[THE PITCH] To Torbjörn Nilsson, who is both my head coach and my Swedish liaison/mentor, soccer is a game of numbers. He explains the field in geometric terms. He talks of decision-making based on probabilities. In meetings he demonstrates how to break each situation down to a solvable equation. As I scribble down his lessons in my notebook, I marvel at how he sees the game. I’ve never had such a mind for math. In my understanding, soccer is not a graph nor formula nor an equation. I see the world through metaphors, in imagery, as literary allusions. The game has and always will be a story to me … my story …
Clinging to the arm of the North Sea sits a rainy old-world city I have come to love, not in spite of the many challenges it poses for me, but because of them. In many ways, Gothenburg feels like home. For now, it is my home. And yet, being in Sweden doesn’t feel like “real life.” Six months after I first suited up in my Kopparberg jersey, I am still captivated by its many charms. Living here is like attending school … always pushing me, but also a holiday … giving me endless reasons to smile. Playing soccer in Sweden requires the straightforward discipline necessary to manage its harsh conditions, yet it is a gentile and unmanageable play place. Like the Pacific Ocean of my California home, it is both calming and invigorating: as exciting and inviting on the surface as it is brisk and mysterious at its core.
Perhaps this is the most important element of my Swedish story. The people I have met here: my friends and teammates, our staff, and even the strangers I will never know have taught me so much and changed my life for the better. There is something about the Swedes that really allows me to feel safe in my own skin. I find inspiration every day as I look around the locker room and beyond.
Our team ranges in age, in soccer experience, in English-speaking-ability, and in how much they value the game. For example, there’s Mimi. She just turned 18, an up-and-coming Swedish striker with the potential to be “the next big thing.” She dreams of going to college (the wild college parties she sees on TV) and living in California. She’s a ball of energy and enthusiasm … and she rides the young waves of emotion. As an experienced wave rider myself, I try to help her surf over the inescapable rough currents that exist in the front line. There is Anita, who likes to call me her “limb” because we have been attached at the hip for the last five months. She has over 50 caps for the English Full Team. She played for practically every WPS team in her three years in the USA. I respect her opinion and appreciate her different perspective, so I go to her for advice and constructive criticism. Then there is me … and I know I have as much to contribute to Anita as I have to learn from Mimi. Despite our vast differences in backgrounds, we are all in this together, happily connected. Although I am sharing my own story now, we, as a team, are creating our future and, thus, writing our story collaboratively.
Plot// Stoppage Time
Like any good story, the plot has had a few unexpected twists. Instead of ascending slowly towards a climax, my first weeks here started BAM! BAM! BAM! (Big important games) and BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! (Disappointing losses). The re-building commenced, but the stage was set and it was makeshift, as we had lost confidence. I was told from the start, KGFC is not a team of stars, but it seemed without self-assurance, we weren’t a team at all. Still, we pushed through it and despite the shakiness; the first half of the season was an extraordinary experience, and I know I am a better player and person because of it.
Having returned from our summer holiday, the team is back in business. While it is now impossible for us to win Damallsvenskan, with SvenskaCupen and Champions League ahead of us, we have a lot to play for … and a whole new slew of challenges. I woke up the morning of our Umeå game with a feeling that there is no end to progress for a professional athlete. It’s a limitless climb; there is no finish line. And yet, it seems, that there are countless beginnings … restarts, as it were. I hoped and still hope that the Umeå game was one of them… the beginning of the turn-around … the commencement of “a second season.” It was a beautiful day to turn around a season. The sun was shining (a phenomenon, a teammate pointed out, that only occurs during Kopparberg games) … the seagulls were chirping (waking me up at 6 am)…
Göteborg FC 5 – Umeå IK 0
We felt good. We played well. We had success. But as soon as the final whistle blew, I could feel the future coming toward me… applying pressure where joy should be. We had won so many games likes this before, just to show up at the next game a different team; unable to post two solid wins in a row. SvenskaCupen semifinal was three days later against Malmö. It would be a big test … a test of our strength and determination … a test of our confidence.
Göteborg FC 2 – LdB FC Malmö 1
Will we continue to build…to get stronger…to reach our potential? To borrow the lyrics from Natasha Beddingfield, “The rest is still unwritten…”