GOTHENBURG, Sweden — I am continually awed in a multitude of ways by the beautiful game. This past weekend was yet another example of how the game, and the experiences it has provided me on various levels, bring such color, joy and reflection into my life. Thanks to the league-wide break for FIFA international dates, Copparbergs/Goteborg had a weekend off from Damallsvenskan play. One of the perks of playing and living in Europe is being able to easily (and relatively affordably) travel to other countries and cities.
It was my boyfriend Aaron’s dream to see Juventus play in the their home stadium in Turin, Italy, so when I saw that my weekend off coincided with theJuventus-Napoli game, I jumped on the opportunity … and used my connections.
I often feel fortunate to be a Nike-sponsored athlete. Whether I’m lacing up my boots, picking out some cool new running shoes, or heading to the field in awesome training gear with a bag of brand new soccer balls, I am always proud to show off the swoosh. Another perk is the opportunity to see Nike-sponsored teams play live. When I asked for tickets to Juventus-Napoli, I would have been happy with two seats anywhere in the stadium. Instead, we were honored as guests of the head of Juventus merchandising in his skybox, and saw an amazing game from an equally amazing vantage point.
I consider myself a Juventus fan, but I am nowhere near the passionate supporter that Aaron embodies (which includes terrible mood swings and fits of anger during and after games that do not go well). He was in his element, singing along to the Juventus anthem at the top of his lungs, “Juveeee storia di un grandeamoooreeee,” which I know all too well because it has been his cellphone ring tone. He was at home among his fellow Juventini, and clearly loving it.
I am enthralled by watching live soccer. I love the sounds, the effort that you cannot quite see on television and sitting among people who share my passion for the game — or in this case, far surpass it.
But my spectatorship is twofold. I watch in admiration of the skill and level of competition, but also as someone who shares the players’ career. I feel the pride of those in the starting lineup for their club. I feel the stress of the substitutes warming up, wondering if/when they will get their chance. I feel the mental and physical strain of the player struggling and not having his best day. And I revel in the glory of the goal-scorer or player who just made an applause-worthy play.
My trip to Italy was short, but well worth the planning process that included 4 a.m. wake-ups to travel there and back with my brief time off. Aaron and I also got to walk around the beautiful city of Turin at night, and see downtown Milan the next day, where we ate delicious, authentic pizza at a café as we took in the scenery. But we agreed that this was all a bonus. Our trip was made by simply attending the game. Whether it was watching Andrea Pirlo smoothly evade a tackle and play one of his signature, perfectly placed chips; feeling the roar of the crowd after Juventus went up one, then two goals; or standing in front of the breathtaking Duomo di Milano(fourth-largest cathedral in the world), the short trip is one that will be imprinted in our minds forever.
As I looked out from the skybox during the game, I appreciated the atmosphere from a unique vantage point. The picturesque, bright green grass and full stadium that was louder than any I had ever experienced had both Aaron and me captivated. But at the moment I watched the players run out for their warm-up, I couldn’t help but think, they have the best job in the world!
Wait … I have the best job in the world!