The Pothast’s Invade Sweden

Hey there! Long time no talk. I haven’t blogged in over a month and I knew if I didn’t get around to posting soon, there would have been a good chance this blog would sizzle out and die. But have no worries, I’m here to catch you all up on some updates, most notably, the 10 days my family was here in Angelholm to visit! With over a month of stuff to talk about, and my Arsenal boys playing in Champion’s League in just under an hour, I’m going to try to be brief for this post so I’m not writing a novel (Best for both parties).

1). The Pothast’s Take on Sweden

-My mom, dad, little Mike, Uncle Matt, Grandpa, Uncle Mark, Aunt Irina, and her brother Misha, all came over to see me and get a taste of what Angelholm and my new life was all about.

-Although the weather could have cooperated a little bit more (it rained nearly every day), we were able to do/see a lot. They got to see me play 2 games, one being a BIG win over Hammarby (1-0), who was 1st place at the time. The other was a Swedish Cup game (5-2 win) that they somehow were able to make it to, having rented a car and with no map, navigate the snakelike streets up to Gothenberg.

Mom and I after the game!

Mom and I after the game!

Dad

Dad

Front page face time after the big win!

Front page face time after the big win!

-We ate like kings/queens while they were over here. If there is one thing the Pothast family loves… it’s food. Every night was a different restaurant and although it was tricky to decipher some of the menus, everyone seemed to enjoy the cuisine and go home with a better idea of what the Swede’s love to eat. My mom loved all the seafood options, my dad must have had schnitzel 5 times, and my uncles/grandpa ordered enough Falcons (local beer) to get the party started.

Mom and her seafood

Mom and her seafood

-One of the days, we took the ferry from Helsingborg to Helsingor, Denamrk. We tried some authentic open faced sandwiches at a local Danish diner, walked the streets to see the shops/people, enjoyed an ice cream in the square, and got to listen to some live New Orleans Jazz (in a slight accent). Overall, the whole experience of taking a short ferry ride to a new country was exciting and enjoyable for my family and I was glad we could fit that in to our plans.

Bubba and Uncle Matt enjoying a local brewski.

Bubba and Uncle Matt enjoying a local brewski.

Entrance to the restaurant. #tallpeopleprobz

Entrance to the restaurant. #tallpeopleprobz

-Another highlight was the impromptu adventure to Copenhagen with my dad and Uncle Matt to see a Champions League soccer match. The game was FC Copenhagen vs Bayer Leverkusen of the German Bundesliga. Hours before the game, we were huddled around a computer looking for tickets, how to get there, and finding a hotel since it would be too late to jump on a train back to Angelholm. Without a second thought, we got everything we needed and we got to see our first live taste of Champions League soccer. There is something special about the Champions League music and the pre game festivities that really get the blood flowing and the game was an absolute blast. We saw 5 first half goals (soccer is boring) and Leverkusen ended up winning 3-2. The atmosphere and crowd was great and we even navigated our way around Copenhagen like we knew what we were doing (When asking for directions one guy just said “follow that crowd of drunk fans”). Definitely a night I will remember.

champ league

-Later in the week, the whole crew was able to take the hour and a half train ride into Copenhagen to explore. Our first order of business was to take the famous Copenhagen canal tour. Although I had been on this before, it didn’t disappoint even the second time. You get to see so many of the city’s landmarks as well as listen to an informed tour guide explain interesting tid-bits you’d otherwise have no idea about. Whether it was the breathtaking opera house, royal yacht, little mermaid statue, or the views of Copenhagen from the water, everyone enjoyed. We then got lunch right on the canal in a part of the town called Nyhavn (very famous) and waited out the rain before taking the long walk down the main drag to shop and explore. I must have gone into every sports store with little Mike in search of soccer jerseys… the little guy knows what he likes and he found 2 that he can show off to his buddies on the first days of school. Uncle Matt was also so close to getting his feet gnawed on by fish at a salon called the “Fish Kiss.” You stick your paws into a tub of water where a special breed of fish nibble off the dead skin. It is supposed to feel great and I’m disappointed it didn’t happen for the sheer fact it would have been a great picture to make fun of him with 10 years down the road.

Start of the canal tour.

Start of the canal tour.

canal

Lunch in Nyhavn.

Lunch in Nyhavn.

Tight squeeze under some of the bridges!

Tight squeeze under some of the bridges!

copenhagen group

 

Mike and his Jerseys.

Mike and his Jerseys.

 

-As far as everyday things, I was able to show everyone my apartment, where my mom helped clean and organize :). I showed them my favorite bakery, showed mom the grocery store, and the places they now can visualize when I tell them what I have been doing with my days.

-Almost every night was a bro sleepover with little Mike. We found a new movie to watch each night and he loved being able to stay up later (and eat more ice cream) than would have been kosher with my parents at the hotel. I loved being able to spend time with him and since I’m separated from him for extended periods of time, I had to get my little Mike fix. We kicked the ball around after training sessions and he even got to come into the locker room to sing, meet the team, and celebrate after the Hammarby win. He’s growing up too fast so I have to try and spoil him when I have the chance.

me and little mike

 

me and little mike harrys

canal tour

 

mike after game

-My grandpa was a trooper this trip. After taking a tumble on the tricky cobblestone curb in town the first day he was here, he could have stayed low key and chilled. However, he was walking EVERYWHERE we would go and was always so excited to get out and explore. He has never met a stranger in his life and I think he made more than a dozen new acquaintances in the short time he was here in Angelholm. I hope I have half the vigor for life at his age. It also made for a great inside joke when he would unknowingly call the local currency, Swedish kroner, Swedish Caronas. Many laughs were shared over that one as he went to get more Swedish Caronas from the  ATM. :)

-It was such a valuable lesson being able to pick at my Uncle Mark’s brain while he was here and have conversations about living abroad with him. He has been living abroad for the last 22 years of his life and was able to really give me some good advice and make me think about the big picture. He’s certainly set a good example and some mature wisdom can go a long way. So thanks for that big fella.

mark

-Family is everything and I’m just so happy to have spent time with them over here. It was my mom’s first time to Europe so hopefully it didn’t disappoint and everyone had a good time. I know all of you will be reading this so thanks again for coming and I love you all very much. See you all in November for some turkey!

