“Wherever you are, it is your friends that make your world.”
Happy 2014! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. It has been a long time since I have written a post, and I have so many things I want to share with y’all!
2013 ended on a tough note for Yzeure. Bad luck and difficult losses were definitely a theme of the first half of the season, and our last two games were no different. We lost in absolutely heartbreaking fashion to Soyaux; it was for sure a tough pill to swallow. We had played well, dominated the midfield, and the other team’s goalkeeper had gotten a red card to boot. It seemed like we had a real shot at winning, or at least getting points from a tie. Then, with two minutes left to play, one of our center backs made an inexplicable error at the top of the eighteen-yard box, and an attacker was there to capitalize. We ended up losing 1-0. Our final game of the year was against Montpellier, the last Sunday before Christmas. We were missing some important players due to injury and yellow card accumulation, and we lost the game 3-0.
The short break for the holidays could not have come a better time. The first half of the season had definitely taken a toll on our team, both mentally and physically, so it was a great chance for the girls to decompress a bit and get our minds off of football for a while. With our winter workout packets in hand, we scattered for the holidays to spend time with friends and family.
Because our last game of 2013 was so late in the year, as well as the short duration of the break, I was not able to go all the way back to the States for the holidays. The fact that it takes almost a full day to get from Yzeure to an international airport paired with the time it actually takes to fly across the Atlantic, it just wasn’t feasible for me to make the trip. While I was sad I wasn’t going to be able to be with my family for the holidays, it was the perfect opportunity for me to head to Scotland and visit all my teammates and friends from the year before!
Now, before I go any further, I have to give a little bit of a background of the year I played in Scotland. I could (and should) write a separate blog post about the 2012 season. In short, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life! It was the perfect storm of the being in the right place at the right time with the right people. I had the opportunity to meet people who will be my friends for life, play for coaches that I respected and flourished under, as well as play some great soccer. Seriously, I could write a book about my year there! To sum up the success of the season, my team finished second in the table (the highest the club had ever finished), and we also made it to the Scottish Cup Final (another first for the club). Needless to say, I was really looking forward to visiting!
My first Scottish Christmas lived up to all of the hype! The visit started off on a fun note because I was able to surprise my closest friend/ former teammate and roommate by showing up a day early! I had told her that since we had a team meeting in Yzeure, I was not going to be able to fly out until Christmas Eve. But in reality, I had talked with her boyfriend about surprising her and actually flying in the Monday after our game against Montpellier. So he picked me up from the airport, I snuck in their house through the back door, and I will never forget the look on her face when she realized I was there! We spent the night right where we had left off, drinking cups of tea while talking about everything and anything.
My time in Scotland was exactly what I needed. Not only was it great to speak some English, it was amazing seeing all my teammates and friends. What we accomplished together was really special, and it was so fun to relive old memories, laugh about old jokes that are still just as funny, and be with people that have truly become my family. The couple that I stayed with, they opened their home to a complete stranger for eight months!! That should tell you about the wonderful type of people they are. As well as the fact that they let me crash their holiday season, so thanks for that guys!
I will never forget this past holiday season. Just some of the many highlights were playing “Festive Football” on Christmas Eve at Station Park, my former team’s home field and one of my favorite places to play soccer in the world; the amazing feast that took place on Christmas Day; playing Head’s Up and winning the Nisbet Family Christmas Quiz; my first Boxing Day…the list just goes on and on! Even the small things, like watching EPL games together and talking about the style of play and goalkeeping decisions, going on runs together, having dinner and feeling like no time had passed, those things all made my visit irreplaceable.
There is one experience I must mention because I can’t contain my excitement about it! One night while in Scotland, I was having dinner with five of my old teammates. In between the laughter, steak pie, and cups of tea, we touched on the subject of the possibility of them coming to visit France. The more we talked about, the more it seemed like they would want to try to make it happen. One girl, who is quite action-oriented, finally just got on her computer, looked up flights for the weekend in question, and BOOM! Tickets were booked! So the weekend we play at home against Muret, five of my Scottish teammates are going to descend on Yzeure and are going to able to see me play!! I CANNOT WAIT! It is going to be so much fun for me to show them around and let them see what my life is like here in France.
It seemed like I blinked and it was time for me to head back to Yzeure. I felt like I just arrived in Scotland and already I was back at the airport at stupid o’clock in the morning saying goodbye. But refreshed from my time in Scotland, I was excited to get back to training and prepping for the second part of the season. And, on a positive note, it seemed like most of the girls on my team returned with the same attitude!
The intensity and level of play at training has been great since we have returned from the break. In preparation for our first game back, we scrimmaged a local boys team. The first time we scrimmaged them, back when we were prepping for Lyon, we lost pretty badly. This time though, we actually beat them and played really well under the constant pressure they applied! It was a big positive as we went into our game against Guingamp. Our hard work paid off, resulting in a tie. Since we lost to them at the beginning of the season 4-1, a tie is definitely a step in the right direction!
The final thing I want to share is the “belated Christmas gift” I referenced in the title of this blog. When I returned from Scotland, my coach and the president of the club asked to meet with me. They wanted to know if I knew an American forward who would be interested in coming and finishing the season with us. They have recognized that we are missing someone with the inherent ability to score goals, and they are committed to giving our team the best opportunity to avoid relegation this season. And I have to say, I am really pleased that my coach has enough trust in me to ask for recommendations on such an important decision. The fact that he trusts me and has confidence in my opinion, despite the language barrier that makes it difficult for us to communicate, means a lot to me.
Now, back to that gift. Did I know a forward of the top of my head? Nope. But was I going to pass on this opportunity to strengthen our team and bring in someone who shares my mentality and competiveness? Absolutely not! The postcollegiate women’s soccer world is pretty small, so I did a lot of research, talked to some of my old teammates and coaches, and I submitted the film of a few players I knew would be a good fit on our team. And I am so excited to share with y’all that my new American teammate is on her way to Yzeure!
I think this will be a great boost for our team. Not only from a numbers perspective, (it’s always good to have depth on a soccer team, especially late in the season) but for so many other reasons as well! I think it will help my other teammates raise their level of play, and it will also give me more confidence to play with someone who has come from the same system that I played in. So merry Christmas to me!
I am excited and optimistic about the second half of the season. It won’t be easy, but if we continue to work hard as a team and play the way I know we can, we can finish the season stronger than how we started it. We have eight games left in the season, plus the Coupe de France competition, so bring it on, French Division 1!
Peace, love, and to the opportunities of 2014,
Professional goalkeeper for ASPTT Albi in the French Division 1. Previous player at Foot Féminin Yzeure, Forfar Farmington FC (Scotland SWPL) and the Houston Aces (USA WPSL). Inquisitive adventurer uniting my first great love, football, with my passion for exploring. Proud alumna of Rice University (Go Owls!)