Thursday, June 7, 2012

Soaked in Stockholm and Team Talk

I'm the king of alliteration.

You know, since the day I got here people have been telling me about summer in Stockholm.  People say, “Just wait until June.  Stockholm is so nice at that time,”.  So being the dutiful foreigner I am, I waited until June and then visited the capital.  I went to watch Neven and the Serbian national team face Sweden at Rasunda stadium.  Unfortunately, summertime Stockholm didn’t quite live up to its billing.  When I arrived, it was a bit chilly but nice and sunny.  However, in the hour it took me to walk from downtown to Neven’s hotel to get the tickets, the weather started to change.  It actually made the walk more pleasant at first.  The overcast skies prevented me from sweating during my walk and I even saw some cool stuff like a bridge rising for a ship.  However, shortly after this video the rain came. 

Me standing under a tree in the pouring rain.  You can't see the rain because my camera is my US cell phone and it can only do so much.

It was awful.  I had no umbrella because trusty said that there was a 10% chance of rain all day.  I also had no idea where I was since I have no gps on my phone here.  My US phone has gps, but that doesn’t work in Europe so I had to wander in the rain looking for the nearest metro station.  After about 30 minutes of looking in the rain, I just gave up and walked back to downtown on the exact path which I came.

Once back downtown I did some cool stuff.  I visited the palace and royal treasury (sorry, no pics from the palace, they're not allowed), then sat down for lunch at my favorite restaurant (McDonald’s) before heading to the stadium for the match.  The game itself was actually pretty bad, but I enjoyed it a lot.  I got to see one of my favorite players in the world, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  He’s one of my soccer idols and I can only dream about having his talent.  Also, Neven scored for Serbia so it was pretty cool to be in attendance for that.  The general play though was kind of sloppy.  Both teams were finishing a long camp and had one eye on the future: Sweden on the Euros and Serbia on sandy beaches around the world.  It didn’t help that after a day of storms the geniuses at Rasunda decided to water the pitch just before kickoff.  As a result the play was very choppy and all the goals came from set pieces.  Sweden won, 2-1.  I took a few pictures before my phone died on me.  For that reason I don’t have any pictures of after the match, when Neven came over and talked to me and the guys who came to the game with me.  He was even generous enough to give me his jersey, something I had not even thought to ask for.  I really appreciate that he did that and I hope I can make it over to Germany for one of his club games.  That would be pretty awesome.

While I was getting rained on in Stockholm, back in Enkoping the team got together and had their crisis meeting.  Apparently I was wrong on the attendees: it was players only.  Some stuff stays in the locker room, but what I can say from the reports I got is that the players believe things can and will get better and that our problems start on the practice ground.  We haven’t been pushing ourselves hard enough in training to prepare us for the games.  It was agreed that our lack of intensity in training was a big reason why we were having trouble dealing with the pressure and intensity that comes in the matches.

Curiously enough, after that team meeting, instead of training the boys went next door to a miniature golf course.  I actually think that that decision was a good one.  We have a lot of young players who may be a bit burdened by this season we’re having.  It is important that we do some things together that don’t have the shadow of a 1-7 record hanging over it.  I think that a team function would do wonders for us at this point.  If we were a BPL or Serie A team, the manager would have taken us to Cyprus or La Manga or somewhere to get away from it all for 3-4 days.  Then we could come back to our hometown ready to start fresh again.  I don’t know if the people who decided do miniature golf were thinking that way, but hats off to them for that decision.  It also made me feel better about missing training.  I probably did more aerobic activity by walking 4-5 miles than any other player on the team that day.

Yesterday’s training was a bit higher intensity than usual.  It was also a bit of a fitness session, though that term used here pales in comparison to what it would mean in USL.  I hope the team meeting has a positive impact on how we train from this point forward.  It was also the National Day of Sweden, which is something like US’s Independence Day, just that Sweden never had to declare independence from anyone.  I spent the day doing a whole bunch of nothing, and I loved it.

Our next game is Saturday afternoon against Vasalunds.  They’re currently in 2nd place in the league so it should be a difficult game.  As always, I think we can win it if we’re confident and play to win.  The teams in this league are so similar in talent that your mind can go a long way towards whether you win or lose.  If the game tomorrow is 1-1 with 20 minutes left, then I would bet that the team that more believes it will win will find the winning goal.  If that situation comes up and we’re thinking that we should just hold on to the tie, then we’ll surely lose.  The inverse is also true.  Hopefully we’ll get the win and move from the bottom of the table!

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