The Dartmouth men's soccer team is heading across the pond for some soccer Scottish-style over Spring Break. The Big Green will spend 10 days in Scotland training, playing and watching soccer.
Dartmouth left for its journey March 14 and will return on March 24. Members of the men's soccer team will be blogging about their journey throughout the trip so be sure to check in with DartmouthSports.com for all of the adventure.
Thursday March 14 - Depart Hanover for Glasgow, Scotland
Friday March 15- Training Session (University of Glasgow, Science Park)
16- Training Session (University of Glasgow, Science Park)
Attend Celtic vs. Aberdeen Match, Celtic Park
17- Match vs. FirstPoint USA (University of Glasgow, Science Park)
Attend Scottish League Cup Final, Hampden Park
Monday, March 18- Sightseeing in Glasgow
Tuesday, March 19-Match vs. University of Glasgow
March 20- Travel to Edinburgh
Training Session at Hearts FC Facility
Thursday, March 21-Match vs. Livingston FC, Broxburn Juniors Park
22-Match vs. Rangers FC, Murray Park
Attend World Cup qualifying match (Scotland vs. Wales), Hampden Park
Saturday, March 23-Sightseeing in Edinburgh
Sunday, March 24-Depart for Hanover, N.H.
Day 1: Off to Scotland
Greetings from Dartmouth Men's Soccer! After a six hour bus ride, a seven hour redeye flight, and a final 90 minute bus ride, we have finally arrived in the beautiful city of Glasgow, Scotland, where we will be staying until Wednesday!
Although the long day of travel and time change left many of us appearing like zombies, it didn't stop us from enjoying an amazing Scottish breakfast spread provided by the hotel. While we were all encouraged to stay awake in order to properly adjust, the advice was far easier given than performed. The rest of the day was most definitely a struggle for the select few that were able to resist the nap before lunch. After those who napped began to wake up during our delicious lunch, we departed for the fields at the University of Glasgow for our first training session of the trip.
It was great to have everyone back together on an incredible pitch again! Following the intense session we went back to the hotel to shower and regroup before exploring the city for dinner. Because Nando's couldn't seat a group size of our magnitude, we split into groups and all enjoyed excellent cuisine elsewhere. After some of us fought sleep through dinner and ultimately found out it was customary to leave a tip in Scotland, we all returned to the lovely Menzies Hotel for a much- anticipated night of sleep.
Tomorrow, after another training session, we are heading to Celtic Park to watch Celtic square off against Aberdeen. Stay tuned for more of our Scottish adventures!
Day 2: Celtic FC vs. Aberdeen
Having had the chance to sleep in real beds on Friday night and catch up on some much-needed sleep, the team awoke on Saturday to a busy schedule. Our day began in the same way as the one before it - with an authentic Scottish breakfast in the dining room of the Menzies Hotel. Many players' tired eyes evidenced a squad still adjusting to the abrupt time change and recent rigors of travel. Nevertheless, we had no problems mowing down the buffet breakfast on offer. Eggs, haggis, bacon, sausage, beans, fruit, toast, and cereal were all scarfed down in anticipation of a tough training session to follow later that morning.
At about 9:30, we boarded the team bus to head over to Glasgow Science Park for the second day in a row to get in our training session. Once there, we started off with a variety of warm-up exercises to get our bodies moving before we moved into anything too serious. At last, we broke into smaller groups to play small-sided, possession-oriented games, where it became quite obvious that the boys were all eager to be back playing together again. We would finish up with a competitive, eleven-a-side, intra-squad scrimmage, where Robin Alnas , would score a terribly pathetic goal to lead his team to a slim, 1-0, victory.
A quick trip back to the hotel to shower and change and we were back at it again, hopping on the bus this time to go see league-leading Celtic FC play Aberdeen in what would prove to be an overwhelmingly dramatic Scottish Premier League match. We arrived a bit early in order to take in the scene - many players ventured into the official team store to pick up a souvenir or two, while others headed straight for the game-day food stands serving burgers and "chips" (can you guess which players did what?...). We made it into the stadium with plenty of time to find our seats and watch both teams warm up. Finally, the game began, and if the kick-off were to be any indication, we were in for a wild one. Within ten seconds of the whistle, Celtic went ahead 1-0 on a great goal. Not until just before half would Aberdeen fight back to tie the game at one apiece. Twenty minutes into the second half and Aberdeen appeared to have an upset in the making, having gone ahead 3-1. Yet, the league leaders stormed back with set-piece goals from two different players to bring the game to a stalemate. With just a few minutes of injury time left to play, Celtic began to really show their quality and pressed for a game winner, almost catching one on a number of occasions. Finally, Georgios Samaras (not to be confused with our very own, Andoni Georgiou!) scored a magnificent bicycle kick off a bouncing ball in the box, following a Celtic corner kick in the waning minute of play. Needless to say, we will be hard pressed to find a more dramatic game than this in our stay abroad, as it provided more fireworks than any of us could have ever imagined.
