The Missing Ball

Before anyone asks it, or even thinks it, this has nothing to do with the recent Mo-vember movement or any form of male cancer. Not that it isn’t a good cause, its a great cause – even if I can’t participate, well wait, does whisker count? Whisker-vember just doesn’t go well, so I humbly cheer on other mustaches from the sideline.

Hmm, this post is slowly becoming about Mo-vember even though I said it wasn’t.

Story time!

When I was back at St. Francis University, I think it was my Junior year, most of the guys on the soccer team decided to do the whole No-Shave-November thing. Come to think of it, I think we were rebelling and decided to do No-Shave-till-November, so it was actually October.

I went along with it. It was a sad effort on all our parts and I think overall only 2-3 people made it the whole month. It definitely wasn’t as big of a deal that year as it has become now. As a matter of fact, it was the first time I had heard of it. This year it was wild, I felt like everyone had some kind of facial growth going. I know in the football world it was all over the place: players, coaches, pundits alike were all slowly turning into cave men. Loved It!

Georgie Best! Sports a handsome beard back in his day.

Georgie Best! Sports a handsome beard back in his day.

You almost miss the stache, with the classic Valderrama hair!

You almost miss the stache, with the classic Valderrama hair!

As it turned out, I was one of those two or three people on my team who didn’t shave for a month. As it also turned out, no one knew.

A night or two after the month was over, I walked over to the sink in my room and casually mentioned “I guess I can shave now”. My roommate, Benny, who could grow a carpet on his face in just a few days, sat straight up and said something along the lines of “WHAAAAA? BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!”, “You haven’t…HAHAHA”, “Sean…BAHAHAHHA”, “You haven’t shaved? HAHAHAHA!!!!”, “FOR A MONTH! BAHAHAHA”. Before I could answer he had run down the hall and told everyone. My No-Shave-Till-November campaign had, in truth, become a disgraceful Mo-ck-tober campaign.

Alexi Lalas, famous for his goatie in his playing days, sporting a very full stache

Alexi Lalas, famous for his goatie in his playing days, sporting a very full stache

That one will surely live through many a team reunion.

Back to the main point of post: the missing ball. Today I went to the local park, as I often do, to get some work in. One of the more recent challenges I have made for myself, when I am training alone, involves working on my longer, aerial passes. For this, I use a wall (about 6-6.5 ft high). I will typically back up 30-40 yards and try to hit the wall while the ball is still in the air. If I hit the ball too hard, it goes over the wall and I have to jump over and go get it. If I hit it too soft and it bounces before it hits the wall, it doesn’t come back all the way and I have run and get it. When I hit it right, the ball will typically role all the way back to me easy-peasy!

This is a great way to practice something. There are direct negative consequences for mistakes and if you do it right it is easier for you, but its not easy to do it right – sounds kinda like life doesn’t it.

Today, in my infinite imperfection, I kicked the ball over not 1, but 4 times (most of the others didn’t make it to the wall in the air either). Let me add that there is a relatively busy road just behind the wall, only protected by a few rows of trees (many of which are very thorny trees).

The first time I kicked it over was easy, as it sat just on the other side of the wall. The second and third time I happened to be practicing striking 1-time volleys out of the air, which is a classic high-risk vs. high-reward situation. If you manage to score a one touch volley, you feel like the man, you look like the man, and people will treat you like the man (at least for a bit)! If you shank it, you feel stupid, you look stupid and people treat you like your stupid (for a while). So, when I shanked these two over the wall they also cleared the trees. So, I had to push my way through the thorny trees and out on to the busy road, looking and feeling stupid, to retrieve my ball.

The last time I kicked it over, it only just cleared the wall, hit some branches right behind the wall, and appeared to drop straight down. I ran over immediately to scale the wall AGAIN. I got to the top of the wall and looked over…the ball was nowhere to be seen. I jumped down into the thorny trees and began crawl-walking around looking for it. Nothing. I went out to the road. Nothing. I crossed the busy road looking stupid to see if it had somehow gotten across (highly unlikely considered the pace I kicked it at). Nothing. The road was gradually sloping downhill and the ball could have gotten caught in the culvert and started rolling away so I walked down a little ways…looking stupid. Nothing. I went back and looking up into the trees in case it was stuck in them somewhere. Nothing!

Note: this was a bright neon yellow ball – on my receipt it is classified “Hi-Vis.”!

Seriously, how do you miss this!!!!!

Seriously, how do you miss this!!!!!

NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING!!!!!!!!

I sat there scratching my head for a bit and came to the only rational conclusion I could. It grew legs and ran off.

Now, if you remember, I wrote about losing another ball a while back at the same place. It’s bizarre. However, this isn’t just my second ball since I’ve been here. It’s my fourth (4TH). Two have mysteriously disappeared and two have been victims of death by puncture from the above described thorny trees. Moral of the story…don’t kick a ball over the wall into the thorny trees. Sigh! The Sports Direct store in Leeds is loving it.

In other news, my soccer life has continued to improve, while my love life has continued nowhere. I continue to train, here and there, with about as many teams as balls I’ve lost. Funnily enough, I have gotten to play a little in a few games with Albion Sports yet again. They have been doing well and sit 2nd in their league. In any case, they needed players for a few games again this week and I was happy to oblige.

We lost one of the games and won the other. I only played briefly in both and I was essentially given permission to run around as much as I wanted as long as I made sure they didn’t score. They didn’t! This leads to today’s seanostat: My team has never been scored on while I’m on the field in England! Boom! I hear Man Utd is having defensive difficulties…SIR ALEX!?!?