2). Keep you up to date on the soccer stuff:

-Since I last posted…

We beat Jonkopings Sodra 1-0 at home

Tied Assyriska 1-1 away

Beat Hammarby 1-0 at home

Beat a Division 2 side 5-2 in a Swedish Cup game

And most recently lost 2-1 to Sundsvall at home

It’s been a pretty good stretch for us as a team, but we haven’t been able to put too much a separation from the bottom teams. We are still in 10th place with 9 games left in the season. The next few games are vitally important and hopefully we can establish some breathing room. And it’s about time I score…

hammarby 3 hammarby 2 hammarby 1

3). Lengthy Interview

Below is a link to a lengthy interview I did with a writer up in Stockholm who follows North American soccer and loves interviewing Americans who have decided to play in Sweden. This was for his podcast called “Across the Pond” and we cover a bunch of topics from childhood sports, Marquette, and how I am liking it over here. Give it a listen if interested, the first couple minutes are in Swedish with the rest in English.

Interview

That’s basically the meat of what’s new and/or relatively exciting over here. It’s time to focus and finish the last few months of the season strong. Also good luck to all my guys at MU and elsewhere starting their college soccer seasons soon. Oh, and I guess good luck with classes starting as well. Hope everyone is doing well and I will catch ya later. Ciao.

The Start Of The Second Half

Hej hej! I hope everyone survived their week and are starting their weekends off on the right note. After returning from America, I’m now settling into the routine that I had going before the break. Our games have started up again and I wanted to give you all a quick snapshot of what’s been happening in this week’s edition of my Swedish adventure.

Before I jump into the games I wanted to talk about my time at the Bastad tennis tournament. Bastad is about a 25 minute car ride from Angelholm and is known as a destination during what people call “Tennis Week.” Bastad is a beautiful town, located right on the water, which provides a breathtaking backdrop behind the clay courts. I went with Johan and Kalle and met up with our friend Linda who had gotten us tickets. We went during the women’s  side of the tournament and it was cool to see ladies from Germany, Sweden, and Spain battle it out. I had never seen professional tennis live, but I can now say I have a whole new respect for the game. Each and every point takes maximum concentration and execution. We were hoping to see Serena Williams, but unfortunately she had to withdraw due to illness. Surrounding the courts is an event in itself. Shops, bars, restaurants, and other entertainment can keep even those not interested in Tennis entertained. Other than watching the tennis, we were able to eat lunch on their yacht-filled marina. Bastad and tennis week is an opportunity for the ultra-wealthy Swedes (particularly from Stockholm) to come down and show off a little. There are outrageous parties held every night and the guys were telling me stories that people would order $2,ooo champagne bottles simply to pour them out… (must be nice right!?) Anyways, my head was on a swivel watching all the cool cars and beautiful people pass me by. It was a great time and a new experience I can add to my ever growing list.

The walk into Bastad.

The walk into Bastad.

flowercourt

claycourt

tennis ass

bros on wall

yacht1

Tennis bros

Tennis bros

Our first game of the second half of the season was against GAIS, away. They happened to be our last game before the break, so both teams were familiar with what each other would bring. With that being said, both teams found it difficult to break each other down and the game went into the break 0-0. The second half started off strangely, as Matt and a striker from GAIS had a big collision as Matt came out to clear a ball. After getting to the ball first, the striker lunged himself at Matt and went head-to-head in a shattering collision. Matt was fine (thank God), but the same couldn’t be said for the GAIS player. He supposedly was knocked out for 2-3 minutes and had to be taken off the field in an ambulance (ended up with a bad concussion). This called for a 25 minute break in the action, where we were forced to jog and stay focussed on the remaining time left in the match. When play finally continued, GAIS was able to break on us and draw a penalty kick and a red card on our young center back Erik. Up until that point Erik had played well for it being his Superettan debut, at just 16 years old mind you, but after a picking up a dodgy yellow card early the first half, he was put in a very difficult position. GAIS was now up 1-0 and had a man advantage. We got desperate, but couldn’t break through in the 25 minutes of extra time (Crazy right!?). It was disappointing as GAIS was below us in the table and it would have been great to get some separation from them. I picked up a yellow card in the match as well, my 3rd of the season, and thus I was suspended from or next game…

After a quick turnaround, only 4 days later, we had to regroup and focus on taking on Oster. As I had just mentioned, I was suspended, thus leaving me in Angelholm to root on the lads while watching the game on TV. We went behind late in the second half, and as a team that isn’t really built to play from behind, fell 2-0. It was a helpless feeling having to sit on my couch and watch, one that I’m not familiar with and greatly dislike. Luckily, I will be back for the next battle and hope to contribute to a team effort that warrants a good result. As I’ve learned over the years, so much of a season hinges on the word “momentum.” Getting on a roll and putting a string of results together is crucial and something we should aim for in the coming matches.

The weather here has been unreal. The past week and a half has been hot hot hot. Where that isn’t the best for soccer (there was actually a mandatory water break in last night’s match), it is ideal for the beach. I’m in a blessed position that on days that I “work” I get to play soccer and on days that I have off, I get to enjoy all that a Swedish summer has to offer. The weather had brought everyone out and about and the beach has been beautiful in more ways than one. Plus, I actually have a tan line now! I am not longer one of the pastiest on the beach! :) It’s also extremely entertaining to watch the Swedes try their best to throw an American football. Although I’m no gun-slinger myself, their efforts are extremely comical… looks like Jay Cutler out there (BURN to all those Bears fans). I’m really hoping the weather stays like this for when my parents come visit in a few short weeks.

