We have kept a huge secret from my son since April and this weekend it was finally revealed. Carlos is a soccer player, FC Barcelona fan and soccer trivia buff. His favorite player is Leonel Messi from Argentina. Carlos wears soccer jerseys most days. He plays soccer fall, winter and spring. This summer he and his friends have taken any opportunity to practice together. Xbox game of choice is FIFA.
Soccer has also been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. I played briefly as a child, but my sister made it all the way to her college team until a knee injury took her out. I lived in Mexico and Mozambique where soccer is undoubtedly a national pastime like baseball is to the US. My husband is an avid soccer fan. I’ve gone to many games over the years and watched a number of them on television as well.
I have always enjoyed soccer, but as I’ve watched my son develop a natural love of the sport it enthuses me all the more. Carlos has played since he was four years old. He enjoyed playing with other children and just loved running around. Carlos undoubtedly loved the social aspect of soccer more than anything until about two years ago when he became very serious about it. However, he continues to play for a local travel team, not a competitive team. There are no try outs required. His coach is committed to sportsmanship, team building, and communication. It’s a really good group of boys. The team has struggled though. They are no strangers to losing, but they have learned to lose gracefully.
My sister called me from her home in Florida this April. She was so excited she could barely speak. She had just secured tickets to the final game in the International Champions Cup featuring Carlos’ favorite team FC Barcelona and my sister’s favorite team Real Madrid. My sister studied abroad in Madrid during college and has returned a number of times on vacation. My sister and Carlos share a very special bond. My sister has no children and Carlos is her only nephew. Carlos was also born on her birthday, a complete surprise to all of us. My sister now loves to surprise Carlos. For months the entire family has been in on this secret.
I did have to tell Carlos we were coming to Florida because he really wanted to attend a soccer camp with some of his teammates last week and I had initially told him he could probably go. He was a little disappointed to find out he wouldn’t be going to camp, but he always loves spending time with my sister so it was a fleeting disappointment. He eventually got wind of the International Champions Cup schedule. He never actually considered that he would be able to go to the game in Miami even though he knew we would be down here because I told him the game was sold out and we would be watching it on television with my sister, brother-in-law, his cousin and family, and my dad. Carlos was just excited to be close to the action.
The International Champions Cup culminated last week with four days of El Clásico events in Miami. As if seeing the game weren’t enough, a couple of days before heading to Florida we found out we could go to the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami to watch the teams practice the night before the big game. It was a really fun event. There were tons of kids. Carlos still didn’t know he would be going to the game so he was absolutely thrilled to be this close to his favorite soccer team and player. I loved watching all of the joy in the faces of the children there especially my own.
My sister finally spilled the beans shortly before it was time to leave for the game. She presented Carlos with two new Barcelona jerseys and asked him which one he would rather wear to the game. It took him a minute to understand what was happening. He was stunned! Then he started jumping up and down.
The night was incredible. We hit virtually no traffic on our way to the stadium. The storm from earlier in the day had subsided. The energy inside the stadium was positively electric. Soccer fans are passionate! The game started with a bang. FC Barcelona scored two goals in less than 7 minutes. Carlos went wild!
Real Madrid scored a goal before the end of the first half. Barcelona fans weren’t too worried though.
Halftime was a treat for me. Marc Anthony played a short halftime set. I absolutely love salsa music!
FC Barcelona scored the only goal in the second half and it led to a stunning win not only for that game, but the entire tournament. I was thrilled for Carlos. It was the perfect end to a terrific night.
I have really enjoyed this trip. However, I did not do much running due to the heat and humidity. Even at 5am the air was uncomfortably thick. Instead of running I took this opportunity to change up my workouts. I experienced Orangetheory Fitness for the first time and I loved it so much I took another class. I really wish we had one closer to home. I took a long leisurely walk through nearby Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and on the beach. I also swam almost every day. It felt amazing to be back in the water. I have always been a strong swimmer, but I do not do it nearly as often as I should. I was reminded of how important it is to get outside of my comfort zone once in a while. Running is great and I love it, but my body needs a little jolt of change once in a while.
I have a few hours to sleep before it’s time to get up and get ready to go back home.