lifts or events to attend. I won’t have to pass fitness tests or complete three-minute planks. I won’t have a stringent schedule to follow all summer and winter and I most definitely won’t have the last three weeks of summer planned out down to the last minute.
So, what comes next? Retirement? If we win or tie today, we might get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament next week. If we lose, there is the chance of ECAC’s, which would be great and terrible at the same time. Making the NCAA tournament has been a goal of mine for the past four years. This has been a long time coming and I can only hope that we continue to perform to the best of our abilities.
I’ve collected a series of shots over the past four years. Looking back its crazy to see how much has changed.
Frustration might not be the right word to describe what I was feeling going into this preseason. Frustrated doesn’t even begin to explain it. Upset, disheartened, and defeated don’t even get close to describing how I was feeling.
After a deadlifting accident last Fall, my lower back was in a state of chaos – leaving L4/L5 and L5/S1 partially sacralized and the prospect of returning 100% was questionable. Numerous doctors appointments, x-rays, cortisone injections, and physical therapy appointments failed to get me where I wanted heading into my senior season. Nevertheless, I was determined to get back on the field.
August 13th rolled around and I still had back spasms during workouts and a numb sensation down my leg whenever I ran for more than a few minutes. In a word, debilitating. I might as well have had the word UNCLEARED tattooed across my forehead because that was the simple truth. Another cortisone injection, a cocktail of medications, ice baths and a daily back massages helped me get on the field again. It was slow and excruciating learning how to dive again so that I didn’t further damage my spine. I believed that because I had done this twice before, why not a third time?
Nearly a month from that first day back on the field, just jogging for ten minutes, I am now back at it and fully cleared. There is still a painful jolt to my back every time my body slams into the ground, I have come to the realization that it is worth it. Every dive, every kick, every sprint. It is after all, my senior season.
Some of you may not be as familiar with my NYU soccer career, however, I think it is imperative that you do know that the team means the world to me. Between the wins and losses, the injuries and celebrations, the friendships and adventures, the past three years have been a whirlwind to say the least. This post is dedicated to those who have been part of my NYU soccer experience – without you, I would be nothing.
Claire and Phebe at Aviator Field in Brooklyn
On the way to practice the other day at the furthest part of Brooklyn, a few of us were joking that we’ve been to played soccer in every borough except Queens. Our practice turf is on Pier 40 (Manhattan), we play at Gaelic Park for our home games (Bronx), and Staten Island has been a staple practice field in the spring. Today, changed that when we practiced at the Metropolitan Oval in Queens.
The view from the Metropolitan Oval
Being an athlete at NYU comes with its challenges, such as lack of home fields, but what we lack in physical space, we possess in adaptability, humor, and camaraderie. The past three years would not have been possible without the girls by my side, especially the rest of my junior class.
We came. We won. We conquered NYC today. 5 Boroughs, 1 Spring Season. Who knows what challenge lies next?
Sometimes there are just days that slip by and I find myself completely immersed in my own world. The past few days have embodied that free-flowing and adventurous spirit I have come to call, “the Megventure“. Usually characterized by a series of rash events and unpredictable story lines, these “Megventure’s” are typically filled with close friends, spontaneity, and of course, an unmatched sense of wanderlust.
My Megventure began on Thursday night at a small Italian restaurant, tucked in the far confines of the East Village. Surrounded by some of my newest and closest friends, as well as two professors from the Tisch Center, I indulged in a delicious Insalate de Spinaci (Baby spinach, roasted almonds, ricotta salata, strawberries and balsamic reduction) and Fettucine al ragu di Salsiccia (Buckwheat tagliatelle with broccoli rabe puree, Italian sausage ragu and pecorino) at Paprika – t’was delicious! The best part of the night, however, was not the food, but the company. I was introduced to people within the department I would not otherwise would have had the opportunity to interact with, and also strengthened my relationship with one of my favorite professors, David Hollander. Sitting in such an intimate setting with only ten other people gave us the opportunity to open up, in a way that is not normally afforded in a classroom. I am so lucky to have had this amazing opportunity to get to know my classmates and professors on a much deeper level.