Other than that, things have been quite tame and routine. My college teammate C Nortey has been nearby here in Sweden for the past few weeks so I really want to coordinate a time to meet up with starboy and hear how things are going. I have watched all of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” Lez be honest, it’s a little out there, but entertaining nonetheless. I’m looking for a new show so feel free to leave a comment with any opinions. The guys and I were thinking of renting some canoes and kayaks tomorrow (weather permitting) and venturing down the river here in Angelholm, which would be fun. As for the rest of the day, I may go to the stadium later to kick the ball around and just take it easy. For now, I’m taking the last few bites of my blueberry muffin and the last couple sips of my latte and calling it a post… thanks again for taking the time to at least browse my posts and check in. Peace out homies! *Internet High Five*

 

There’s No Place Like Home

Hey guys, how’s it been? I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their Summers. As you know, I just got back to Sweden a few days ago after a much needed mini vacation back home in the US. Like most breaks, it went by way too quickly, but I had a wonderful time and miss you all already. After being away for 6 months, I have a newfound appreciation for what being home really means. In college, going home was nice for short periods of time– maybe getting some home cooked meals, having a stocked fridge, sleeping in your own bed, etc. However, I always kind of took it for granted, seeing as it was just an hour and a half away. This time it was a much different feeling; the combination of  homesickness and the maturity that comes with moving away gave me a newfound perspective on just how important and valuable moments with family and great friends can be. Can’t put a price on some tender loving care from Mom or Grandma, or the chaos/joking that ensues when all 5 Pothast boys are back together (4 sons and Dad who normally is at the center of it). With all that being said, I will run through some of the highlights of my week back in the greatest country in the world. There are a lot of pictures in this post, so just keep scrolling!

Family is Forever.

Family is Forever.

First things first. I got straight off the plane, reunited with my brothers who were picking me up from the airport, and they got me to Chipotle 5 minutes before close. Legends. Things were off to a great start. The plan was then to spend the night at home in Lake Zurich, before heading up north to Door County and the lake house early the next morning. Despite the wicked time difference, I slept like a rock and it was off to Door County with Johnny, Caleb, and Jack (neighbor/honorary Pothast bro). It felt weird spending those 4 hours in a car. After biking most places and bussing to games, I have spent little time recently cruising around  in cars. Given my track record of not being the best driver coupled with the fact I hadn’t driven in 6 months, Johnny took the wheel and it was nice being able to chat and catch up with my bros.

Pulling in the driveway of my cottage and seeing how excited my parents (and dogs) were to see me made me feel like one lucky dude. My grandma had also made the trip up to spend time with us, so it was a packed house. After living alone in Sweden, it was a little different stepping back into the ring of the Pothast circus at first. I love having everyone around… never a dull moment! In many ways, Door County reminds me of Sweden. First off, the natural beauty of both places in comparable. The forests, water, and landscapes are very similar.There is obviously some Swedish influence in Door County (whether it be Little Sweden Resort, Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, etc) and the areas just have a similar vibe.

I spent a total of 6 days in Door county separated on either side of the 4th of July weekend. The time was well spent. I got to boat, golf, fish, mini putt, go out to eat, lay on the beach, stuff myself with ice cream, and all the other good stuff that naturally comes with time spent on the peninsula. The beauty of Door County is that not much ever changes, so it was great reliving some of the fantastic memories that I have accumulated there over the years. It’s all about the simple things and whether it was the card games at night, or my grandma’s cherry crisp dessert, I indulged in each and every moment. It was great to be back in my favorite place with my favorite people.

While in Door County I also ran into my good friend Matt Hussey and his family. It’s been a while since we had last touched base and it was good to catch up and hear what he’s been up to. He’s a super chill dude and I know he reads my blog, so tip of the hat to you sir!

 

Playing pool before dinner at Sister Bay Bowl.

Playing pool before dinner at Sister Bay Bowl. 

Sister Bay Dock-- water almost as cold as Sweden!

Sister Bay Dock– water almost as cold as Sweden!

All her birds in the nest=happy momma!!

All her birds in the nest=happy momma!!

Boats N' Bros.

Boats N’ Bros.

We may be related.. can't tell....

We may be related.. can’t tell….

Grandma and her boys!

Grandma and her boys!

Part-time Swedes were welcomed... phewww!!

Part-time Swedes were welcomed… phewww!!

Taking mental pictures of my favorite place.

Taking mental pictures of my favorite place.

pana

 

Being stateside for the 4th of July was such an added bonus to my trip home. As a country, we sure know how to celebrate our independence. And the city of Milwaukee really doesn’t ever need an excuse to have a good time. So I went back to my old stomping ground at Marquette to see some of the guys that were around for the Summer and to meet my best friend, Tim Kreutz, for some 4th of July shenanigans. My guy Dennis just moved into a sick new apartment in Milwaukee and it was awesome to meet up with him and his brother who are a dangerous combination, but a ton of fun. The morning of the 4th, my guy Trey had friends over to his lake, not too far from campus, where we got to ride some jetskis, chill on his boat, and enjoy the 4th of July sunshine. Celebrating America in style. Later that day, Tim came by to pick me up, and we were headed back to downtown Milwaukee and Summerfest that night. I finally got to meet Tim’s girlfriend, Alyssa, who is awesome– super nice and super cool. Tim, for what it’s worth, Eric approves. It feels like I have known her for years already and she was a champ for putting up with the Tim/Eric bromance. We were also joined by Ashley, Julia, and Julia 2, more friends from LZ!! We all shared a hotel for the night of the 4th and the night of the 5th to avoid having to crash in my brother’s house (no offense Herm/N8/Johnny). It was a great crew that only got better after I found out that the one and only… MATT LEONARD was in town as well for the night!! We all met up at Dennis’ new place, got a little goofy, and then rolled across the street (yes, talk about a sick location) to the Summerfest grounds. We all saw Timeflies, a group that Tim and I have been following for quite some time (I was like their 400th Twitter follower, NBD). It was an absolute blast and a good time was had by all. The next day was spent enjoying Milwaukee before meeting up with the group again later that night on good ole Water Street. It was a fantastic 4th, and I was able to see so many familiar faces, some planned and others that were fun random encounters. Shoutout to everyone I ran into, I was so happy to see you all!!!! Tim you the man, and I appreciate you making the trip down from Michigan to see me!! Can’t wait to be reunited again in November!!

 

Me and my main man Tim

Me and my main man Tim

Latt Meonard everyone!!

Latt Meonard everyone!!

Julia, Me, Ash. America.

Julia, Me, Ash. America.

Mr. Steal your girl!?

Mr. Steal your girl!?

That's one lucky gal...

That’s one lucky gal…

The boys on Water Street

The boys on Water Street

The crew at Summerfest

The crew at Summerfest

At Cafe Benelux, enjoying Milwaukee

At Cafe Benelux, enjoying Milwaukee

Had to go with Door County Brewing Company

Had to go with Door County Brewing Company

It's called "the meter." Beer tasting at it's finest.

It’s called “the meter.” Beer tasting at it’s finest.

