Rolling 'In The Deep'

Friday, April 27, 2012

[THE PITCH] Some of my Swedish friends tease me by saying that they have to educate me in Swedish AND English. When I don’t understand their English, they mock me—“I have to teach you your own language, too?” Well, after two months in Göteborg, I have come to the realization that I do indeed have to relearn English… this time like a Swede. You see, Swedes do not speak English; they “take it in English.” They don’t get you a cup of coffee; they “fix it.” Actually, they fix everything… my apartment, my paperwork, the plans for the evening… Clearly, they are unacquainted with the motto, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Anyways, I believe that understanding “Swedish English” will also help me better grasp the workings of the elusive Swedish mind; which—according to the man who owns the grocery store under my apartment and doubles as my philosophical guru—is necessary to speaking proper Swedish…

As a striker, one of the most important "English" phrases I’ve had to learn since coming to Sweden is “in the deep,” which is the Swedish-English football jargon for making attacking runs behind the defense. My head coach Torbjörn started talking to me about going "in the deep" the very first day I got here. In order to execute, first I had to figure out what he meant by that, and now I’m figuring out how to do it.  There’s a fire starting in my heart. Reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark. You may not think that a song could help out here, but, after all, music is the universal language…thanks Adele for helping me out here!

Now, is it wrong to say that I like the style of football that I play? I am most comfortable playing interchangeably with the attacking center midfielder, so that I can be constantly involved in helping my team break pressure and creating with the ball at my feet. I live in the pocket between the midfield and backline. This is where I feel I can create the most havoc for the other team. It is my niche, so to speak. But like it or not, it has been made clear to me that that is not what is expected of or needed from me on my new team here in Sweden.

If Göteborg FC had posted on Craigslist it might have read, “Seeking: conventional running forward who constantly keeps the defending line under stress by making threatening runs that put her in front of the goal. Must be willing to throw your soul through every open door.…and finish breakaways.” Fortunately, Torbjörn and my teammates believe that I have the tools to be the player that fits this bill, and I have the mindset… willing and eager to try. Since running "in the deep" has not been one of my strengths in the past, per se, I see this as another opportunity to add weaponry to my arsenal. See how I’ll leave, with every piece of you …

My plan of attack is simple (pun intended):

Step one: I plan to fight like crazy until I can master exactly what my team and Torbjörn need me to do: roll in the deep.

Now, I could tell you that that is all there is to it, but I feel that there is so much more at stake here.  As players, we cannot forget or ignore our unique histories and experiences, triumphs and failures, trophies and scars. Our pasts shape our present in specific and important ways. I don’t want to lose what has taken me this far and what makes me feel special. The scars of your love remind me of us …

Yes, I know that I personify football, but sometimes I feel like football and I are in an interpersonal relationship. The reality of most relationships is—at some level—love and hate, but the foundation of any good relationship is give and take. While I am proud of the effort I have been making to “take” from my new experiences here (the more difficult aspect for me) and my willingness to change, equally important is bringing a lil somethin’ somethin’ to the table myself: the “give,” as it were.

Step two (once I am “rolling”): I plan to incorporate the old parts of my game into my newly developed style of play to create the best version of myself. As I have talked about in Stoppage Time, I am enjoying both successes and failures as I assimilate the football culture of my team; a culture made more diverse by the presence of myself and the other foreigners, Ingrid Wells and Anita Asante.

One effect I hope to have on this team is a mentality for the game that I developed at Stanford. During my four years there, the women’s soccer team approached every game expecting to win. Don’t underestimate the things that I will do. What we found was, for the most part, the other team seemed to acquiesce in our sense of superiority, and we would win games even when we weren’t playing our best brand of soccer. Not too shabby a weapon to bring with me from the States, right? The trick, of course, is to figure out how to unpack it without hurting anyone. Ha!

I am determined to make Sweden a part of me, both on and off the pitch; but just as significant, I intend to leave my footprint here on the Swedish turf. As a Californian, born and raised, I believe in the beauty of The Melting Pot. Besides, I would hate to look back on my time here and be singing about how we could have had it alllll….rolling in the deeeeep!

