Dear soccer friends,
With New Year’s Eve right around the corner I thought it would be fun to take a quick look back at the past soccer year. The year in which I completed my very first ‘international transfer’, made mistake after mistake both on and off the pitch, but looking back, have learned so much from that.
That’s why I proudly present to you, in the hope that either I can prevent you from making the same mistakes as I did, or hopefully at least can put a smile on your face while reading: the 10 most important soccer lessons I learned in the past 365 days.
1. If you’re brand new at a club, getting insanely drunk at their New Year’s reception to impress is probably not the most effective strategy;
(and I don’t think they were particularly impressed)
2. If you then, in that drunken state, confess your undying love for a teammate that you’ve met three days ago, it’ll probably turn into a story they’re gonna confront you with for many, many months to come;
(and rightly so)
3. If you play a ball back to your keeper, always make sure that you put enough pace on it;
(I can still hear the Tongeren attacker celebrating)
4. If you make a slide tackle within your own box, coming in from behind with two feet and aiming for the attackers ankles, the possibility exists that you cause a penalty kick;
(winning against KSK Heist would’ve been fun)
5. When the wind is blowing hard, take that shot on goal from outside the box;
(absolute highlight of my season so far: scoring for the first team after the wind blows my cross into the box literally into the upper 90)
6. ‘That’s nothing’ means ‘Don’t worry about it’ in Belgium;
(the first time someone said this to me after a bad pass I was so offended)
7. If you’re driving to an away game all by yourself, always leave extremely on time;
(the amount of money I spend on gas can be so much lower next year if I stop getting lost all the time)
8. When you are the one responsible for the net of balls at an away game, make sure you put them in the bus before the trip home;
(that’s why Famkes Merkem can now train with 8 balls that say ‘Moldavo’)
9. When you train with iron studs, please be a little bit careful;
(R.I.P. teammates’ toenails)
But the single most important lesson I learned this year is in regards to a blog I wrote a while ago, about the magic of wearing a blue tracksuit. When I started trying to climb the soccer ladder, all the way from the bottom, I wanted nothing more than all those fancy things that you never have at that level. Driving a team bus to away games, a training jacket with the club logo on it, and fifteen different shirts for all weather conditions.
Looking back at my past year in Belgium, that might be the biggest lesson I have learned. It’s not about clothing, logo’s and brands. It’s about soccer. If you work extremely hard, you can get playing time. Everything else is just a sideshow. That’s why lesson number 10 is this:
10. The blue tracksuit is not magical. Getting playing time at a level that you could only have dreamed of a year earlier, that is where the true magic comes from.
Have a great New Year’s Eve everyone, thanks for reading, and we’ll see each other in 2017! 🙂