 

I was also home for Caleb’s birthday! He’s already 19 and leaves for college in like a week… just let that sink in. Growing up too fast, but I was stoked to be around to celebrate with you bro! I’m proud of the dude you are becoming, keep up the good work!

Me and Mr. 19 year old

Me and Mr. 19 year old

Standing in front of his birthday present... ;)

Standing in front of his birthday present… ;)

Birthday dinner at JJ's

Birthday dinner at JJ’s

 

The only damper on my otherwise awesome week at home was that my Swedish bank card got hacked somehow. More than $1,500 was spent in Cambodia at a single restaurant…talk about filet mignon and champagne for everyone!!! It was a headache to call my bank from the US, given the long distance charges and the time difference, but I was able to cancel my card before things got worse. I should be able to get my money back, but like anything in Sweden, it will be a process and take time requiring police involvement. Just another one of life’s punches but I’ve learned to just roll with them at this point.

Since I have been back, training has started up again. The coaches are treating this time before we start up again with games on the 21st as a mini preseason. We are doing conditioning and they are working us hard to knock off some of the rust we may have gotten during the vacation. The past few days here have been uncharacteristically warm… like mid 80′s. Trainings have been hot and sweaty, but luckily I have been able to hit the beach and jump in the refreshing ocean to cool off afterwards. The sun doesn’t set until well after 10 here, so we have been at the beach after 9 pm no problem. The perks of living in Angelholm!

 

Swedish Summers are where it's at!

Swedish Summers are where it’s at!

A few guilty pleasures made the trip back with me

A few guilty pleasures made the trip back with me.

 

So how bout that World Cup final huh? Man, this tournament did not disappoint and provided some quality entertainment over the past month or so. I think Germany deserved to win as they were the best team of the tournament for me… solid top to bottom. I’m just bummed that we have to wait 4 more years until the next one, but I suppose there’s plenty of soccer to be enjoyed until then. Watch out world, the USA will be an even bigger influence in the next tourney!!

I hope I covered it all… it was an eventful week to say the least! I can’t wait for games to start up again and get things rolling. The team ended the first half of the season in good form and hopefully that continues on here as we strive to climb higher up the table. Everyone have a good week, and remember, don’t take family and friends for granted!! Be blessed!!

Ps… follow me on social media for more instantaneous updates if interested.

Twitter: Eric_Pothast

Instagram: Eric_Pothast

Homeward Bound!

Guys. It’s been too long! Sorry for being M.I.A. the last couple of weeks and not posting. Time just was moving too quickly and this little thing called the WORLD CUP has been eating up my free time. But as I sit in the airport in Warsaw, Poland, waiting for my next flight back to Chicago for a week (more on that later), I wanted to get back on track and get y’all up to speed with things. With that being said… let’s blog.

As far as soccer goes, we have had 4 games since I last posted.

1). 0-0 draw with Sirius. Not much to talk about here. Sirius was a good team and it was a good test for us defensively. We were up to the challenge that night and getting a point on the road was a positive for us!

2). 2-1 loss to Landskrona. This one stung. Landskrona is a town not too far from Angelholm, so this game is always tabbed as a local derby. Much like the UWM/Milwaukee derby back in my college days, these games pack a little extra punch to them and are ones you always want to win. Things started brilliantly for us, as we scored in the 2nd minute. We held this lead going into halftime and were feeling good about controlling the game. However, following the script of previous games this season, things got interesting in the second half. We hit the crossbar and the post, just minutes apart and it seemed like the bounces were just not going our way today. Shortly after that, Landskrona was able to equalize via a shot that took a wicked deflection off my thigh and left Matt stranded. Again, bounces just not going our way.Pressure was mounting and in extra time, Landskrona was able to produce a series of one touch passes, resulting in an easy finish for one of their forwards. It was heartbreaking and one of those games where you feel the soccer Gods were against you. Not to mention that this was the same day that the USA conceded that last second equalizer to Portugal. Soccer drives me nuts sometimes and this was one of those days. Such a beautifully cruel game.

3). 2-1 win away at Ostersund. This was the one game of the season where we flew to the game. A couple of one hour flights was a lot better than a 16 hour bus ride. This was a new experience for me as it was the first time I’ve flown domestically in Sweden. The Angelholm airport is tinnyyyyy. If my memory is correct, there are like 2 gates. Quite the difference when you consider Ohare! It was an easy trip, but the game was going to be a tough one. Ostersund was riding a wave of momentum, having been unbeaten in their last 9 matches. It was going to take a maximum effort from everyone if we were going to pull this off. We started with a “Mourinho-esque” park the bus and counter tactical line up for this game. We went with 5 defenders, 4 midfielders, and 1 forward. We wanted to clog up the passing lanes that Ostersund loves to exploit with their quick combination style of play. It worked really well. They were noticeably frustrated and we got out to a 2-0 lead by halftime. Sam scored the first goal and then Ottie scored one of the goals of the season: a flying scissor kick that he hit pure that scorched the side netting. Nasty. The game was far from over and we knew the second half may be spent defending our box like Spartans. After conceding a goal halfway through and going a man down after Moody got a red card, we were able to triumphantly hold on. It was a great feeling to get a much-needed win, especially against a quality side. There were some massive performances that night. The trip was almost perfect, but a delayed flight the next day causing me to miss the USA-Germany game was the lone blemish. Can’t win ‘em all I guess.

Winning a header against Ostersund.

Winning a header against Ostersund.

Screen shot 2014-06-26 at 9.48.40 PM

Screen shot 2014-06-26 at 9.48.18 PM

4). 1-0 win at home against GAIS. This was our 3rd game in 7 days. Tired legs would be an understatement. However, this game was the last before a nice mid-season break and a game that was being played back in ANGELHOLM. We no longer are playing our home games at Olympia (that place was cursed for us) and playing in the town the team represents just feels so right. It was a noticeably bigger crowd—over 1,000 people vs. the traditional 300 we would get at Olympia—and it was familiar and felt more like a home game than anything we’ve experienced this season. We again went with the 5 defenders strategy and we again came out on top. Matt was relatively untested the whole game, which was a nice change of pace from previous matches. Sam was able to get his head on a set piece and that was all we need to gain another 3 crucial points. We are slowly inching our way up the table and I hope we can continue the momentum after the break!