The Home of Rossington Main.

The Home of Rossington Main.

Overall, training has been good and it was nice to get into games, even if just for a few moments. I continue to work hard and wait for a breakthrough.

Special shout out to my youngest brother Desmond who turns a whopping 2 tomorrow. He’s always got bruises on his face from falling down head first…what an inspiration! Love him.

I wish you all a blessed and reflective advent!

Until next time Peace out.

Seano

Getting Some Games

What’s more English than a spot of football? Well, from what I’ve seen its rain and tea.

Stereotypical, I know!

Only the football for me please.

I came to England to play, simple as. Well, I am playing. I recently started playing with an amateur team called Albion Sports in Bradford. They play somewhere down in the large pyramid that is English non-league football. The league is officially called the Northeast Counties Eastern League. I have played 2 games with the team so far and it has been great to get back out on the field again.

For those of you interested, here is a link to the team’s website: http://albionsports.co.uk/seniors/ you can check results and see when our upcoming games are to be played. Also here is a link to the league website where you will find the standings http://www.barisncel.co.uk/tables/long/2012/ we are currently sitting in 4th place.

The first game that I played in was at home at Horsfall stadium. We played a team called Cleethorpes Town, from the East Coast. The final result was 4-0, and to be honest it may have been a little harsh of a scoreline for the opposition. Having said that, we deserved to win. We were far more clinical in the final third and limited them to few opportunities. Throughout the game, however, there were periods where they pressured high and we struggled to retain the ball. For about 20 minutes in the beginning of the 2nd half, we didn’t get the ball out of our half for any sustained period of time. We scored 2 goals in the first half and 2 in the last 20 mins when they began to tire. The first goal came off of a long ball and our center forward got hold of it on the right side of the box before cutting back and smashing it home with his left foot. The 2nd and 4th goals were scored off of thumping headers from corner kicks and the 3rd was scored off a well taken 1 time strike from a cross on the left. Overall, we played smart, absorbed pressure when we needed to and scored at critical times. We were not able to necessarily play pretty football, due to Cleethorpes’high pressure, but we adapted and made them pay for their mistakes – particularly marking on set pieces.

I played on the right wing of a 4-3-3 in this game. I have not played in a competitive game in a few months and it showed, I lacked a bit of sharpness from the start. It was also my first time playing with the team and I struggled at times to read some of my new teammates. These are all things that will come once I get a few more games in me and I am confident I can have more of an impact in future games. I came out after 65 minutes.

A few notes on the game from the team website:

http://albionsports.co.uk/albion-sports-did-themselves-a-power-of-good-with-a-4-0-home/

http://albionsports.co.uk/albion-sports-4-cleethorpes-town-0/

Here is a picture of the home stadium:

Horsfall stadium – Also home to Bradford Park Avenue of the Blue Square Premier Conference North.

The second game I played was away to Dinnington Town. Dinnington is about 1 hour south of Bradford just near Sheffield. We won the game 3-2. It was one of those games were you don’t focus on the performance and just leave with the three points. I started again at right-wing and played another 60 minutes roughly. My performance was slightly improved, but I still didn’t have the cutting edge I am looking for.

After dominating the first half, we only had 1 goal to show for it. We should have been up by more. We then let Dinnington get back into the game a little bit in the second half. Even after we scored our second, through a wonderful 1 time volley from the right back, we didn’t have control of the game. They scored 2 quick goals around the 80th minute to tie the game up, one off of a PK and one from a series of poor clearances. It was our right-back who came to the rescue again as he capitalized off of a good run and cross from one of our subs. We walked away with the W, but knew that we needed improvement. Here is some more info on the game: http://albionsports.co.uk/cook-dishes-up-three-points-for-albion-sports/

Dinnington Town’s Home Ground – bumpier than it looks.

Our next game was supposed to be played at home versus Pontefract Colleries (To me this sounds like a type of exotic dog breed) on the Wednesday the 26th; but after a three day downpour throughout most of England, it was decided that we weren’t a water polo team and the game was cancelled. Cancellations can be very frustrating for a player, you prepare mentally and physically for a game and then it doesn’t happen and it throws you off a little bit. Then you have to change momentum and get some good training in instead. However, its terribly un-motivating to have to put in hard work behind the scenes when you were excited and mentally prepped for a game day. It’s like having to go to the office, when you had been planning to take a client to the golf course. It becomes very hard to get work done and it takes twice as much energy to be productive. So, instead I’m writing this post…

I will keep you updated on games in the future. I am confident that this team can keep winning, there are some good players and the level is competitive. While we keep to our winning ways, I am focused on improving my game individually.

We may be playing the postponed game this weekend, but if not our next scheduled fixture is a WRCC Cup game against Farsley AFC on Tuesday the 2nd of October. Farsley is another local team, located between Bradford and Leeds. They are a few leagues ahead of us and it will be a good challenge for all of us. I am looking forward to the experience of my first Cup game and see it also as a good chance for exposure.

The WRCC is the West Riding County Cup. It is a regional competition for local clubs. Farsley is a semi-finalist from last year and will surely be itching to go a step further this year. It’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen. Albion was knocked out in the 2nd round last year after losing to penalties. You can find more information about the Cup here http://www.westridingfa.com/cups/2012-2013

Until the next kick about, God Bless you all and don’t be afraid to dive in head first!

Seano