Photos courtesy of

[Stoppage Time] I spent the past week in a pre-Olympic training camp with the USWNT in quasi-tropical Sarasota, Fla. I took off from the snow-covered north of Sweden and (18 hours later) landed amongst an Eden of palm trees, sunshine, the beautiful ocean… oh and 80% humidity.

Coming from a different football culture in Sweden, I can’t help feeling my perspective on the national team, training, and environment is different than it would have been before living abroad. My Swedish club utilizes a low-pressure system focusing on the quality of play by slowing down the speed of play. Moreover, I heard the players here refer to this April USWNT camp as a fitness-based “boot camp.” I felt there was a serious focus on work rate and also perfecting the execution of a well-established game plan. The high-intensity trainings had an inspiring energy level. Most days concluded with a meeting to review the team’s defensive shape, positional responsibilities, and set pieces. This dedication to organization stirred up something hibernating inside me. I leave Florida with a stern resolve to bring both the latter qualities home to Sweden (intensely energized and intensely organized.) As you know, I always leave room in my luggage!

The timing and context of the camp put me in a unique situation. Being the only new player called into camp in 2012, I was a bit of an outsider on the inside.  Yet having played with almost every player before in my career, I felt oddly comfortable as the newb. Being called into camp within 100 days of the Olympics, I felt like I had nothing to lose, and that, folks, is a liberating feeling!  The experience this past week reaffirmed that I have come a long way as a player. But I still have a long way to go to realize my dreams. The opportunities ahead of me suddenly feel infinite again, and this camp was a friendly reminder of that. With the sun on my back, I can’t help but smile when I think that this life I have chosen is the endless summer in search of the perfect wave.

Rookie for life, Christen Press

A Thousand Words on Keeping Your Head Up

Friday, April 20, 2012

[THE PITCH] I’m fairly certain that I’ve seen this street before, but then again all the streets have cobblestone, tram tracks, and heeled boots treading steadily over them both. The tiny Swedish android phone in my pocket, fully equipped with street-level GPS tracking, was designed just for this moment. In fact, a few quick clicks, and I’d find my destination in 5 minutes. No, put your GPS down and pick your head up! You can’t be too far away.

I originally set out to write about how football teaches me about life. Upon reflecting on my past blogs, I’ve realized that, just as often, life teaches me about football. In fact, it is a two-way street, football to life, life to football… Keeping my head up when I’m on the soccer field? No problem! So, why do I walk around the streets of the city staring at the ground? Maybe I need to stop investing so much in my shoe collection…! As you might imagine, this has gotten me into trouble (no, I’m not referring to the dwindling number on my bank statement), as I have not quite developed that astute sense of directions needed to get from point A to point B; somehow I always end up at C.

Lately, I’ve made a concerted effort to erect a new posture as I explore this city. Head up high, I’ve taken to the streets of Göteborg, and although I still struggle to get my bearings, what I have discovered at all three points is… well, rather than come up with all 1000 words…

 I’ve had my fair share of challenges throughout my career. I put a lot of pressure on myself to “make my way up,” and I have admit that there was a dark year or two where football and I were not friends.

I know I have been blessed by great teams and great environments and that I have had a tremendous amount of success in the sport from one perspective. Nonetheless, my ultimate goal -- to play at the international level -- has eluded me.  In retrospect, I am very proud of the way I have "kept my head up" through the long haul of my career. I have never given up hope and I never will let my frustrations bring me down. I fight a daily battle with my fear of not being good enough. That said the hardest part has been resisting the urge to give myself an excuse. I have had to swallow my pride and be honest with myself, even when that means I might have to bear the full extent of my failure. I continue to push everyday and to go after my dreams, face forward.

Even in my weaker moments, I try not to go to that pity-me place. I’ve learned to harness all of my emotions, including anger. I’ve found that sometimes Weezy’s Drop the World leads my iTunes Top25 Played Playlist… (I don’t always listen to Tracy Chapman. Come on people!) Eventually, rage fizzles and what stays constant is belief and optimism. I believe in myself and I am optimistic about my future. This week, I have a paramount opportunity to begin working towards that goal to play at the international level. I got my first callup to USWNT training camp in Florida. And can I just say it? I AM SO UNBELIEVABLY EXCITED!!! My advice to everyone out there with a the Earth Wind and Fire song goes, "Keep your head to the sky..."