Friday night was an adventure in itself. I ventured out to Brooklyn for the second time (ever) with a few other classmates (all guys of course) to cheer on the Nets as they battled against the Detroit Pistons. So maybe “battled” might not be the best word, because the Nets blew them out, but it was a hell of a time if I may so myself. It was my first ever professional basketball game, and I am so glad I was able to experience it at Barclay’s. There is an ineffable vibe that certainly draws in the young people to the game – it was a sporting experience unlike any other. Though I am not a huge fan of professional basketball and the game was less than entertaining, I had such a great night at Barclay’s.
Saturday morning started with brunch at Veselka – days that start with brunch are usually ones worth remembering. And Saturday was no exception. I’m not one to complain, but after the horrendous winter that we had the past six months, it was so wonderful to finally break out the sandals and explore the city I have only begun to scratch the surface of. Saturday morning was the beginning of a day-long adventure throughout the city – one that resulted in a number of firsts. Following brunch with my best friends, Phebe and Ryan,and their two friends, we decided to go to the High Line in the West Village. For those of you who don’t know me very well, the High Line is a sanctuary of sorts of me, and one of my favorite places to take people when they visit the city.
Tori, Ryan, Phebe, and Graeme
We walked, talked, and wandered down the mile and half path before deciding to venture up to Times Square to expose Ryan’s girlfriend to the circus that is New York City. Phebe, Ryan, and I immediately decided to escape the mayhem and wander into yet another sanctuary – Central Park. Our tired legs yearned to rest, so we found some boulders and relaxed among their nooks and crannies. In the middle of relaxing, Ryan had an epiphany that we should go to the American Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaurs. My inner five-year-old self was excited beyond words – I had never been to a museum in NY and dinosaurs are so cool – what’s not to love?The AMNH was amazing (and crowded) but so worth it! Though we wandered aimlessly through the dinosaur exhibits and probably didn’t learn as much as we could have, it was the perfect end to a perfect day spent with friends. My favorite dinosaur, besides the T-Rex (Duh!) was the Megaloceros (for obvious reasons). The museum pulled at my child-like heart-strings and inspired me to get out and see more of my amazing city.
The rest of Saturday was a blur, as I prepared myself for an early wakeup the next day. Sunday was warranted by a soccer session at Gaelic Park and a less than exciting evening filled with homework. Little did I know that my sense of adventure would get the best of me and I would be once again on the road with my roommate, Erin and her friend, Alyson, to a wonderful restaurant in Chelsea. Don’t let the pictures of Co Pizza below deceive you – the restaurant was AMAZING. The wooden walls, dimmed lighting, and candles on the table made it feel like we were away from the hustle and bustle of the city. We all ordered one pizza and split the three flavors between us. I ordered the Cuattro Cipolla (4 Onion) and it was divine. The Straciatella and the Popeye were also lovely – I felt like I could just nom on them forever!
On the way home from Co, we encountered an abandoned subway car. I know what you’re thinking – DON’T ENTER, IT’S A TRAP! Don’t worry, we were fine (no creepy guys, no bad smells, you get the picture). My inner-child awoke and before I knew it, I began to swing from pole to pole until the train began it’s journey along 14th street.Though the weekend seemed to pass by in a single instant, I am so incredibly fortunate to have spent my Megventure of a weekend with my closest friends.
As some of you may or may not know, my younger sister, Twist, just spent the past five days exploring the city (and Syracuse) and is now off on her first foreign adventure to Germany. I could not be happier/nervous/jealous, but more importantly I am extremely excited for her to catch the travel bug! After helping her prep and pack for this trip, I was inspired to write a blog on my top ten travel tips because international travel is anything but stress-free.
Check in 24 hours before hand! While in Europe, some (budget) airlines required us to print out boarding passes before hand, but more often than not I opt to go for the eTicket to save time and the environment. This also enables you to change your seat before getting to the airport and check for upgrades. Who doesn’t love a free upgrade? I also recommend purchasing your airline’s app (usually free) on your iPhone and signing up for gate changes and updates. After I get to the airport all I have to do is show my boarding pass on my phone and everything’s a go. If your gate changes or there are delays, updates are sent directly to your phone – super convenient, right?
Set aside enough time to get to the airport and make sure to set enough alarms if you have an early flight. This is an important tip and one lesson that I’ve had to learn the hard way. I’ve unfortunately missed my fair share of flights but have learned to give myself adequate time to get to the airport – especially around the holidays in New York!
