Well where to start?!?!
It’s been well over two months since my last blog entry (check the heading, I said “attempt to chronicle”) I knew it would be difficult for me to keep up with blogging. Why you may ask??? Can’t say I’m quite sure myself or have any legitimate excuses, but let’s just blame in on the fact that the season has gotten underway and my favorite TV shows are back on the air (P.S. Olivia Pope from "Scandal" is a boss)!
So the happenings in my life here in Germany since August 8th….
August 8-September 7 can best be summed up as a continuation of the first month of preseason…laufen laufen laufen (running) and testspiele (scrimmages) against boys. An interesting and exciting development was that Erika and Bianca, both friends and former teammates from the US Youth National Teams in the past, joined our team on loan from FC Kansas City for the fall. We now have 6 American’s on the team and some refer to us as FC Bayern America...hopefully all in good nature, because it really just means we find the Bundesliga a competitive league and enjoy playing for Bayern!
I was so excited when September rolled around because it meant our season would start, and boy did it start off on a good note! We faced VfL Wolfsburg in our first match. For those of you who don’t know German Frauenfußball or women’s soccer at all, Wolfsburg, won the Treble last year (UEFA Champions League, German Frauen-Bundesliga, and DFB-Pokal Cup), essentially making them the best team in Europe. They are loaded with German National team players and various other International stars. Our game against them would be at their place, on a Saturday to kick off the season, live on Eurosport television, and streamed online for all my friends and family to watch back home. We knew we were in for a BIG GAME (my favorite). We also knew that we had prepared as best we could during our two-month preseason and that we had absolutely nothing to lose. We were by and large the underdogs and our team has a history of “upsetting” the favorites in the past seasons. We ended up tying Wolfsburg 1-1 and with a little luck could have come away with the full three points, but a good start nonetheless.
|My mom and I after our win against Freiburg|
Next up was SC Freiburg. Another BIG GAME because it would be our home opener at the historic but newly renovated Grünwald Stadion in the heart of München. Also, and perhaps more pertinent, because my darling mother would be flying over from the States and watching from the stands! Like I mentioned in my previous blog, my mom has been a devoted soccer mom (attending 91 of 93 games at UNC) and although she never puts any added pressure on me to perform, who doesn’t want to impress when your biggest fan has flown 4,500 miles to see you play?! Good thing is we ended up winning a tough game 2-1, and better yet, I scored the game-winning goal off a diving header. Unfortunately there’s no photo evidence, but after scoring I did point to the stands as if to say “That one was for you, mom!” If I’m being honest, and a bit sentimental, then I must admit that I’m always playing with my mom on my mind, as well as other family, friends, coaches, and teammates, who have helped me get to the point in my life today where I am wearing Bayern colors and continually support me from afar.
After just two games, we had a two-week “break,” meaning no Bundesliga games, for UEFA Qualifying for the 2015 FIFA World Cup. My team has two German, three Austrian, one Swiss, and one Italian National team player(s), so we had to improvise a bit during training and some U17 players filled in for numbers. Sessions were intense because we had no games to taper for, but the highlight was definitely the “Amis” vs. the German 6vs. 6 game…bet you can guess who won?!
After a successful first few qualifying games for my teammates and their various countries, we entered what is referred to as an “English” week. This means we play three games in the course of one week, a rare occurrence in our league. On the first Sunday we would face TSV Crailsheim, a second division team, in the first round of DFB-Pokal Cup. The DFB Pokal is the primary national women’s competition in Germany and all clubs from the 2nd and 1st division of the Bundesliga make up the competition. Unlike the season, which spans over nine months, the Pokal features single elimination games, so if you lose, you’re out. Each round, the matchups are completely chosen at random, so it’s any guess which opposing team you could face. Bayern won the Pokal in 2012 and last year we lost in overtime of the semifinals. We took care of business in Crailsheim, posting a 7-0 victory, with Erika scoring her first (two) goals for Bayern, Apple netting a hat trick, and I added one as well.
