soccer

Women’s World Cup update in which Germany loses and the USA wins, hopefully

Hello again!

So the end of the Women’s World Cup is upon us. I’m sure you share my sadness (if you even knew it was happening to begin with). Germany played England last night for third place, and the number one team in the world faced another loss, this time in overtime without penalty kicks. I’m sure I’m not the only one disappointed in Germany’s performance, but it is also good to see proof of the chances in a soccer match. When it comes down to it, the chances are always 50-50. As Sepp Herberger is famously remembered to have said: “Der Ball ist rund und das Spiel dauert 90 Minuten.” I have to admit, I’m happy for the Lionesses who’ve never made it this far in a world cup… who doesn’t love an underdog?

So, we’ll see what happens as the 2011 rematch gets played out tonight. During the Women’s World Cup four years ago, USA played and lost to Japan. In 2011, Japan proved itself as technically superior to all they played against, and a lot of that skill seems to have returned. The US has a strong team with the motivation to beat Japan.

Not to mention, the US has made it to the finals in the past three World Cups, and lost each time. Fourth time a charm?

Follow-up: Welps, I guess I expected Germany to win

Despite what I wrote yesterday, until I saw that the US beat Germany 2:0, I think I expected Germany to win.

As expected, it was a tight game. There were a few calls by the referee that people are saying were against Germany’s favor (these “sayings” are especially loud over here), but ignoring the foul that occurred in/outside the box, or the foul that did or did not happen, the U.S. objectively had more shots and more ball possession. They also scored a goal other than the contended penalty kick, which would have been enough to win the game on its own.

So, it’s USA in the finals! It will be interesting to see them play against Japan, the defending World Cup champs or England. I’m neutral about whom I’d like to see. I just want a good game that ends in US victory, obviously.

Hope everyone has a good Wednesday!

PSA: Germany versus US Women’s Soccer Match

or, a short commentary on whom to root for:

See full size imageSince I’m sure you’re all well-informed about women’s soccer, and the fact that the Women’s World Cup is currently being held, I may be overkilling it with this announcement about the match tonight at 0000 BST. I just want to make sure that you’re as pumped about it as I am.

Even if it isn’t a match-up like the Men’s World Cup group qualifiers, where Juergen Klinsman, former German trainer met Jogi Loew, current German trainer, there are enough ties between the teams for tonight’s game to be tense. Just looking at the last names of the U.S. players: Krieger (which ironically means war-maker), Engen, Klingenberg, Naeher, Sauerbrunn, one gets an idea of the historical ties the US players have to Germany. I can imagine there are no mixed feeling amoungst the players about who should win, but I certainly have some.

Growing up in the US, I saw soccer as the only outlet to play a sport that allowed me to play with the guys at lunchtime and have a sort of competitive equality. Girls are quickly outmatched in any other sport. I imagine that basketball has a similar kind of appeal to girls like me, but other than that, sports are pretty separate in the US. Thus, I have a good idea of what it means to be a national player in the US and the stereotypes that go along with being a female soccer player. The US team, therefore, has my sympathies.

However, being in Germany now and having played on a German team, I learned a new way to interact on and off the field and I know how the Germans celebrate when their team wins. I kind of hope they do tonight… and then again, I don’t.

It’s not as though one team is much better than the other, either. The US is currently ranked number 2 in the world, and Germany is ranked first… but that means nothing when it comes down to the 90 minutes on the playing field. It can go either way and I’m just going to try and enjoy the game and be happy either way.

Go Gross-Flottbek!

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 ;))

Snow, Soccer, and some Kalter Hund

Since I stopped being productive on my thesis about three hours ago, I decided it was time to update my blog. You’re in luck, since I’ve actually had a pretty eventful weekend!
First, there was this:

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To you, this may seem standard winter. To me, this was a winter wonderland!!

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Sunrise in Hamburg… in the snow. Like how Germany has parking lots for bicycles?

I woke up Friday to find a slight dusting of snow on the sidewalks and the trees. But it melted by the end of the day, so I could only enjoy it for a few hours.

Then, yesterday, Saturday, what started as a normally cold morning turned into a snow day. It started snowing and didn’t stop until the late afternoon. I haven’t seen snow since I was three or four, so this was an exceptionally exciting vision! I ran in snow, went grocery shopping in snow, took out the trash in snow, made a snowman in sand (jk, also in snow), and when I woke up this morning, I was still in snow!

Now most of the snow is melted and I got to experience getting wet slush in my shoes, but it was worth it!

As for what I’ve done to take advantage of being abroad lately, let me talk a bit about joining a soccer team here.

As the Germans showed during the world cup, (can I remind anyone of that semi-final against Brazil? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLZUKqpXYzU) they have a rather good national team, and they are huge fans of soccer. And just like there are pick-up games of tag-football and basketball in parks all over the States, one can find a game to join on nearly any outing out in the city of Hamburg (assuming one walks near an open space and the ground isn’t frozen).