Have necessary information (card numbers, passport number, flight information) in a safe place. Sh*t happens and you’ll never know when you will need this information. I usually keep a copy of my passport on my email and phone and send it to my parents. It’s also critical to make sure someone you trust has access to your flight information in case anything happens.
Travel light! I know this sounds ironic coming from the “packing Princess” (see below), but trust me on this one. Weigh your bags before hand to make sure they aren’t over the weight limit, otherwise you’ll find yourself either repacking at the airport or paying an extravagant baggage fee (no thank you!). If you want to save yourself some time and money just pack carry-on’s – I usually opt for the functional back pack and duffle bag.
They call me the packing princess
What (not) to wear? Everyone has varying opinions on how you should dress while traveling, and my answer of course is, “it depends”. I travel a lot for soccer and often times we are required to wear the same thing. It’s comfortable and I thoroughly enjoy being able to wear sweatsuits on the plane. On the other hand, when I travel alone I enjoy dressing up a bit. A blazer, jeans, cute top, scarf and flats is cute and functional. You never know who you’ll meet at the airport!
Traveling in matching gear is comfortable and easy!
Looking professional also has it’s perks
After you decide what to wear, make sure your choice is easy to get through TSA. I often times avoid putting on a belt until after security (or not at all) and make sure I empty my pockets before getting to the airport. Nothing annoys me (and other travelers) more than somebody who stalls the TSA line because they didn’t “know” they had to take off their belt.
Maybe it’s just the soccer player in me and the bottomless stomach I possess, but I always pack some snacks and an empty reusable water bottle when I travel, whether it’s just a quick trip uptown or a longer international excursion. When you travel internationally, you run the risk of not having food you’re used to or like. My go-to’s are pre-packaged trail mix from Trader Joe’s and Chocolate Chip Cliff Bars for Kids. Just keep in mind some countries don’t allow certain foods to enter into their country so check before hand!
Choose your carry-on wisely. If you decide to pack just a single bag for your carry on, I urge you to pack it in the most ergonomically way possible. I usually keep my laptop closest to my back and have my camera on top so I can pull them both out quickly as I go through security. The front pocket of my backpack usually has gum, headphones, lip balm, and my business card in case I ever accidentally leave it. The middle pocket contains the valuables: passport, boarding pass, wallet, snacks, and a few toiletries. I reserve the pocket closet to my back for my laptop, camera, chargers and a good book.
Planning what to pack makes traveling so much easier
Have a positive attitude while traveling. Planes get delayed, luggage gets lost, and sometimes you just flat out miss your flight. Everything is going to be okay! If you stay positive, your travels will be! Relish in the adventure.
Document your travels! As an avid shutter bug and self proclaimed traveling photo journalist (I wish!), I thoroughly enjoy looking back on my adventures and reminiscing of the “good ole days”. One of my goals when I went abroad was to snap photos of everything in sight – the namesake for this blog.
I hope these tips help you out and you enjoy your next adventure wherever in the world you are!
We’re approaching day 22 of preseason, but the grueling long set of two a days are only just beginning. Our ten days in the UK proved to be one of the greatest experiences of my young life, but then again, what more could a girl ask for in a trip? Soccer, travel, and surrounded by your best friends and teammates. Here’s a (relatively) quick recap of our trip.
A map of our trip
Panorama of London
The return to my “homeland” was everything I expected and more. We began our trip in London and spent the entire first day on our feet , walking from our Hotel at County Hall, across the bridge to Westminster Abby, along the River Thames, then back to Buckingham Palace. Though we were exhausted from our red eye from New York, we mustered enough energy to tour the city that day to allow for more free time in London during the trip.
NYUWS all smiles on the River Thames after a grueling long tour and flight
After a solid night’s rest and the most wonderful breakfast buffet ever (thank you County Hall Marriott!), we set out to explore the London Underground with a trip to the Tower of London, followed by some free time. The Tower of London proved to be an incredibly educational experience, but an even better photo opportunity with the Tower Bridge ( more commonly known by its misnomer, London Bridge). From the Tower Of London, Phebe and I ventured to Harrods then Picadilly Circus, but had to figure out the Tube to do so.
