I’ve mentioned my German soccer team a few times in this blog, but I figured they deserve a special post. After all, they’re important enough to have their own Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GFSVDamen. I specifically want to explain the significant impact joining the team had on my studying abroad here.
One of the most difficult things when studying abroad is the removal of the immediate support system. This makes it similar to other times when leaving home and going to see new people, new work, new city, but the exception with studying abroad is that it is also a removal in culture. The people one must learn to interact with have different standards, habits, and norms that one must respect and try to adhere to.
It makes for a difficult first few weeks, where a new situation arises everyday and it can cause some degree of anxiety when one must constantly try to figure out what to do with the day, and how to shut off the mind a bit.
Thankfully, sports have the same rules, regardless of the country. They are truly transcultural practices played across borders and erasing borders on the field.
Someone suggested to me, before coming to Germany, that I should try to join a team. Within a few days of my arrival in Hamburg, I found myself on the internet actively looking up teams that played near where I live. I’m not sure if I could have joined any team, but it just so happened that the team I found within a 5 minute run from my front door was in the Kreisliga, meaning the lowest Liga. However, it was close by and the trainer actively welcomed me to a trial period. I came to a few games to watch and a few practices to participate in, and then I was on the team.
Being on a German soccer team showed me my limits as a US American, my “exoticism” factor, and a closer look at how young German women live in Hamburg, but it also gave me something I desperately needed: stability in my routine.
The last aspect became oppressively apparent when the season ended on May 10th, and I didn’t know what to do with myself on Monday and Wednesday when the slot around my usual practice time was open.
I still haven’t solved the problem of that extra time, though I find myself wandering out the door for a run or a bike ride anyway. But I miss the girls and the camaraderie. Members on the team ranged from students still in school to full-time job holders. A few were studying at the university and others completing apprenticeships to finish their training for work. Because of this range, I learned more about the Bildungsystem in Germany and how it is organized and opens/closes doors for people. That’s worth another post.
While the season is over, I’ve been invited to a few events and also was able to take part in the festivities, after all, Gross Flottbek Damen rose from being in the Kreisliga to the Bekirksliga after being champions of the Kreis. That had to be celebrated, as it was with a grilling party following the final game. I gave a short speech about how grateful I was to be so graciously made part of the team and to have met them… before I knew they had prepared a small gift for me. I now have a “Meisterschafts” shirt now as well as a photo of the team. It will come back home with me, and honored by a place on my wall (where I’m allowed to put nails in again…jk Papa, I won’t play whack-a-mole).
Thank you Rene and all the girls on the team! Wish you the best of luck in your Aufstieg (at least some soccer teams in Hamburg are doing that ;))