Not Sure Where I’m Going, But This Is Where I’ve Been

For some reason I feel the need to start this post with an explanation for my long absence. Instead, I’ll go ahead and just say I was on sabbatical, or maybe since it’s winter, I’ll say I was hibernating. Anyway, that’s irrelevant and I have more interesting things to tell you about.

I have plenty to report from the last six or seven weeks. It’s been a flurry of travel, hoping, waiting, anticipating, and most of the time, just generally failing. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll give you the chronological rundown.

In mid-January, I found myself going on a footballing adventure to the small Mediterranean island of Cyprus. I say “found myself” as if one day I woke up and poof I was playing in Cyprus, which while romantic, is not true at all. I had been considering and planning this trip since back in the fall. Essentially, it was through an agency who brought over about 22 players to Cyprus on a 4-5 day trial with the hope of being scouted by some of the teams in the Cypriot League.

To make a long story short, I’m back in England.

Though I was slightly disappointed not to get picked up by a team in Cyprus, the experience was good. I thought I played well over the days we were there, but as luck would have it, I played mostly as a defender and the teams were primarily looking for central midfielders and strikers. Having said that, any experience has value and I also met new people to connect and work with in the future. My one regret is that I didn’t get to see much of Cyprus. It was strictly a business trip and so there was no time for sightseeing.  Oh well, I’ll just have to go back.

Back in England, I was missing nothing except flooding of biblical proportions. This flooding and rain persisted through much of January and February. During that time, my Dad forwarded me this article; “UK floods: January rain breaks records in parts of England“, with his condolences and that pretty much summed it all up. Sometimes life is just soggy.

The rain inevitably led to muddy football pitches throughout the country and thus a myraid of cancelled games in January and early February. Unfortunately, the pitches weren’t the only thing getting bogged down and muddy throughout these damp weeks.

I continued my merry-go-round adventure in non-league football, by deciding to take the opportunity to move back to Thatcham Town from Fleet Town. If you remember, I had played a few games at Thatcham back in late Autumn. However, my transfer back to Thatcham was caught up in the mire of paperwork and petty bureaucracy. Essentially, I was told I would have to wait 4-5 weeks to make the switch.

Understandably, Fleet was not willing to waive the waiting period that would let me go to Thatcham (a direct competitor of theirs). Fleet was also annoyed with me for undermining them and deciding to leave without consulting them first. I shamlessly admit that it was because they were able to offer me more money…footballers, we’re all the same! Oh, and not to mention, that it’s far more convenient, since it’s only 10 minutes away as opposed to an hour and a half on the train.

Ok, I’m done venting, thanks for that. In the end, the break-up appears to have been beneficial for both parties, because they’ve won 2 games of their last 4 since I left. You may remember, this is the team I kept losing with back around Christmas.

Moving on…

Barring any unforeseen consequences, I will finally be playing with Thatcham Town this Saturday. It’s been about 6 weeks since I played a proper game and I’m itching to get back to it! In the meantime, I’ve continued the monotonous, dull, and unrewarding work of training on my own. The countless hours of kicking a ball against the wall, shooting on an empty net, and forcing yourself through sprints, will hopefully begin to pay off.

If you’re starting to feel bad for me, then thanks, I’ve done my job as an attention seeking writer – Woe is me!

But in reality, you don’t have to feel bad at all. I’ve had some fun as well, and this break from games has given me other opportunities to grow and enjoy life.

One of the side effects of my Cyprus trip was that I was stricken with a bad case of the travel bug. As luck would have it, my sister Grace just happened to be travelling around Italy at the time; just before she started a semester of study in Rome. My dear Mother, who always has the best ideas, suggested we meet and spend a few days together. I jumped on this, like a trampoline, and that was it; Grace had her favorite brother as a travel companion!

My Mom also has this knack for finding really interesting and fabulous people; people throughout the world who are willing to put us up in their homes. They are willing to do this, even after they find out that there are copious amounts of us O’Reilly’s; any of whom might just show up at anytime. (The caveat, of course, is that they can show up at our place anytime as well). One of these people happened to live in Torino (Turin), Italy, so that was to be the setting of our adventure.