After successfully mastering the Tube, we walked back to the hotel and took a quick nap before we left for our game that night. That night we traveled outside the city to face off against Watford Ladies. We ended with a 2-1 loss, but the overall experience was very eye opening. I think what we all realized was how lucky we are, despite the numerous difficulties we face as NYU soccer players. What surprised us most, that despite England being a soccer powerhouse, the female professional teams, have subpar facilities, treatment, and access. It really set a fire deep in my soul, that made me want to do something.
NYUWS & Watford Ladies Prematch
Our last day in London began with a walking tour from NYU London’s own Director for Student Affairs, Nigel Freeman. We walked through Convent Gardens, through the British Musem to NYU London. It’s been really an incredible experience to have set foot in 3 different NYU campuses in Europe just this past year. Though NYU Madrid will forever hold a special place in my heart, NYU London was stunning. If I had more time to study abroad, I would definitely go back to the UK! After the walking tour, we boarded a bus and headed out to Teviot Rangers FC’s home field for a soccer clinic. I think this was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, considering the fact that we got play soccer with little kids with adorable british accents. The sad part however, was that the club didn’t have enough girls to start a girls team to compete – illustrating once again gender inequality in women’s “football” in the UK – something I was familiar with from my time in Spain.
Teviot Rangers Clinic
Highlight of the Trip
We continued our trip in England with a half day stop in Stratford-Upon-Avon, more commonly known as Shakespeare’s birth place. We were on our own, so Phebe and I set out with our guide, Jack and walked along the river, where we saw numerous rowers practicing. A side note: Jack told us that Stratford-Upon-Avon has one of the best crew clubs in England and has produced many Olympians. We strolled around, basked in the beauty around us, and ended our halfway with a visit to Shakespeare’s grave and lovely French restaurant, where I indulged in my favorite French dish, Croque Madame.
After lunch we hopped on our lovely coach (“bus” for all us Americans) and headed to a professional soccer match. West Bromwich played Bologna in an international friendly with a final score of 2-0 in favor of West Brom. Though it was my first EPL match, it didn’t even begin to compare to the other soccer games I have been to, including El Clásico in February. Following the game, we ventured North to Wales to retreat for the night.
Bologna vs. West Brom
Stratford Upon Avon
Though we were based in Wales, the majority of Days 5&6 were spent in Chester, England. We spent the morning learning about the ancient Roman, Anglo-Saxon (Mercian), Norman, & Parliamentarian history of sieges and warfare built into the walls of the city of Chester. It was a very beautiful city, considering the age. My favorite part was being able to walk around the entire city outskirts on the raised fortress walls.
That afternoon we faced off against Manchester City Women’s team. Though we didn’t play their full squad, the game was more than competitive. Man City was a great, feisty, physical opponent that will definitely be a benchmark for the rest of the season. Though we didn’t come away with a W, there were many lessons to be learned from that match.
After the game, we made a surprise pit stop at Old Trafford, home to Manchester United. Even though we couldn’t go inside, it was so cool to see the stadium, the Munich memorial, and statues of old players.
Corner against Manchester City
Man City and NYUWS Pregame Photo
NYUWS at Old Trafford
After two quick days in Wales, we were back on the road to Scotland, home to our guide, Jack. Although I wasn’t initially excited about making the trip up to Glasgow and Edinburgh, the anticipation continued to grow because I didn’t know what to expect. Jack continued to build up my excitement throughout the bus ride before we made one last final stop in Carlisle, England at the second most famous wall in the World: Hadrian’s Wall. On the way, we made an impromptu stop at Lanercost Priory because our education guide, Angie, recommended it from past visits. The priory was gorgeous and if I were to ever get married in England, I would definitely consider that as a location – it’s stunning. Check out some photos here! We spent the majority of our afternoon however in Carlisle, exploring the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall. It’s incredible to think that these ruins have been around for over 1800 years!
We finally made our way into Scotland by dusk, settling into our hotel in Glasgow. We ate a quick dinner before most of us went out to work out and then to sleep.
We were up bright and early on Tuesday to head into Edinburgh to see the Edinburgh Castle and get a local walking tour. The views from the top of the castle were like none other and the city itself was bustling with tourists – I had no idea it’d be so full. After our walking tour, we were given a few hours to explore the city on our own. I had no idea where to start, but Phebe and I just started walking around the city. I would return to Edinburgh in a heart beat, I feel like I left so much undiscovered.