 

This beak could not have come at a better time. After playing every minute except the second half of our 2nd game of the season, my body definitely needs some time to recover. The first half of the season has flown by and after recharging the batteries a bit, it’s time to embrace the grind once again. I can’t wait to be home though and be around friends and family. Breaking up the daily routine will be a great change of pace. I literally couldn’t sleep last night because I was so excited to get back. I went straight from hanging with the guys at the local ‘watering hole’ to the airport at 5 am. I thought this was a smart idea somehow, but now I have time to snooze on the flight in a few hours. I’m hoping to be in LZ, Door County, and Milwaukee this week so if you’re around, I would love to meet up!

 

Midsommer has also come and gone since we last spoke. For those of you that don’t know about this great Swedish holiday, it basically is a celebration of Summer (and an excuse to drink a lot and party till dawn). With our games, my midsummer wasn’t anything crazy. Ebba’s parents once again had me over for a late lunch and then I met up with some guys later to cook out and watch the World Cup games. Midsommer falls on the longest day of the year and the sun never sets… it’s a thing of beauty (unless you’re trying to sleep).

Ebba and Simon making the Midsommer tree: a Swedish tradition.

Ebba and Simon making the Midsommer tree: a Swedish tradition.

 

Tree completed! They dance and play games around this as part of the celebration.

Tree completed! They dance and play games around this as part of the celebration.

I love how the USA is embracing the World Cup. To see friends, celebrities, and others who haven’t necessarily been soccer fans come to see the light is a beautiful thing. Where some people are annoyed about this response and feel like they are just ‘posers’, I think it’s fantastic and if you consider yourself a  real soccer super fan, you should welcome these newbies and further build the sport in the US. I feel like we are turning a corner and soccer is on the verge of becoming a real spectacle on and off the field in the US. The more people interested in the sport the better! On that note: BEAT BELGIUM!!! #USA

 

Alright, alright, alriiiiight. I know I’m forgetting to write about something, but I have a flight to catch! I’m absolutely buzzing to get home! Being in the USA for the 4th of July? Can’t beat that. I will talk to you all when I touch down… Johnny and Caleb if you’re reading this, try not to be too late to pick me up from the airport later today. Terminal 5. Be there. Peace out homies!

Cool building in Malmo, a bigger city I explored on a recent day off.

Cool building in Malmo, a bigger city I explored on a recent day off.

 

Different Places, But Familiar Faces

Hey everyone! It’s that time again where I check in and whip up something to keep you guys in the loop. I hope this finds everyone in good spirits and that you have all had a chance to catch some of the early summer rays and chillax. Before I get after it, I want to extend a brotherly chest bump and celebratory knuckle sandwich to my little brother Caleb for graduating from Lake Zurich High School! Well done young fella, enjoy the time with your friends and DePaul is lucky to be getting you later this Summer! Boy, do I feel old now, as it seems like it was just yesterday when I was attending the thousand grad parties that accompanied my class’ graduation from LZHS.

There have been 2 matches since I last posted, with the first being an away game against Syrianska, a team from Sodertalje (up by Stockholm and the home town of my college teammate Sebastian). The game was an even battle, resulting in a score of 0-0. In my opinion we had the better of the play and missed a couple of opportunities that could have tipped the result in our favor. On a positive note, it was the second straight game with a shut out! This was a good sign and I felt good about how we played defensively as a team. What was even cooler was the fact that my college teammates Bryan Ciesiulka, Sebastian Jansson, and Axel Sjoberg were all in attendance to cheer me on! With the inclusion of Matt Pyzdrowski in goal for us, that made FIVE former /current Marquette Soccer boys in the house. We have a good thing going on with the MU/Sweden connection and it was awesome to see all the guys. Playing in front of family/friends really gets me going and it was nice having familiar faces in the stands.

Axel and Sebastian were actually set to come down and train with Angelholm for 2 weeks the following day. Unfortunately, Sebastian had injured his foot just days before and was in a cast and on crutches. Axel was still good to go and I met him in town later the next day and guided him back to my humble abode. For those of you that don’t know Axel, he’s a big dude– like 6 feet 7 inches big. They don’t really make pull out couch mattresses that big. He was able to make it work for the few days before Sebastian decided to come down regardless of his injury and chill. Sebastian has family in the area so Axel was able to get a real bed to sleep in at Seb’s relatives.

After living alone for a few months, it was fun to have a roomie and someone to spend time with while Axel was crashing with me. He made me dinner a couple nights (I tried pyttipanna, a classic Swedish meat and potato dish) and it was nice to have someone to laugh along to movies with and just catch up with everything I missed at MU during the Spring semester. It was also a bonus having Axel’s silver convertible to cruise around town in… nothing against my bike, but I can’t complain about feeling the wind in the hair as we stunted through the streets of Angelholm! :) It didn’t take long for me to show Axel all that Angelholm had to offer, but I think he was pleasantly surprised with the small town that I now call home.

Our last game, this past weekend, was against a team named Varberg. Things started positively for us, going into halftime with a 1-0 lead and feeling like we could control the game and get another one to potentially ice the game off. However, we missed a few blatant chances and as we had in the beginning of the season, made some crucial defensive errors. Trying to overplay in our half and not tracking midfield runners resulted in Varberg being able to score 2 goals in only a few minute span.  This was frustrating to say the least, as things were quite tame up until that point and I was confident to see the game out. Desperate to score, coach made a couple substitutions and I was actually pushed forward to play the target striker. Our game plan shifted, and now we tried to hit long balls up to me with the idea of having me flick on headers to our onrushing forwards. I did my best, winning several balls, but it just was too little too late. A 2-1 defeat that felt like another missed opportunity. Hopefully it doesn’t come back to bite us in the end, and now it’s back to the training pitch for preparation for a team called Sirius this weekend.

Pre-game walkout... calm before the storm.

Pre-game walkout… calm before the storm.

Exchanging "Good luck/Lycka till"

Exchanging “Good luck/Lycka till”

Game Face.

Game Face.

After the game, a group of us met up at my teammate’s Johan’s apartment to get some pizzas and chill. We used the night to blow off some steam and have a good time. Axel and Sebastian joined in as well, and ended up crashing at my place that night. My small apartment hit it’s maximum occupancy, but we made it work. The next day, Sebastian, Axel, Kalle, and I (after some much needed water and advil) decided to use the sunny day to fullest and hit the beach. Right next to the beach is a mini putt course. We decided to play, with bragging rights and ice cream on the line. Sadly, I didn’t hold it up for the USA and I lost to Kalle in a playoff… you’re welcome boys. The ocean actually felt good on the sore legs and it was a successful day off as a whole. I love having Axel and Sebastian here to hang with and it’s cool to see them in their natural habitat… a role that was reversed for the last few years in Milwaukee! This also proves that the Marquette Soccer boys are like family and although time will pass and we may be in different cities (or continents) we can always pick up right where we left off.