[Stoppage Time] This week we traveled to the frigid north of Sweden to take on Piteå in our second Allsvenskan game. We landed the morning of the game in a snow covered small town. The sun princess in me thought, get me to Florida! The Viking in me yelled back “Brrrrring it on!”

It still feels like we are in the very early stages of developing and becoming a team, but during this game, we showed glimpses into ‘the promise land.’ Although we can be undisciplined and panicky at times, there were periods where we dictated the flow of the game like a championship caliber team. Progress! Next step: consistency.

As for me, I had been using an insane amount of self-talk during my first games here (and my game-time self-talk is always out-loud, so the defenders in this country probably think I’m nuts). My mindset for this game was to just let myself go a little bit and enjoy the moment. I usually try to focus on something the morning before a game, and this game’s goal was to “shoot like you have never missed before.” Bad news is I felt uninvolved and no so dangerous. (Maybe I’ll go back to being a looney-tune!) Good news is I had been working on my runs behind the defense and finishing crosses all week, and it paid off. The turtle (the most unfortunate nickname bestowed to my head in college) put one away! Yet another reason to keep your head up...

Final Score:
Göteborg 3 - Piteå IF 1

[Off The Post!] I’m starting to think of this section of the blog as “My Weekly Bone Head Moves.”

This week, after getting in an extra training session, I went out to lunch at a Thai restaurant with several of my teammates. We had a lovely time and upon leaving, we ran into our speed coach Erica Johansson, a Swedish long-jump national record holder, who has been with our team twice before.

I have been trying really hard to be more gregarious here, so as my teammates began to chat with her in Swedish, I stood sideline, plotting how I could join the conversation. “How was the snow?” I piped in, referencing on a conversation we had about a sky trip she had taken. Erica’s attention suddenly shifted from the others to me. “I wasn’t in the snow. I was in Stockholm and it wasn’t snowing.”

“Wait, I thought you were going to the snow for the weekend.”

She looked quite puzzled. “No…"

I recall vividly Erica showing me pictures on her computer from a webcam of the conditions in her snowy destination. Maybe she had taken a mean tumble on her snowboard … Confused but adamant, I continued to press (albeit gingerly now), “What? We talked about this. You showed me pictures on your laptop of the snow…” When I saw her bewildered I began to wonder if I had been the one who had taken a fall in the snow. The, she shook-off the befuddled look from her face, “Ah… you don’t know who I am.”

Uh oh Christen!  “Yes I do…” I tried to sound confident.

“Well, then do you know my name?” I could feel the awkwardness spread through the room.

“Sure…” I had no choice but to call her bluff.

“Well, then what’s my name?” Ok. Time to show my hand. In the seconds before I answered the question, I’m pretty sure nobody took a breath. The air was so thick you could cut it with a knife and I was sweating profusely. “Erica (ironically pronounced sort of like ‘eureka!’)” I squeaked. There was a HUGE communal sigh of relief in the room. (Later, my teammate confessed that the whole scene had made her so nervous that, for the life of her, she could not think of Erica’s name in the moment.)

As we walked out of the restaurant, happy to escape, the five of us burst into laughter. About an hour later, I realized that I had confused that conversation with one I had had with the team’s athletic trainer: Karin. So much for adding my two cents…

Rookie for life, Christen Press

Part2: Leaning Lagom

Thursday, April 12, 2012

…Previously on [THE PITCH] - “I have surmised that lagom means enough, sufficient, adequate, just right, in moderation, in balance, optimal, and suitable.”
- “Okay … moderation can be good for a lot of things, but sports … I’m not so sure.”
- “So how does lagom fit in my life?”