After a full day in Edinburgh, we boarded the bus back to Glasgow and immediately threw on some soccer gear for our training session at St. Mirren park. We ended up practicing at an indoor facility, which was a new experience for me – I really liked it, except the small field boundaries.
At the top of Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK 2013
Time seemed to pass by so slow over the course of our trip, that I had begun to feel like I had been in the UK for weeks – I loved it. We began one of our last days with a trip to Loch Lamond, which is at the foot of the Scottish Highlands. We walked around part of the massive lake, and then took a boat tour, where we got to see some old castles along the coastline.
Later that day, we laced up our cleats for a final match against the Hamilton Accies. Though it was a pretty even match, the Accies came out on top.
Castle on Loch Lamond
NYUWS on a ferry at Loch Lamond
The final full day of our trip will forever hold a special place in my heart and soul. Part of our trip included giving back to the community, and we did so by volunteering at a soccer clinic as well as visiting a Children’s Hospital in Yorkhill Scotland. Though the hospital and our coaches warned us that we might get emotional, nothing could prepare us for the pang of mixed feelings that I felt.
I had the distinct opportunity to meet six year old Euan. He’s an adorable Scottish lad with a debilitating auto-immune disorder that has left him in the hospital for his past three birthdays and on the bone marrow transplant list for quite some time. Even though he didn’t want to wear a hat or talk to us, I just sat there until he got really excited and wanted to show me his robot. Euan and I sat together for no longer than 30 minutes, but he had a profound impact on my life – teaching me that despite the odds, you can find purpose in the work you do – just like his robot.
As we left the hospital, I couldn’t help but tear up. We met tons of children with disease, disabilities, and sicknesses that we were so fortunate to have avoided. It brought me satisfaction that we were able to cheer them up, even if it was just for a little bit. What’s even better is that all the funds that SAAC raises this year through special events is going directly back to the Yorkhill Foundation
After our time at the Hospital, we had enough time to venture back to Edinburgh. We were on our own for four hours, so Phebe and I walked up this giant hill to these ruins with views of Scotland – simply stunning. We then returned down the hill, walked on the opposite side of the castle through cute little shops. I picked my Dad up a Scottish rugby jersey and I found some Trinity Shaped earrings I’ve been dying to get before we headed back to Glasgow for our final night in the UK.
This trip passed by quicker than ever, and I caught myself wishing that we could just stay in the UK for an extended period of time. My extreme case of wanderlust has hit me hard and I can only dream about the next time I set foot on an airplane.
Our final half day in the UK was spent exploring Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Museum, which had an array of old paintings, sculptures and displays. It wasn’t before long that we were headed to the airport to head back to London then NY. This trip was a blast and I cannot even begin to thank the numerous people who made this all possible including my parents, coaches, athletic department and of course my team!
We are approaching Day 5 of pre-UK training and it’s finally beginning to sink in: less than one week till we touch down in London town and we cannot be more excited. Our days have been filled with two practice sessions and an education component in the middle to supplement our trip to the UK. Our daily schedule is not set, but it usually consists of a 10AM practice, 1:45 PM education and a 7PM practice. Sometimes our evening practices are substituted with a strength and conditioning session in the early afternoon, so we get more rest time for the following day. Our education lessons are taught by a 5th year Ph.D. student, Angela, who is absolutely amazing. She knows so much about England and the UK – her enthusiasm about the topic is definitely contagious!
On the field, we are looking strong and coming together as a team. After a semester abroad in Spain, it felt great to finally get back on the field with my teammates. The passes are crisp, the shots are stronger, and our chemistry off the field is evident in the way we play – it’s almost as if we can read each other’s mind and where we want the ball to go. If we’re looking like this now, I cannot wait for how we will be playing come September.
As the turf burns find their places below our knees and the blisters begin to form underneath our toes, we are subtly reminded that we are home again, not only on the field, but also as a team. I feel so incredibly blessed to not only be spending part of my summer training with them but also traveling abroad with them.
I’ve been walking past the Santiago Bernabéu stadium everyday for the past two weeks, simply imagining, dreaming, and wishing I knew what lay within the confines of the large gates. The hundreds of thousands, if not millions of fans have witnessed players who’ve laced up their boots, taken the field, and gave it their all for ninety minutes, but that number dwindles when you solely count the number of fans that have witnessed a Real Madrid and FC Barçelona game, El Clásico.