Seb had the best score of the day!

Seb had the best score of the day!

Just as it is graduation season in the US at the moment, the same can be said for Sweden. It is a tradition in Sweden for the graduating seniors to parade through town with their classmates, holding up signs with old baby pictures, and causing a raucous. I obviously had to see what it was all about. Friends and families lined the street of the main drag and would run out to meet their graduate with flowers, small bottles of champagne, and other gifts that could all be hung around their necks as they continued the march through town. Later that day I was invited to Victor’s brother’s grad party with Matt, Ebba, and Axel. Much like in the US, there was a ton of food, drinks, and a large event tent for family and friends to mingle. As they say, if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all, but I was very grateful for the invite and good food/company!

The traditional graduation parade through town.

The traditional graduation parade through town.

grad

Last Friday was also a holiday in Sweden— Sveriges Nationaldag och Svenska flaggans dag (Sweden’s National day and flag day). I’m not sure what I can compare it to in the US, but once again there was a small celebration held in the town square and everyone had work off. Unfortunately, the weather was crappy and not a lot of people were out and about. As a club, we tried to hold a fan event that afternoon similar to Fan Fest at Marquette. There were stations set up, aimed to entertain small kids and other fans. For example, there was an inflatable soccer field, FIFA station, a radar gun to record how hard you shot the ball, etc. Again, the weather didn’t cooperate and there was a small showing of fans. Regardless, it was nice to interact with some of the youngin’s and make an effort to connect with the community.

Sweden's flag was everywhere that day.

Sweden’s flag was everywhere that day.

Lunch with a show-- marching band.

Lunch with a show– marching band.

I’M SO EXCITED FOR THE WORLD CUP!! It’s finally here and I am pumped to see how things unfold. My gut tells me that Brazil will hoist the trophy at the end, but anything can happen. And you best believe that I will be up at whatever hour of the night to cheer on the USA! I feel pretty optimistic, but given our group, we will have to be at our best. What a time to be a soccer fan, and even if you’re not, I encourage you to see what this World Cup thing is all about!

That’s that for this week folks. Once again, I appreciate all of you who are following along with my Swedish adventure and reading these. I miss you all and am counting down the days until I get to come home for a week at the end of the month. Until next time, do something CrAzY!! Peaceeeee.

 

 

12 Updates In Eric’s Life You Need To Read Today

Wasssssuuuppp. It’s about time I hit you with another update on life over here in Sweden. Although most weeks are basically the same (practices, games, chillin’, fika) there are always some surprises that keep life interesting. For this post I’m going to take a page out of BuzzFeed’s book and make a list for my updates. Seems like numbered lists are all the rage on the internet these days (29 Reasons Beyonce Rocks, 32 Places To See Before You Turn 32, or 10 Signs You’re a Cat Lady). So I will follow suit and give it a whirl. With that being said, I give you : “12 Updates In Eric’s Life You Need To Read Today”…

1). Disaster in Ljunskile.

We’ve played 2 games since we last spoke. The first, against Ljunskile, was nothing short of a nightmare. The combination of an early red card along with some lackluster play resulted in our worst loss of the season. This was a moment where it feels like you’re at rock bottom… However, there is no time in professional sports to feel sorry about yourself. You’re gonna get beaten. You’re gonna get knocked down. It was time for us to get together as a team and stand up to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I hope this is a moment where 10 blog posts from now, I can mark this as a turning point and the last time I need to write something like this. Just gotta keep working hard!

2). I’m coming home!

In Superettan, you play everyone twice– home and away. After playing everyone once, there is a break midseason from June 29th-July 10th. Originally I had planned on staying over here and traveling, maybe checking out Stockholm or another cool European city. However, a bunch of my teammates were leaving to take trips with their families and I really didn’t feel like going alone. With a little encouragement from the parents, I decided it was best if I came home to the US during this break. I’m so excited to see my family and friends! I’m in the states for the 4th of July (score!) and plan on packing 3 months of Summer activities into one week in LZ and Door County. If anyone is around then and wants to meet up, you can most likely find me at the nearest Chipotle.

3). Locked out.

Life has a funny way of humbling you. Within hours, I had experienced two extremes of emotion. First, one of pride and maturity. I had been getting by quite nicely: living alone in a foreign country, cooking for myself, grocery shopping, paying bills, budgeting, and other big boy things. And then, right as I was leaving to pick up some cereal for breakfast the next morning…. BAM. My apartment door shut in slow motion as I was patting my empty short pockets. No keys. My door locks automatically and suddenly I wanted nothing more than to be able to call up my college roommates and borrow their key to get back in like I had done 5 months ago. But now I was stuck. Luckily, I had Matt and Ebba to rescue me and offer up their couch for the night. I called some numbers, hoping to find someone with a master key, but no luck. It was either a locksmith or Lars Eric, Angelholm’s super fan, that had been instrumental in helping me get what I needed to feel settled. Once again he worked his magic and I was in my apartment again the next morning. Lesson learned. Stay humble, my friends.

4). Beachin’

Angelholm has a very nice beach. The past week it has really warmed up, naturally pulling me out of the apartment and onto the sand. I spent one of my recent off days with Matt and Victor at the beach playing some soccer golf. The beach was relatively empty so we were able to create some pretty impressive and challenging holes. I must admit I feel more comfortable with this version of golf than the traditional one. Victor took home the crown after the first 18 of the Summer, but I have a feeling there are many more rounds to come. The water at the moment is very “refreshing” (nice way to say COLD) but it’s nice to go in for a short period of time. Also, it’s good recovery for the legs… It may sound weird but I miss those ice baths at MU. Bikini Update: total of 2 spotted so far. I’ll keep you posted (Yes, this is for my Uncles).

Victor lining up his next shot.

Victor lining up his next shot.

5). Bakery

Every time I Skype with my mom, she is asking about the Swedish Bakery. So I had to throw this in here to give the people what they want (it’s just who I am).

