This game was one to remember. For many reasons. It was hot. Yep, hot here in Ljusdal. I’m sure that 10 years ago when I played in this type of heat regularly, I would’ve felt fine. But this game got me. It’s official. My California sunshine self is becoming a Swede and the heat done for me in this game.
We played against a team that I again have a lot of history with. This team has always been a huge fight for us and these past 3 times we have met them, it was a fight to the last second. This game was no different. The first half felt like it would never end. Did I mention it was hot? And we play on artificial grass which raises the temperature for our poor feet. The first half started rough for me. Kind of ended that way too. They attacked and attacked my side with long balls and there was no choice but to run them down to help my outside back. Quick side note. That outside back is only 17 and has impressed me so much already this season. She is amazing one on one and I can’t believe how tough she is. I’m privileged to play in front of her. She saves me most of the time. So that’s what she did all first half. She did her job and part of mine too.
At half time I was at my wits end. I felt so defeated. I felt embarrassed. This was our first home game and I was playing with such fear and my body was so heavy. I could give you a bunch of excuses as to why this might be, but the reality is, I wasn’t playing to my potential and I felt so beaten down. And we still had another half to go. My coaches might have saved this game for me. I had been playing outside midfield the first half and they moved me to forward. I instantly felt conflicting feelings. First I was relieved. Then Mr Negativity showed I can’t hide from him even in a tiny town of Ljusdal, Sweden and I started to feel insecure. I felt that they were moving me because I was doing such a horrible job outside. Oh hush Mr Negativity. No one likes you.
But this was perfect. Playing up there felt like home. I felt strong and wasn’t as tired. Well, I didn’t have to run as much, but either way, it started to feel better. As my confidence grew, I took all those “me me me” bad thoughts and started to look around and realize how well my real was doing. Our center kids were winning all these balls in the middle. Our back line was winning huge tackles. Our keeper (didn’t actually have to use her hands much second half) was playing amazing balls from the back. Our outside mids were attacking and getting around their backs and giving us goal scoring opportunities. It was impressive. And it gave me confidence up the whazzu!
Then it happened. I realized that they were getting a little nonchalant in the back with the ball. Passing between the keeper and the backs and the midfielders like we were of no threat to them. So I pounced on a midfielder and rattled her a little. Then as they were starting to get a rhythm in the back, I saw their goalkeeper take a bad touch and I sprang into action and before I know it, a childhood dream had come true.
You see. Sam and goalkeepers go way back. Both of my sisters are keepers. Most of my closest friends on any team I’ve played on have been goal keepers. They’re wacky and fun and usually really tall and what short person doesn’t want a tall friend to reach high stuff for them? The keeper we were playing against is actually a really good friend of mine. I lived with her here in Sweden on my first Swedish pro team. So that makes what I’m about to tell you a little bitter sweet. More sweet than bitter for sure. As she made a bad touch, I lunged forward and poked the ball from her. Poked again and got it and passed it in. I don’t even remember looking at the goal! But it went in! We won 1-0! Whaaatttt!?
And we had so many more moments after that. Before that too. Back line had bone crushing tackles! My center mids had long runs and shots on goal. We made them worrrkkk. And we worked for each other. And I want to take a moment to say, there are about 18 players on our team. That’s 18 mornings, 18 nights, 18 weeks that all are happening that have to come together on that field for one common goal. Some of us are having family problems, relationship problems, money problems, school problems, or just plain sad for no reason. But we come, we get together, we play. We get to play. It might be the only 90 minutes all week where we aren’t worried or scared or over thinking things. What a beautiful thing that is. Very thankful I have that in my life.
Can’t wait to do it again next week!