Last Wednesday, our trainer told me that I’d not only be playing in my first match with Moldavo, that upcoming Saturday, but that I’d be in the starting line-up. My short but intense burst of excitement was quickly tempered by the announcement that I would be playing ‘on the 6’, or as a central midfielder. Rarely had my mood gone from ultimate joy to blind panic so quickly.
It took the training staff at FC Eindhoven roughly half a year to transform me from a right winger into a right back, and that operation led to many situations where I stood on the pitch and felt completely clueless. But I hadn’t played at midfield since the age of nine, and coach Robin asked me kindly to fill that spot once more. In a new team, a level or six higher than I’m used to playing at, with half the Belgium village of Mol as spectators at the sidelines. Sure. No stress.
Either way, last Saturday was the big day, and I made the 62 kilometer long journey to my new soccer home in good spirits. Unfortunately, I was too late in realising that I absolutely had no clue what the rituals and customs were around a match in Belgium. I didn’t know the warm-up exercises, was really surprised when the referee wanted to check my cleats before the game, and during our pregame yell I could only put on a really angry face. But all of those things were not gonna spoil the fun. My parents and my best friend were in the stands, and I wasn’t gonna let them or my new teammates down.
‘You can rest now.’
The game was okay, that’s really all I can make of it. It was tough to play, but thanks to the knowledge that my three biggest supporters were there to cheer me on and a lenient referee (I was lucky to make it to halftime withoutbeing carded) I fell down on the bench in the dressing room after 45 minutes, com-ple-tely worn out. ‘Emma, you can rest now, I’m going to take you off.’ I couldn’t argue with that. I felt like someone took a chainsaw and divided me into fifteen little pieces.
After the game, that remained 1-1, I couldn’t get the smile off my face. I had made my first minutes in Belgium, after just a couple of weeks of training with the team. Sure, there are plenty of things that I’m going to have to work on in order to contribute to this squad, but this beginning gives cause for hope. And that of course had to be celebrated, because if there’s anything they know how to do well in Belgium, besides playing soccer, it’s building a party.
The day that started with a wholesome oatmeal breakfast and a silent prayer about the outcome of the game ended in the local après-ski café. For now it will be key not to lose my head in all the partying across the border. By now there are only 1209 days left until the World Cup, and a café is far from the ideal place to prepare for that. But if my first weeks in Belgium are any indication of what’s to come, on both athletically and socially, the signs are more than positive!
Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