I'm a pro 'fika-er' with soccer on the side.

I’m a pro ‘fika-er’ with soccer on the side.

6). Gratis Biljetter

To put it nicely, the attendance at our home matches this season has been terrible  not very good. In an attempt to get more people to come to the games, 3 teammates and I, adorned in our game jerseys, took to the streets to hand out gratis biljetter (free tickets). Accompanied by our mascot, we paraded from the city square to the end of the busiest street in town. At first, not knowing Swedish left me hesitant to approach people and I got all “Middle School dance level shy.” But once we got going, I was able to flash a couple smiles and get people to listen. It was interesting to hear people’s responses. They would ask why we aren’t playing in Angelholm, and many refused tickets after hearing they’d have to make it out to Helsingborg to see us play. I could write a whole other blog post about that, but I’ll save you. As a group, I think we managed to pass out close to 1oo tickets. Whether they actually came to the game or ended up in the trash next to the pickled herring, I’ll never know.

Everyone loves a Mascot.

Everyone loves a Mascot.

Cheeeeeese.

Cheeeeeese.

7). I’M ON A BOAT

After doing my good deed of passing out tickets and meeting fans, Freddy, Johan, Kalle, and I decided to use the rest of our off day to go on a little adventure. We decided to take the ferry from Helsinborg (Sweden) to Helsingor (Denmark). We hopped on the train from Angelholm to Helsingborg, grabbed some lunch, and then got on the ferry. It was like a mini cruise ship. There were multiple restaurants and bars and even a duty free store on the boat. Due to the high alcohol tax enforced in Sweden, it is a common thing to board the ferry and stock up on the booze you want at a much cheaper price. Since it’s only a 20 minute ferry ride across from Sweden to Denmark, there is a mad dash to the booze store that rivals Friday nights on most college campuses. Once we got to Denmark, we meandered through the streets, taking in the shops, sights, and sounds. We eventually made it to the town square, where we got an ice cream and a few drinks and just enjoyed the weather. It was packed… Scandinavians really know how to spend a Saturday afternoon. I even ran into an American family from New Jersey (Joisey) who were visiting. We explored a little more, got back on the boat, made some purchases, and arrived back in Angelhom in time to get pizzas and watch the Champions League Final… successful day. Here are some pics!

Land Ho

Land Ho

But first, let me take a #selfie.

But first, let me take a #selfie.

DiCaprio in Titanic?

DiCaprio in Titanic?

Streets of Helsingor

Streets of Helsingor

Town Square

Town Square

Skol.

Skol.

Sights

Sights

Train cruising through town.

Train cruising through town.

sight1

Castle in the distance.

Castle in the distance.

mugs

Return trip to Helsingborg.

Return trip to Helsingborg.

8). Modern Family

Like seriously, how funny is this show? All the characters crack me up. Just had to throw my most recent Netflix binge in there. Now back to important stuff…

9). Back on track

After a bad loss, you had to expect a tough week of training. We got just that. It was a week of hard conditioning and ups and downs in preparation for our next match against Husqvarna. Whenever I’m dead tired and my legs feel like jello, I think of how many people out there would die to be given the opportunity I have. It is all the people supporting me that make the extra sprints worth it. After working on our team mentality and toughness just as much as our play, we were set to face Husqvarna at home. We desperately needed to get 3 points and steady the shaking ship. We put together a solid performance and won 2-0! This was a much better defensive effort from our team as a WHOLE… Finally our first shutout of the year. I also thought I had my first goal of the Superettan campaign. I rose to head the ball, glanced it across goal, only to see it clang off the crossbar… so close, it’s coming one of these days! Hopefully we can keep the momentum going, on to the next one! Click the link below for highlights, my header included.

Match Highlights

10). My Man Mau.

My college teammate and good friend John Mau just joined the blogging world. After moving from Milwaukee to Seattle to start his MBA and continue his playing career at Seattle U, he decided to share his updates and thoughts in a blog… it’s good stuff, check out the link!! #TIMBER

Mau’s Blog

11). Friend Request Accepted.

The other day I had received a friend request on Facebook from a name I didn’t recognize, with no mutual friends, and a face that didn’t look all too familiar. I have gotten these kind of requests before and without much thought I would ignore them or decline. For some reason I took the time to click through the profile pictures and about five in, I stopped. It was a like a flashback… The picture was “Pappa Chocolate” holding a baby that looked just like my foster sister Ella. If you don’t now the background story, check out my post “Where There Is Love There Is Life”. I told my parents about this friend request and we began comparing facial features and putting the puzzle pieces together like detectives. I accepted request and was able to send an old picture of Ella and I to her, simply asking if this looked familiar. She responded “yes” and low and behold… we had reconnected!! This was Ella!! My parents were able to call her and her father and catch up on what is new since we last saw her 7 years ago. She is doing well, loves rap music, computers, and seems happy/healthy. Timing in life is unbelievable and I truly see this as a blessing from God. Hopefully my family will be able to see her again and share some of the old pictures/memories that we have all treasured so much. I’m just still blown away how this all happened… Cool stuff!!

12). The Junk Drawer

Everyone has that drawer in their house where you can find old batteries, rubber bands, and maybe a few extra quarters if you’re lucky. So I’ll use this section to lump in everything else I wanna share. Our next game is this Saturday against Syrianska, up in Stockholm. More crucial points on the line so be sending those good vibes our way. No Donovan on the World Cup Roster? Come on, the guy’s clutch and brings a wealth of experience to the squad. I was personally shocked to see his omission and am just hoping it doesn’t come back to bite the US in the butt. Bold strategy cotton. Shout out to my little brother Caleb who took his last final of his High School career and will be graduating soon. Feels weird just typing that… seems like yesterday that I was almost not allowed to walk in my HS graduation for wearing patent leather converse… good times. Thats all for this list of updates, hope you all are doing well. Cheers!

Chasing The Elusive ‘W’

Hey hey heyyyyy. I hope everyone is doing well and finishing this week strong as we inch closer towards the weekend. This is actually my second attempt today at writing this blog post for y’all. My first post instantaneously combusted as I was proof reading and adding pictures… talk about frustrating. Oh well, practice makes perfect I guess. Since I last checked in with everyone, we have played 3 games so there is quite a bit for me to catch you up on! Before I jump into that though, I would like to once again thank everyone who religiously reads my updates and has been following along. My blog recently surpassed 5,200 views, which is kinda cool to think about. What started as an experiment has turned into something that people all over the world (28 countries represented) are stumbling upon and sharing. I hope these are worth your time and if there is ever something specific you want me to talk about, just drop me a comment!

