August 2nd, 2009



Karin's been torn between soccer and karate all this past year. She had karate class 2 nights a week and soccer practice 2 nights a week and inevitably one of the nights held both and she ended up having to choose each week which one to go to. For various reasons, soccer began to win out and it's been more and more dominant since the spring. Her team was in a league which was too advanced for them; they ended up dead last, having not won a single game in the entire season, which was very hard on the kids who were playing their hearts out each week.

The season ended in June, when school did, and during the summer they were invited to participate in Eskilscupen, a tournament held in Helsingborg 45 minutes north of us. It meant 3 overnight stays, 3 days of matches and a 2-day training camp the weekend before. Intense! Karin is the only girl on her team so I was a bit concerned about the overnight arrangements, but things have turned out just fine. Her whole team bunked on the floor of a classroom in the school by the soccer fields and one of her coaches is the mother of a teammate so she wasn't the only female in the room, at least. :)

Eskilscupen has been organized since 1968, one of the oldest in Sweden. Last year there were 586 participating teams and I heard the number 800 batted around yesterday for this year's record. Not only teams from Sweden, but from Croatia, Lithuania, Estonia, the USA and Barcelona's Youth Team were there this year. The first day I had to work so Martin and Anders went up to watch the matches. Karin's team tied the first match against Helsingborg IF3 with 3-3 and then were crushed by a far superior opponent: Malmö FF, probably one of the best youth teams in the tournament; to make matters worse Karin's team was wearing their away uniforms which they had never before lost in.

Karin in action against Helsingborg IF3 (photo: Anders Ek)

Serious concentration while playing Malmö FF (photo: Anders Ek)

But yesterday was a golden day! We drove up to Helsingborg in the sunshine for the first match, against Ödåkra at 2 p.m. and cheered on the sidelines as Karin's team pulled together and played better than they ever had. I was amazed at how much they have improved as a team since the matches I watched during the spring season. Karin was Team Captain (see the yellow C on her arm) as well and very conscious of her role. They won 3-0 and their smiles could have lit up the whole sky.

Celebrating the first team win! (photo: Anders Ek)

Unfortunately, one of the opposing team members landed a knee in Karin's thigh during the first match and by the 2nd game at 5:20 p.m. she was walking with a limp, so she couldn't play, much to her disappointment. Her coaches agreed that it was better she rest the leg so as to be sure of playing today. She sat on my lap and we cheered on the team against Önnestad. Much to her embarrassment, since I kept yelling in English. "GO! GO! GO!" I would scream when our team had the ball. Little boys' heads would turn and look at me and I could feel Karin shifting in my lap. "My mom's American," she'd explain with a bit of a grimace. It made me laugh and even more so when I remembered that the word in Swedish, which is pronounced exactly the same as go, means walk, so I was, in effect, yelling at the kids to WALK WALK WALK! hahaa!! So I tried to remember to yell SPRING! instead, which means Run! but inevitably found myself reverting to English in the heat of the moment. AAH the joys of being an embarrassing parent! :D

Karin's team won 2-1 ending the day with a real milestone for celebration and a cup-wide disco to look forward to yesterday evening. Despite the fact that she couldn't play, there was a compensation during the waiting period between the 2 matches. Henke Larsson, one of Sweden's premier soccer players and captain of the Swedish National team, was there watching his son play in the tournament. He was injured during his own game the day before and is out for 8 weeks to recover, so he was on crutches and easy to spot. Kids kept swarming him where he was sitting but he waved them away politely during the game, saying he wasn't signing autographs while his son's game was in progress. But afterwards he very kindly accommodated all the children who were so thrilled to see him, and Karin got his autograph AND a photo:

Henke Larsson with Karin (photo copyright: Anders Ek)

Today is elimination rounds. Anders left this morning to get up to Helsingborg in time for the first game which started 25 minutes ago. Martin and I have other plans that needed to be done today, but I'm hoping things will go well. If they win the first game, there will be another match, and I'm sure she'll arrive home glowing regardless of the outcome.

Bonny Bundles of Birthday Wishes to into_the_blue!