Tired from our busy day, we headed back to Menzies for the rest of the night. After a chance to have some down time in the rooms, we were treated to a feast of curried chicken, rice, steak pie, and a delicious dessert selection in the hotel suite room. With full stomachs and increasingly tired eyes, we headed back to the rooms for some rest before our first match of the tour against FirstPoint USA in the morning.
Day 3: Game Day!
Bleary-eyed and still reeling from jet lag, we stumbled as a green-clad unit into the breakfast area of the Menzies Glasgow Hotel. Greeted by the smell of warm haggis (a surprisingly good pudding composed almost entirely of sheep viscera) and the beaming, if slightly crooked, smiles of the Scottish hotel staff, we tucked into some breakfast before bussing to Glasgow University for our first game against FirstPoint USA, an organization that recruits prospects from the UK for American colleges and universities.
Glasgow University has beautiful grounds dotted with stonework that looks like it's been there since the university's founding in 1451. It's amazing, elemental even, to play on pitches nestled among babbling brooks, dark stands of trees shrouded in mist, and cold, grey moors that harken back to the days of William Wallace. I don't know if I speak for the whole team here, but as we started our first match, some choice scenes from Braveheart were playing through my head, helping me get the engines fired up and whatnot. Braveheart is obviously a dramatized film production borne from Mel Gibson's testosterone-addled brain, but the zeal and passion (minus the carnage and pillaging) of William Wallace's rag-tag band of rebels is definitely evident in Scottish football. Bone-crushing tackles are the norm. In the two games we've watched, and the one game we've played so far, we've probably seen more slide tackles than we did during our entire last season.
After our game against FirstPoint USA, we showered and bussed over to Hampden Park to watch St. Mirren and the Hearts of Midlothian battle for the Scottish Premier League Cup. Outside the stadium, the scene was madness. Thousands of fans parading around, chanting in thunderous unison, shouting unintelligible obscenities and reveling in an atmosphere of euphoric football bliss. In a scene emblematic of Scotland's juxtaposition of British civility and the vestiges of their rawer, edgier Gaelic past, policemen mounted on huge stallions were patrolling the grounds, intimidating fans with the massive, iron-shod beasts yet allowing people to come pet them and take pictures- picture gleeful children clinging to the manes of huge, battle-trained horses.
Upon entering the stadium, it became apparent that the supposed madness outside the stadium was tame, like Ferguson Family Reunion Barbecue tame, compared to the hoopla inside. Imagine 50,000 fans dancing, jumping, and screaming their heads off- from the wee five-year-old perched on his father's head, festooned in maroon, to the elderly woman shaking her fists and wrinkling her nose at the St. Mirren hooligans across the aisle. Of course, even the most rabid Scottish football fans are nothing compared to the great group of fans we get at Burnham field- especially since our fans don't curse us to high heaven every time we make a mistake as the Scottish fans would do to their own team's players. I can't imagine what it would be like to be dribbling along, lose the ball and hear little old ladies shout at me, "Brian, your mother is a mangy dog and you should transfer to Anchorage Community College!"
I could close this missive with the usual paean to horizon-broadening experiences, and the classic "We are just having the most amazing time seeing Europe and all its glorious history!", but I want to close with something more honest and sincere regarding our team and the people here in Scotland. We have been having a smashing time rollicking around the streets of Glasgow and bonding as a team in ways that transcend normal team-building activities. For this, I would really like to thank the coaching staff for trusting us enough to give us such leeway while making an effort to encourage us to cultivate professional behaviors. With regards to the people here, it has been very refreshing to experience the brighter side (despite the eternal grey pall) of humanity here. Because despite the ruckus we raise cruising around as one giant hell-raising squad, the people here have been remarkably charming- striking up conversations with us, helping us navigate the universally grey streets of Glasgow, and generally defying the Scottish stereotype of bearded, kilt-wearing ruffians, running around in the muck while quaffing lagers by the pint.
Looking forward to seven more days here. Thanks for tuning in.
Brian Joseff (Dartmouth Men's Soccer)