These last three games have been real tests for our team. They have made me realize the incredible effort it takes to win and that winning should never be taken for granted. We lost 2 straight and then tied our most recent game this past Monday. The first game was against Degerfors, at home. The match ended 4-1, but the score doesn’t fairly describe the close game it was. We held most of the possession in this contest, but as seen in many leagues throughout the world, this statistic holds little bearing on goals and results sometimes. At one point in the second half we were able to put one in and narrow the score to 2-1. The momentum was swinging in our favor and the pressure was starting to push Degerfors deeper into their end. However, minutes after leveling the score, I was called for a foul in the box on their forward after a slide tackle. In all honesty, I thought the referee blew this call; I was shocked when I heard him blow his whistle. I immediately pleaded my case and pointed to the ball as it was rolling over the sideline for a throw in (yes, that’s how much ball I had gotten in that tackle). Their forward had made a meal of the tackle and added the theatrics that soccer has been notorious for. What I found comical was when their forward came up to me minutes after they converted the pk and said “No way was that a penalty, you got the ball. But I’m not the referee…” As frustrating as that was, next time I will stay on my feet and not give the referee the opportunity to blow such a call that could swing a result like it happened there. Learning on the job, a must for any profession!

BM_AFF-Degerfors_2_1001300v530x800

(Above: “Ref, you’re having a giggle!!”)

Our next game was against Sundsvall, who were sitting on top of the table, and would require maximum effort if we were to get a result, especially away. Sundsvall is a 10 hour bus ride north from Angelholm. Sleep. Music. Iphone games. Hit head against window. Repeat. It was a long ride. You know you are in northern Sweden when “Moose Burgers” are on the menu at the restaurant the team stops at for dinner (yum!?). What was also interesting was how long the sun was up. Since we were so far north, it was light out close to 10:30. Long days in the sumer months and a lot of darkness in the winter months. The bus driver explained to me that at one point in the Summer, the sun doesn’t even set, but rather dips low enough to almost go out of view before rising again… crazy stuff. It was noticeably colder up north than it was in Angelholm and it was cool to see more of Sweden than Skane, the region I’m living in. The game was 7pm the next night so the following day was a slow burn, waiting for kickoff.

Everything that could have gone wrong, basically did. Two of our players were injured before the game even started, forcing us to change the lineup and shuffle a few guys out of position. Not to use stiff legs after a long travel day as an excuse, but we started the game flat and very pedestrian. Our scouting report stressed the need to always account for their forward in the box, as he was a natural finisher and poacher around goal. However, he was able to get free a couple times in the first half, and what do you know… had two goals. It’s details like that that can mean the difference from winning and losing. The halftime score was 3-0 and we needed to make some serious changes for the second half. We were a completely different team after the break. We came out throwing some punches of our own. We came within one goal on two different occasions before eventually falling 4-3. We could feel good about our fight, but not about the crater sized hole we had dug ourselves in the first half. We simply shot ourselves in the foot.

The game was an eventful one for me. Part way through the first half I was involved in a bone-crunching tackle (quite literally). The other player turned with the ball but let his touch go too far in front of him. I stepped hard to the ball, stood my ground, and BAM. Unfortunately the other player broke his leg. I felt terrible as he was in noticeable pain and the stretcher needed to be brought on the field. I recently was able to find him on Facebook and send him a message for a speedy recovery. I was in no way trying to injure him, but sometimes things happen. And people still think soccer is for field fairies? Pshhh. Other things that happened to me during the game: completely busted through my cleats, lost a contact lens halfway through the second half, and saved a goal off the line. Eventful, but a sour taste lingered in my mouth as I got on the bus  for the ride home. We are giving up way too many goals and always having to play from behind isn’t a recipe for success. Luckily I was able to calm my mind and get some rest on our sleeper bus. We rolled into Angelholm at 9am the next morning and went straight into a rehab training session– the grind never stops.

sundsvall

(Above: Prayers up to Robin Sellin for a quick recovery!)

Our most recent game was against a team called Varnamo, at home. We were controlling the game and took a 2-1 lead with 15 minutes to go. As I looked around, I knew the guys wanted to hold on a pull off this win. I felt confident we could and we even created a few more goal scoring chances that would have iced the game for us. However, we couldn’t take advantage and I bet you can guess what happened next… A deflected shot by them fell to the feet of an opportunistic forward ready to tuck it in. The game ended in a 2-2 draw and the feeling of letting a win slip through the cracks of our fingers was hovering in the locker room. It shows that even a 10 second lapse of concentration and focus, paired with an unfortunate bounce can be the difference between 3 points and 1 point. So in 11th place we sit. However, I think we will start putting together more complete performances and get the momentum we need to climb the ranks.
webbpuff_BM__FF-As_1004070v530x800
(Above: The many anxious faces, before the match.)

 

Our next game is against Ljungskile, away. This game will be interesting because they actually have a couple Americans on their team– who happen to be former UW Madison players. With Pyz and I representing Marquette, it will be an I-94 rivalry, Swedish style. Different country, same great rivalry. I look forward to it and am hoping to catch that elusive next ‘W’.

I also want to give a shout out to all the moms out there. I hope you all felt loved and appreciated this past Mother’s Day. A special shout out to my wonder-woman of a mom! I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for your unrelenting support, love, and those rides to soccer practices. Love you!

mom

(Above: Happy Mother’s Day to my beautiful mom!)

Another congratulations goes out to all my fellow seniors graduating from your respective colleges this week. I have been seeing the pictures of all the fun Senior Week activities going on and have a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I hope you all are enjoying yourselves and the best of luck for whatever is next! Also, if anyone is doing the whole traveling Europe thing before joining the “real world”, know you have a couch to crash on in Sweden!

That’s that for this one guys. Thanks again for reading and I hope you can get out and enjoy some early Summer sunshine in the next couple days. The sun has been replaced by rain here so I guess that calls for another episode of True Detective. You guys take it easy and until next time… don’t be strangers!

PS… World Cup in 29 days!!! Chyeahhhh budddyyy!!!