The view from our seats
Luckily enough, I got to be one of those fans. YES. You read that right, I got tickets to El Clásico. Granted it was only the Semi Final of the Copa del Rey, which is a trivial and unimportant game in the grand scheme of things, but hell ya I’m went to a Real-Barça game! I’m one of those people who firmly believes that money cannot buy you happiness, but let me tell you… money can buy you tickets to El Clásico and thats pretty much the thing right next to happiness (in my book anyway).
It was all a dream
As a soccer fanatic, I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times I’ve dreamt of seeing this match being played out. Just ask any fútbolista what the biggest rivalry in soccer is and they will say, without hesitation, Real-Barça. The hostility towards each other stems from a very long and violent political history (as do most inter-city club rivalries in Spain). I for one, was surprised by this, as I always viewed sport as a means to unite people, not to divide them. Quite honestly, I think that’s why I’m a sports management major – because I’m infatuated by the way sports transcends so many social and political issues!
The only time I’ll pose with a Real jersey
Flash back to Wednesday morning. I rolled out of bed, threw on my beautiful sea foam green Barça jersey with Lionel Messi’s number 10 on the back, under my long sleeve black NYU Soccer shirt. I grabbed my zip up, knowing that If I were to walk around the stadium in any Barcelona gear, that I’d be immediately shunned and given the nastiest stares you could imagine. The two hours of class could not go fast enough, as all I could find myself thinking about was the intense rivalry I was about to witness. Luckily enough, my Blogging Spain professor was a Barça fan (a rare find in Madrid) and spent half the class talking about the game and the history between the clubs.
Rockin the Barca jersey and hat
I grabbed a quick lunch and then headed over to a friends apartment near the stadium to do some homework and get ready for the game. Of the ten or so of us girls, I was the only Barcelona supporter (obviously) and one of two people who knew what was actually going on. Though it was somewhat comical to me when girls were asking who won after the game (it was a 1-1 draw), I was happy I was able to introduce them to the soccer world.
We walked over to the stadium about an hour prior and I was in complete soccer heaven. Thousands of people crowded the streets, vendors sold merchandise to fans, and policeman blocked off the streets surrounding the stadium. I wore my jersey proudly, embracing the fact that I was the enemy, knowing that anything I did or said would be amplified, not only because I was an American, but because of the colors I wore across my chest. I got spat at, sworn at (numerous times) and told to “get my papers and go home” by many Madridistas throughout the game, but nothing took away from the fact that I was living my dream of going to the greatest soccer rivalry on the planet.
With some of my people
I know for one that I cannot do the game justice but I wish I could share the moments with everybody.Flags were waving. People were singing, chanting, whistling, screaming their lungs out. The unforgettable smells of the jamón y queso bocadillos and the stench of cigarettes filled the stadium. The piercing sounds echoed in my ear drums for hours after the game. You could FEEL the emotions evaporating off of peoples faces when I flashed a smile at every Real fan I passed by. They were disgusted. I was on cloud nine – too excited to even be mad at their “Puta Messi” remarks.
The game itself was not everything I was expecting. A 1-1 draw is not horrible, but in the world of soccer, a tie is practically the same as a loss – and I hate losing more than anything! In addition, Messi had been averaging 1.53 goals a game and recently scored 4 goals on Sunday so I was very excited to see him juke out some keepers, however he was largely absent from the game. Fábregas scored, and as an Arsenal fan in the EPL I was very excited for the old captain to score. I also had been looking forward to seeing Iker Casillas (my favorite male professional goalkeeper) play, however this past week he had surgery on his hand after the Valencia game where his own player stepped on him. Despite having Diego Lopez in goal for Casillas and slew of athletes recovering, Real Madrid proved to be progressing. The best part of the game itself, and perhaps what made me most excited is when my roommate Erin repeated to me, “Barça’s passing is amazing” – and quite honestly it made me smile. Even a complete non-soccer-fan could see the beauty that lies in the crisp passes between Iniesta and Messi.
In my element
Wednesday was a dream come true. And everyday when I walk past the Santiago Bernabéu stadium I will no longer be imagining, dreaming, and wishing I knew what lay within the confines of the large gates. I will know. I will know why that stadium, El Clásico, and the beautiful game of fútbol is so important to the people of Spain.