[THE PITCH] The more I think deeply about this Swedish mentality, the more confused I actually get. However, what I do understand is that lagom means a lot of things, each self-propagating on its own, and yet inextricably tied with the other meanings. This week’s blog seeks to flesh out a few of the relevant branches stemming from lagom and to answer the above question.
1. Finding lagom within myself.
September 2008 Biking to the field. I’m so tired my eyes are watering uncontrollably. Note to self: do not pull all-nighters in season. My legs are heavy from my lift, but practice starts in 45 minutes. That means I only have 30 minutes to get in some extra shooting. If I do not get in these extra shots today, well I don’t really know, but I’m pretty sure the result would be catastrophic. Yeah, yeah… maybe this set of shots won’t make or break my career or even affect the two games this weekend. But I need to take them anyway. I have to get out to the field early to confirm that I am working harder than the rest, so that I can feel like the best in hopes to play like the best. Suck it up and pedal faster, Christen.

Lagom means do what feels right. Too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing! So much more can be gained from a situation when it is experienced with a smile. Lagom means being competitive and working hard, but not to the point of pulling out your hair, instead of wasting time stressing over every glitch in the road, working towards the solution. It’s simple. When you are enjoying what you do, improvement happens.

2. Understanding lagom within the game.
October 2009 Just get out of eyesight Christen. What is wrong with you? How could you not score on such a bad team?? Great, you were standing point blank. TWICE!! You’re team won 4-0 and you didn’t score? Ugh. Alright, alright. Put it behind you. A win’s a win…. Ok, no checking this week…

Lagom stresses recognizing the importance of the whole. Within the game, lagom comes from an understanding that putting the team first is the best way to reach any goal. My team here has mentioned a few times that during their successful 2011 season, the team was not made up of stars; the whole was more than the sum of its parts. With a lagom mentality in the game, there is less pressure on the individual. There is also room for everyone to share in the successes and commiserate together in the failures. With football, lagom means keeping a healthy perspective of one’s role.

3. Accepting lagom within my life.
November 2010 Sitting on the stairs outside my dorm on yet another beautiful California day. “I hate soccer…” I bark into the phone. “I really hate soccer. There is just so much PRESSURE. It’s making me miserable.” There was only one cloud in the sky that day, following me around.

Lagom means finding balance. It’s easy for me to accept that I need more balance within myself (hello meditation!) and more balance within my game (hello Swedish football!) but not so easy to accept that I need balance in my life as a whole, too. Soccer is just piece of the puzzle. I have been shocked by the fact that almost every girl on my team here has some “other” great talent outside of soccer. Spending time on something else? What? But I, too, am much more than a soccer player. I am forever a student in the class of life. I am a traveler. I am a writer. I am a friend, a sister, and a daughter. I also realize that if I am to be the best fotbollsspelare I can be, I must make time to be all those other things as well.

4. Keeping lagom within lagom.
Horace Porter wrote,” Be moderate in everything, including moderation.” That is, however, not as easy as it sounds. For me, the process is not static but one of constant adjusting and readjusting. I have to resist the urge to go overboard sometimes and remind myself not to beat myself up over setbacks.  While it is early in the game, I think I am realizing some benefits already. I believe that true success comes when applying this lagom philosophy moderately… Lagom squared?
February 2012 Just another day of pick up in Manhattan Beach. Per usual, Peru is giving me a hard time and Columbia is chasing me around the field like his one goal in life is to stop ‘the girl.’ Spider is claiming he is the best in the world and Brazil is trying really hard not to smile at him. On the sideline of this fútbol free-for-all, there is a high school girls’ soccer team looking on skeptically. I hear a, “Wow, people actually play soccer for fun?!”…

…These words bring me back to a different time, a time when I made myself miserable over-doing it everyday, a time when I only cared about myself, a time when I really think I hated soccer. Although I still have to keep myself in check from time to time so I don’t pitch a tent at Valhalla, I am sure that I am on my way to the middle. And hopefully, finding the middle can take me to the top… The middle… the top… lagom… Ugh!

[Stoppage time] Tuesday was our Allsvenskan premieren at home against Djurgarden. The looong two-week anticipation period had fostered quite the energy inside me. My pregame vigor coupled with a little coffee verve was the only energy I had left that day, as the electricity was shut off in my apartment! Brrrrr…!

