Our final day in Europe dawned as clear and as bright as the others we had shared in Spain. The weather has been incredible. The schedule for this day included a quick trip to the beach – we planned to spend just an hour there – followed by lunch and then matches against Club Esportiu JÃºpiter.
We road the subway downtown and walked to the beach.
Walking to the beach
The boys hit the surf and many of us parents dipped our feet in as well. The water was cool and refreshing.
The boys in the surf
While I was standing there, knee deep in the Mediterranean, an older Spanish gentleman (in a speedo, of course) approached me. He had noticed my Texans Soccer T-shirt and asked me in broken English how the soccer was in Texas. Turns out he had lived in Texas in the early 1970s and was interested in the growth of soccer in the United States. We engaged in conversation and this gentleman, who’s name is Laurentito (roughly “Larry” in English) told me his life story. He was a soccer player when he was younger, and “would have gone professional” if he hadn’t badly broken his arm during a game (here he showed me a nasty looking scar on his right arm), causing his father to forbid him from playing anymore. He talked about goals he had scored with his left foot, and then moved on to other topics, including his Dad’s arrest (I think) during the Spanish civil war of the late 1930s, the time as a youngster when he was raised by priests, his own six month stint in prison as a political prisoner in the late sixties, his relocation to Dallas, and the fact that he had flown as a flight engineer on sub-hunting surveillance planes. He had married an American woman, but she died of a brain edema (here Laurentito shook his head. “many, many mistakes made by the doctors”). They had had two children together: a son who is in Barcelona and a daughter currently working in New York. He also only has one kidney, and that a transplant – here he showed me his left arm, which had nasty lumps on it due to dialisis treatments. It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone in a short time. I thanked Laurentito for the conversation and he was kind enough to pose for a picture.
In the background, you can see a matronly woman . . . and you can begin to understand an aspect of Barcelona culture-shock that began dawning on me after a few minutes in the surf. Modesty does not necessarily come with age and, besides the older set, not all of the young, slender and shirtless people evening out their tans on the beach were men.
I have to hand it our boys. At least from what I could observe, they were mature about the sights on the beach. Thankfully, we were only there a short time. Soon they moved from the surf up onto the sand and, naturally, began to play soccer.
Soccer on the beach
We finally left the beach and partook of another excellent Spanish buffet.
This was so good
We then travelled back to our hotel to rest and prepare for the evening’s games before travelling out to the field. As was the case in Sabadell, the stadium was in excellent condition, and had an artificial surface. The club we were to play against, CE Jupiter, has been around for over 100 years.
CE Jupiter’s facility
In the stands we posed with the flag.
On this tour I have observed the interesting custom of watering the fields right before games, and sometimes even at halftime, with high-powered water jets. This seemed strange to me when I saw it in Sabadell, since with artificial turf there is no actual grass to be watered. One of the Mercantil parents told us at the time that watering the field makes the ball move more rapido.
Watering the artificial turf
The boys posed for team pictures before the game.
Posing with the flags
I thought that our guys came into this game with a more confident and ready attitude than they had shown prior to Mercantil, and, in talking to them, to a man they were guaranteeing a win.
Below are some action shots taken during the game.
Getting back on defense
Blake heads the ball
Getting the ball upfield
This is Callum, our Scottish goalkeeper. He rocked.
We played a great game and won 5 to 2. Well done boys!
Shaking hands after the game
Following the game, the coaches each chose a “man of the match” from the opposing team. The Spanish coach chose Assem (that’s pronounced “Awesome”, and no, I’m not making that up. What a great name!) as the man of the match from the Texans. That was two awards for Assem in as many games, which is, well, pretty awesome.
Assem, man of the match
We then settled down to watch the older guys play. They did fabulous, winning 6 to 1. So, our overall record in Europe, counting games played by both teams, was 6 wins, 2 losses. Outstanding!
I snapped a few other pictures while I was there. This one is of Pablo, one of our players, and his sweet sister. She actually lives in Barcelona and joined us for much of this part of the tour.
Pablo and his sister
Note the beer on the table. As in Sabadell, this youth soccer facility had a working bar. The Spanish parents actually seemed relatively laid-back about soccer (at least for these “friendlies” matches) but I can’t tell you how relieved I am that they don’t serve beer at American youth soccer matches. Not so laid back and, trust me, that would not be a good idea.
Enjoying a cerveza after the match
Our time in Europe was swiftly winding down. We headed to a fancy Spanish buffet restaurant that Austin had booked us for to have our final meal together and pass out some awards from the tour.
Our last meal together
Marc, our Spanish soccer tour guide, received a T-Shirt from J.R.
Bryant was the best younger player from the England games
Avery was the best older player from the England games
Assem received the award for the best younger player during the Spain games
Andrew was the best older player for the Spain games
Renee was named the best overall player
Below are the last two pictures I took, centered around the fine young Scottish players who had joined us on the tour.
Callum, Thomas, James and Scott
Some of the boys posed with the Scotsmen. A lot of friendships were forged on this trip
Following this we went back to the hotel and went to bed, with a very, very early morning wake up call ahead of us and a long trip back to the United States.
Though it was very tiring, this was a great trip. The memories of getting to share this tour with Blake are priceless to me. I had a great time, Blake-man, and I’m so glad we were able to do this together. What an experience!