Our Thursday game was another away game against SGS Essen. Because it was a midweek game and a long trek, we flew into Cologne the day before to allow for optimal preparation. Essen is an aggressive and hard team to beat, particularly at home, but we prevailed 2-1. Similar to my Bundesliga debut last March, I was able to tally a header goal, and Apple slotted home a through ball from me for the win.
|One of my header goals against Cloppenburg|
That Sunday we faced off at home against BV Cloppenburg, a team that was recently promoted from the second division but had signed a lot of quality players to their roster. The first half was not our best effort and we went into halftime tied 2-2, albeit I had scored our two goals, both identical headers off of corner kicks. I have scored all four of my league goals off headers from corners or free kicks, so clearly I am getting great services from my teammates. If only I could have managed to do the same at UNC. But, as Anson always says, it’s about living on a “never ending ascension” and I am finally applying years of his adage “get above it, head it low, across the frame, back where it came from.” Not sure why it’s clicking now, but I don’t hate it, and I will continue to focus on it, because as a defensive player, there are limited opportunities for me to have a positive impact on my team’s offensive performance. After halftime we regrouped, and scored three goals in the second half to win 5-2 and sit second in the league table after four games, undefeated with a record of 3-0-1 with ten points.
Our game against Cloppenburg was on October 6, which also marked the last day of the 16-day long Oktoberfest. I had heard stories and our team was well equipped for the event with dirndls (see picture), but there’s really no way to know what Oktoberfest is until you experience it yourself. Picture a massive carnival, the Jersey Shore boardwalk, and massive tents that fit thousands of people drinking liter beers, eating hendls (roasted half chicken breasts) and singing German songs. I will leave you with some photos and the acknowledgment that it was quite the cultural experience.
|Erika and I at the infamous Oktoberfest|
In our most recent game this past Saturday we squared off against FFC Frankfurt. Another game on Eurosport TV and streamed online, against another team stacked with national team players and off to a strong start to the season. Unfortunately, we lost 4-1. Simply summarized, we did not play well, while they played very well, and deservedly won the game. Obviously we are disappointed with our performance, but we will analyze the game as an opportunity to learn, evaluate our weaknesses, and concentrate on the traits that make our team successful. It is a long season, and every team will hit bumps in the road, but the teams that finish top are able to refocus quickly and develop a consistency where they can find a way to win even when they are not playing their best football. I expect more from myself, I expect more from my teammates, and I expect that we will put in a good week’s training ahead of our next game this Sunday against Bayer Leverkusen. The competition is closer than ever this year, and it’s important that we get back on track with a strong performance. We all know our goals, and in order to give ourselves the best chance of achieving them, we must prepare and perform like the professionals we are, day in and day out. GAMEDAY is my favorite day of the week (in case you couldn’t already tell by my Twitter account), but it’s what I do on/off the field every other day that will make GAMEDAY a joy, like the first four games of our season, or a day to forget, like last Saturday. As the legendary, somewhat psychotic coach, Bob Knight once said, "Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win." There's little glory and glamour in preparation, but without it there is no chance of triumph.
So that’s the latest happenings in my life as a professional footballer for Bayern. Besides the soccer side of things, I am preparing for the impending arrival of winter. It was a nice summer in Munich, but the leaves seem to fall at a much more rapid pace here than in New Hope and definitely compared to Chapel Hill. In fact, last week, on October 10th, we experienced our first snowfall, and of course, the flakes began to downpour just as practice was beginning. It definitely caught me off guard, but good news is I always have my beanie i packed in my bag. I love the fall, but it seems as though the Munich weather is anxious to get to winter. Once again, I better start preparing myself!
Hopefully it won’t be another two months until I update this blog again, in which case I might be typing from home as my return flight to the US is scheduled for December 16th!!! But, if I seem to be lagging again, you can always check out my Twitter and Instagram accounts (@abrooks22), which are updated rather frequently.
|Bianca, Erika, and I modeling our dirndl's |
courtesy of the club...Danke Bayern!
|The liter of beers or "Mass" as they are called at Oktoberfest|
|Inside view of one of the many tents that fit thousands of attendees|