The victory was a solid start to what looks to be a long, tough season; but once again, I walked off the field with the feeling that we have so much more to offer. How to get there… “It’s good to be winners again…” said our head coach Torbjörn Nilsson post game, and he’s right. The win and the goals were a bit of a relief for me, and although there is much better football to be played, I am riding this wave to shore.

Highlights from the game can be viewed by clicking the link here. Apologies for the poor quality; I had to search hard to find this one for you Soccer Americans! Enjoy!

Final Score:
Göteborg 2 - Djurgårdens IF 0

[Off The Post!
] “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”~ Mark Twain

I have been trying to learn a Swedish Word of the Day. Today’s word was typisk: typical. I think those who know me can affirm that for me, this story is pretty typisk.

After my first few weeks in Göteborg, I started to morph into the anti-Vampire. No, not Jacob Black, but more like someone with achluophobia (fear of the dark.) By sunset, I was always safely tucked away in my room, in for the night, making my worrywart aunt Arlie proud. But that small box of a European hotel room with a twin bed and no space to stretch my legs out started to feel like a prison. I shouldn’t have seen the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo right before moving alone to Sweden! Two weeks in, and I still hadn’t seen what Göteborg looks like at night. I realize this is ridiculous. And I realized this had to end.

One night as I was having my usual chocolate cravings, I decided to do something about it. I bundled up to prepare for the cold and trepid walk to the nearby store. As I walked down the low-lit ally, I wished I had Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak or Katnis Everdeen’s Night Vision goggles… or at the very least pepper spray. There were not many people out, but I felt someone lurking behind me. Instinctively I picked up my pace, but I heard his pace quicken, too. WHY did I have to be adventurous tonight?!  It’s fine Christen, you’re overreacting. I turned left, and checked over my shoulder. My stalker turned left, too. I began to run. Better safe than sorry! Of course this would happen to me. I recently broke a huge mirror so I am doomed for 7 years… if I live to suffer that long.  I should be snuggling with Brown Bear in the hotel room! I never even got a chance to say goodbye!

He caught me. I’m dead meat. I looked into the eyes of my attacker, and see a young face with pale blue eyes and a big smile. He says something to me in Swedish and holds out a credit card with my name on it. Hmm… How do you say "I am an idiot" in Swedish?

As silly as I feel about the whole episode, I reflect back and think perhaps I needed this moment to wake me up. My mom likes to remind me, “Consider taking risks first, on the field, and safety first everywhere else!” But I can’t spend my time here hiding in my room, so instead, I am stepping outside of my room, outside of myself to explore, dream, discover!

Rookie for life, Christen Press

Part1: Enough is No Feast!

Friday, April 6, 2012

[THE PITCH] I’ve gone on before about just how difficult the Swedish language is to learn. The pronunciation of a single word can take several tries, and still, a subtle mistake results in a botched mess. My teammates laugh as I push my face forward, straining to mimic the movement of their lips. The Swedish people are proud of their language, they claim it sounds like a song (yes, if you like to listen to songs played backward), and my new friends are enthusiastic to teach me one of the most popular words: lagom. As difficult as it is to pronounce, the real challenge is accepting its concept.

There is no English word for lagom. Subsequently, the Swedish proverb -- "lagom är bäst" -- does not translate for me. When is "enough [ever] as good as a feast"? My teammates told me that this notion is a cultural norm here in Sweden. For the most part, excess is not welcome. They explained that that is why you do not see flashy cars on the streets. I have surmised that lagom means enough, sufficient, adequate, just right, in moderation, in balance, optimal, and suitable. It is the idea of not too little, but not too much. Lagom suggests the feeling of appropriateness. In similar circumstances, we Americans tend to use words like “sufficient” and “average,” which carry connotations of mediocrity. In my world, people strive for perfection and anything less feels like a let down.