Torino is in Northern Italy, and was originally founded as a Roman City. For years it was the seat of political power in the region and in the country. It also is well known for it’s history in the automobile industry, most notably as the home of Fiat and Alfa Romeo. Recently, you may also remember that it hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics. While it has lost some of it’s political and industrial power since the World Wars, it is still considered the third most important city in Italy, and is full of respected educational institutions.

Torino is also home to the famous religious relic, known as the Shroud of Turin – the cloth said to have been used to wrap Jesus in his tomb. While it was not on display, we visited the chapel that holds it to pay our homage. Turin is also home to, and current resting place of, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who was an athletic and humble young man. I find him a great role model and his case is being pushed for canonization (sainthood). I have praying to him specifically for help in my football pursuits and so it was a pleasant coincidence for me personally to get to visit his grave. Grace and I enjoyed our time there very much, and the family we stayed with were great hosts and we hope they will soon visit us in America as well.

I've also been trying to draw...this is my best effort at Torino, with the Alps in the background.

I’ve also been trying to draw…this is my best effort at Torino, with the Alps in the background.

I got a remarkably strong sense that people of Torino were very proud of their city and its history, which gave it a distinct and genuine character. If you get the opportunity to visit, I would definitely recommend it, the city is seeped in history and set beautifully at the foot of The Alps.

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However, even three and a half days in Torino, didn’t satisfy my appetite for travel, so I decided to follow Grace down to Rome for a quick visit to The Eternal City. Another sister, Cecilia, was already in Rome as she has been pursing post-graduate studies there since the summer. My stay in Rome was short and sweet, but was long enough for the city to grab hold of me and I could feel it tugging me back for a closer look even as I left. Rarely do things or places live up to expectations built up by others, but in Rome, they certainly did. I certainly intend to go back to immerse myself deeper into its grandeur, its warmth, its charm, and its mystery.

I have to say as well, it was a blast to share this experience with Grace. It is rare in such a big family to spend long periods with only one sibling at a time, so it was a blessing to do so with Grace. Unlike times as children where we were sworn enemies, we got on quite swimmingly! 🙂 Probably more due to her patience than mine.

Once I got back to England – rainy, damp England, I am always obliged to add – I had a busy week as I had signed up to start my coaching qualifications. So, for a week, I was commuting an hour and a half on the train to learn how to coach. I am done with all of the theory work, but now have to go out and do practical hours. So, I will be coaching at local clubs in the area in the coming months in preparation for my final assessment.

Me after 6 days in a row of getting up at 6am. Such a softie.

Me after 6 days in a row of getting up at 6am. Such a softie.

To be honest, the theory part was terribly boring at times. When you’ve been around the game for a long time, most of the stuff you inherently know. On top of that, passing your assessment is all about “checking boxes” as our instructor said, which means you have to do certain things very deliberately every time. The instructor made the comparison to passing your driving test, where you have to dramatically put on your seat belt, then wiggle all the mirrors, so as to be sure they instructor knows what you are doing. Then once you get your license, it’s pedal to the metal!

Essentially, this starting level qualification does not promote creativity itself, but sets up opportunities to get to a good platform with which you can develop your creativity. In the end, you still learn things about yourself if you are open to your own self-development. For instance, I am not very good at getting my point across concisely and effectively in verbal communication. But you probably knew that already if you’ve ever talked to me for a significant period of time 🙂 .

Thanks for bearing with me, I know I’ve just tried to cram nearly two months of information into one post. The important thing to note is that even though I’m failing, I’m also lucky enough to be living a little. There’s other stuff I probably missed as well, but we’ll save that for another rainy day – that way it’ll be soon.

As I begin playing again, I am hoping to be inspired to blog more regularly. After all, it makes more sense to write about football on a blog titled “Head First Football”. God willing, the next time you hear from me, I’ll have some positive news from on the field.

Until then, go head first!



PS: Hope you like the new layout…thought it was time for a change. Let me know what you think.