As someone who grew up in the US, I’m actually not sure how I got into the sport already at the age of five (maybe because as an active little girl in the States, one really only chooses between tennis and soccer?), but I do know I had fun with the sport from the start- I also haven’t stopped playing since. Yet while I always found opportunities to play in the States, be it for city recreation leagues, for high school, intramural leagues at college, or nightly pick-up games on the tennis courts (since my school couldn’t afford lights for the field we had), I’ve never played it the way I do in Germany.

One of the first decisions I made when coming to Germany on my study-abroad exchange was to sign-up for something that would a) get me involved with a group of native Germans, b) keep me active in the community somehow, and c) give me a group of people that would remain the same even when everything else was different nearly every day.

To meet these requirements, I was considering auditioning for a play that was being put on by some Universitaet Hamburg students. I also considered joining and being active for the left-wing student government party (I was told I’d be the only U.S. American who ever held a conversation with them when approached about it… I guess they’re used to the U.S. capitalist loving, commie-hating stereotype?). However, the option that really captured my imagination from the beginning was signing up for a soccer team, or Verein, as they are called here.

I’m going to assume that most readers will know what the Bundesliga is. It’s the level of competition at the state level. What may be new to the reader is that there are lower levels than even the 2nd Liga. One has Landeliga, Bezirksliga, and then the lowest (to my knowledge) is the Kreisliga. Any team has the mobility to move up in Liga between these different levels, but it usually is determined between series of seasons and not just a single season.

I unwittingly initially contacted a team manager in the lowest Liga, but its practices and home field happen to be located closest to where I live, so it’s a fair exchange. Plus, this means I came onto the team (after an expedited trial period) as a fairly well looked-upon player. I also can leave my dorm five minutes before practice, which is quite practical given my busy schedule and my late Mondays at the Uni.

So, something unique to my experience of the German soccer system (which is not that much different than travel soccer in the states) was the practice of moving the practices and games indoors during the winter, and of hosting tournaments. Today, my team played in a tournament (sans moi, because I have only just started running and playing again)

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Here’s my coach setting up the computer for arranging the tournament line-up. You can see the sweet trophies too.

But, because my team also hosted the tournament (in which ten teams played each other for the glory of not winning a gold spray painted pineapple– this was awarded to the fourth place finisher), we used the opportunity to raise money for the summer training camp as well. Thus, I came early today to help set up the hall where we played, I stayed to provide some team support (and tried to do some work in between) and I brought something to sell.

Even though I don’t eat sugar (sugar had been a mental and physical health issue for a while and after trying sugar-free for the year 2014, I decided to make a life-long thing), I was asked to bring a cake. Fine, I guess I can do that. I don’t have to eat it.

But after trying and failing twice to bake brownies at the beginning of this year, I decided to make something that did not require an oven.

On the first day of my stay abroad, I was given an interesting cook book by the nice lady who picked me up from the airport and helped me do a bunch of important, first week Hamburg things (see here). She is a club member of the Woman’s German-American Club in Hamburg, and she had participated in a German-American exchange herself. Inspired by that time and her love of baking and cooking, she wrote a cookbook written in both German and English. She generously gave me a copy.

Honestly, I initially didn’t think I would use the cookbook much. After all, I don’t really cook a lot from recipes (lately, my cooking consists of heating up soup with some scrambled eggs and boiled semmel-knoedel) and I can get any recipe I imagine online. But after glancing through it, I found a lot of traditional German dishes that actually looked easy to make, I also found one for Kalter Hund. I remember my mother talking about this dessert as one of her childhood memories, so I decided to try it. The cookbook was especially helpful, because even though I can read German quite fine, being able to see the measurements in the U.S. system gave me a better idea of how much of each ingredient I needed.

2015-01-24 10.14.59It’s really easy, and while I didn’t try any, my Kalter Hund looked really good and it was the most popular thing on the table.

To make “Kalter Hund,” or “Cold Dog,” one needs: 5 oz.s of Coconut fat (or Crisco), one egg, 1 cup sugar, 1 tbsp vanilla sugar, 4 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 tsp run flavor (I used vanilla extract) and 5-6 oz.s of butter cookies.

It is done by:

  1. In a small pan, heat the crisco or coconut fat until just melted. Put to the side.
  2.  In the meantime, beat egg with the sugar and vanilla sugar, add cocoa. Slowly work into the lukewarm crisco as well as the rum-flavoring. Stir until smooth.
  3. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap or baking paper [another one of those German cultural differences in baking].
  4. At the bottom of the pan, place an individual layer of the butter cookies. Spread the chocolate mixture overtop. Repeat this process until the last layer is chocolate. Spread this last layer of chocolate evenly.
  5. Chill for a few hours (the pan, but you can too). Preferably, chill overnight. The total preparation takes about 45 minutes (without chilling) and prepares at least enough for 12 delicious servings.

Kalter Hund Rezept There are different ways of preparing this, but this version came out really well. (the image is not mine, I stole it off the interwebs here because the picture I took did not come out well). I was told it’s delicious.

So ja. That’s my update. Hope you all had a good weekend!