Although during my time here I will be enjoying the benefits of the social democratic political system -- low rent, free schooling, free health care -- I cannot imagine a life waking up and simply being content. I cannot fathom my high school experience without the stress of the college recruiting/selection process. In Sweden, not only is college tuition-free, there is no hierarchy in higher education. Anyway, how could anyone view my intense, overly competitive, Type-A, high-strung, rigidly organized, highly status conscious, obsessive, deadline-oriented, relentless personality as a little bit too much?

Okay … moderation can be good for a lot of things, but sports … I’m not so sure.  When it comes to diet, I preach “everything in moderation!” When it comes to spending money, I admonish myself, “everything in moderation…” but when it comes to applying pressure and criticism on myself as an athlete, “Enough is no feast!” After all, isn’t sacrificing happiness and sanity expected on the road to the top? Hmmm…

Actually, when it comes to football, I see both the pros and cons to a lagom mentality. One positive aspect is that the training environment in Sweden is very much team-oriented. An example is kvadde, the Swedish equivalent of 5v2 keep away. In my experience with the drill in America, it often turns into a screw-your-neighbor version of monkey-in-the-middle. American players will do anything to avoid being "the monkey," often making their teammate’s bad pass look terrible, so that they don’t have to take the blame and go on defense. Here, players are willing to slide, jump, and tackle to maintain possession, and they cooperatively accept going ‘in the middle’ because of a teammate’s error. The point here is that the team comes first and the team’s goal -- keeping possession -- is never lost behind the individual’s agenda. Recently, I made a bad pass to a teammate in kvadde and thought that I should go in even if, technically, she touched the ball last. When I offered, my teammate looked at me and said, “No, these are the rules. I go in and you just have to live and be ashamed.” (I have recovered from my shame and can once again look others in the eye.) This prioritizing of team over individual may not be revolutionary but often gets overshadowed by the American individualistic mentality.

Of course, my American mind fears the effect of too much lagom… But I think, by definition, that is impossible…right? Anson Durance’s “competitive cauldron” is the archetype for a successful American soccer program, and my whole life has been an attempt at going the extra mile to get that one-inch edge. Although I like to think (à la Nicki Minaj) “I am not a girl that can ever be defined,” if I had to pick a pigeonhole, it might be “a girl who is never satisfied.” I always want more, and as far as football goes, I thought that was a positive thing. So how does lagom fit in my life?

Like all lessons, it is an active and sometimes difficult process to incorporate new ideas; but I am going to keep an open mind and keep asking questions. I know the answers are all around me both on and off the pitch, so I continue to play on. I also know there is so much more to understanding lagom, but I have to be patient. After all, I’m both a rookie and a foreigner now.

To Be Continued…

[Stoppage Time] Göteborg FC spent the last week training hard in preparation for the commencement of Allsvenskan (league), which kicks off at home this Tuesday! I’ve been working to make little adjustments, sort through the overload of information, while staying positive and confident. It’s a lot. But it’s made easier by the encouragement of a helpful loving team, always willing to learn and grow together with me, on and off the pitch. I recently learned the team motto: lilla laget med enorma hjärtat (Little team with a big heart). I like that.

One of my teammates recently paid me a great compliment. She said, “Playing with you is that great feeling. We all know that once we get you together with the team, our level can raise so much higher. And it’s right there. We are so close to it, and when we get there, it’s going to be a huge change in our level of play. When I step on the field with you, it’s sort of like the feeling a child has a few days before summer vacation…”

Well, I scored a goal in a scrimmage this week against a boy’s team. Although it did not feel like much of something to celebrate to me, my team disagreed, as it was my first goal in the KGFC uniform… Bring on the summer!

[Off the Post!] Invariably when the temperature reaches 5 degrees Celsius (hold off on the shorts…that’s 40 degrees Fahrenheit), someone on my team will look at me and announce, “California weather!?” Now I’m the one laughing. “No, not even close,” I say.

When my mom came to visit last week, we took a promenade down the streets of Haga, famous for its quaint shops and coffee houses. As a rare March treat, the sun was playing “peek-a-boo,” which meant I shed the thin sweater layer between my long-sleeved shirt and my puff jacket. With Uggs, wool gloves, thick scarves, and earmuffs in place, my mom and I took to the streets for some shopping and of course, Fika.

We came to the center of Haga and stopped dead in our tracks…there were people loitering up and down the streets of the intersection many of them sitting precariously on the curbs and cobblestone-covered road. Surely the creeping influences of 21th century Socialism couldn’t be this bad! As I popped off the lens cap of my camera to capture this scene, I noticed that the faces of those around me were far from bleak. In fact, everyone seemed happy. They were smiling while sipping coffee and engaged in lively conversation. Apparently, we did not get the memo. This was a “warm” spring day in Gothenburg but my mother and I were the only two people in the city who hadn’t noticed!

Rookie for life, Christen Press

Snapshots from Sweden

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Game Day In The Swedish Life // Tune in. // No, Tune in! // Stretch Out. // Pounding The Pavement. // Stay The Course. // Happy Easter  Glad Påsk! // Fika. // Rediscovering The Game. // A Change Of Perspective.

[Stoppage Time] Current game record: 0-3. (1-2 actually)

The team traveled to Malmö for the Super Cupen Final, where the winner of Allsvenskan (FC Malmö) takes on the winner of the Svenska Cupen (us.) The level of play was a drop-off from the Champions League, in my opinion, but instead of taking over of the game, we somehow lost control of the reigns. Although I played well, I missed opportunity after opportunity in front of the net, but did not feel the gravity of my mistakes until Malmö came back to score two goals and win the game in the 89th minute.

When I envisioned my first month playing for FC Göteborg, I imagined big goals in big games and big celebrations to follow. I thought I would have a hard time adjusting to the new social structure and cultural norms. After I had spent six months preparing my soccer, it would be a smooth adjustment, right? Well in reality, the opposite happened. Where I feared I would waver, I thrive. Where I once felt confident, I have been wavering. The worst part is knowing that nobody here knows the player I strive to be or the level at which I can play. My first impression has not been a good one.

When I retire to my apartment to listen to Tracy Chapman and feel sorry for myself, I try to remember that my story is still unwritten. What kind of tale would I tell if it all came easily? I know the hurdles make the race.

People need trouble -- a little frustration to sharpen the spirit on, toughen it. Artists do; I don't mean you need to live in a rat hole or gutter, but you have to learn fortitude, endurance. Only vegetables are happy. -- William Faulkner

Now, we are in the midst of a two-week break before starting Allsvenskan. I know that the finishing is inside of me. For those of us who search for the back of the net, we know it comes in waves. So, I will ride the waves as they roll in and keep the faith!

Final score:
Göteborg 1 - LdB Malmö 2

[Off The Post!] In Sweden, it’s allll about the Fika. Fika is a social institution here; it means having a coffee break and a treat. The word "Fika" can serve as both a verb and a noun and has quite ambiguous connotations, so the Swedes have fun with it. But it is a tradition central to Swedish life and one I have assimilated to instantly!

So here I am standing in line at Jacob’s Café, a swanky little spot in Haga, the oldest part of Göteborg, ready to have my first authentic Swedish experience. Of course, that means ordering my coffee using full Swedish sentences! Onset anxiety. But first, I have to figure out the Swedish crown. Time for some mental math … Kilograms to pounds, no … Celsius to Fahrenheit, no … Ah, crown to dollar! 22:00? Wait that’s military time! 22 SEK, I’ll figure out how much that is later. Ah, too late I’m in the front.

I’m tempted to jump out of line and find the nearest Starbucks. Instead, I look the barista in the eye with a big nervous grin – it’s time to complete the pass. “Jag skulle vilja ha en kaffee. Tack.” (I really wanted it decaf, but that’s just too complicated.) And now, he’s smiling back at me.

Three weeks later and I still get fjärilar i magen (butterflies) every time I attempt to speak Swedish. And somehow, nobody seems to completely understand me here even when I say the most basic things. Yesterday, I ordered ”en latte” (I’ve learned to keep it simple now), and still the barista looked at me like I was crazy. ”A latte?”  Like always, it's a work in progress... 

Rookie For Life, Christen Press