Two of Europe's best teams battled it out in Kyiv this week to be crowned Champions of Europe. You might think I'm talking about Liverpool and Real Madrid but no - there are 2 Champions League Finals this week and each one is a showcase of exceptional footballing talent.
Lyon faced Wolfsburg on Thursday in the Final of the Women's Champions League and it certainly wasn't lacking in quality as some might suggest. The match was a great display of athleticism and perseverance as the 2 teams fought over 120 minutes to try and clinch the title for their team. It was Lyon who came out on top with an unexpected scoreline of 4-1 to become 2018 champions.
During the first 90 minutes of the match, neither team managed to create anything special to put their team in front thus after regular time it ended goalless. So an extra 30 minutes was necessary to settle the tie. Just 3 minutes into extra time, Pernille Harder's shot was deflected past the keeper to put Wolfsburg 1-0 up, which gave us the sense that extra time would be more eventful than the first 90 minutes. Eventful it was! Barely minutes after their goal Wolfsburg suffered a big setback as Alexandra Popp was shown a second yellow card meaning they were down to 10 players. Lyon must've felt it was now or never as they threw everything they had at Wolfsburg and scored 3 goals in the space of 6 minutes. To top it all off Lyon player Camille Abily scored in the last minutes of the game in what was her last performance for the club. With a 4-1 scoreline Lyon comfortably won a record 5th Champions League title, can they make it 6 titles in 2019?
The Mexican Women’s league came to a close on 4th May with the UANL Tigres holding off the fierce competition from the Rayados of Monterrey to become 2018 champions. The 2nd leg was destined to be a close match given that the 1st leg ended in a 2-2 draw, and close it was. It seemed like Tigres would win the game 2-1 as the game moved into added time but Norali Armenta of Monterrey had other ideas as she bagged a last minute header to bring the game to 2-2 at full time.
Extra time came and went with no more goals and so to penalties it was. Monterrey missed their first penalty and in doing so set up Tigres for a win. Tigres then took full advantage of this by scoring all of their kicks and so won the game 4-2 on penalties. This makes Tigres only the second team to win the Liga MX Femenil after Chivas won the inaugural competition last year. Women’s football in Mexico just keeps getting bigger and better!
See here for a video of the highlights - http://deportes.televisa.com/futbol/videos-tigres-campeon-la-liga-mx-femenil/
The teams that will compete in the final of the Women’s Champions League have been decided. Over the 2 legs in their respective semi-finals Lyon Fémenines came out on top against Manchester City and Wolfsburg Ladies beat Chelsea. This means once again no English team has made it to the final - with the last time being in 2007 when Arsenal won the trophy. The final of Lyon v Wolfsburg will be played in Kyiv on 24th May.
For more information: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/43898909
Have a look at Coach Wonjoon - aka Profe Juan's blog, there is a week-by-week account of his time at Girls United Bacalar. Very real account, written in a great way. https://joonerthoughts.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/week-6-peak-trip/
Tuesday 4th July 2017:
I'm done and I can write about my last few days and give some thoughts about the experience. I can finally, and freely, admit to blocking the shower. After a particularly muddy session, I washed my boots in the shower. The grass and mud went down the drain, and from that day on, it prevented the water from disappearing (sorry). Overall, my time in Bacalar was an incredibly positive experience.
Since finishing, and looking to keep busy while remaining involved in the development of the programme, I have designed curriculums, and come up with a document to help incoming coaches. The trip back to Distrito Federal was a strange one. My taxi arrived at four in the morning to drive me to the airport. The plane, again, was great, and I had three seats to myself. I managed to sleep a little too, having not slept much the night before, for fear I would miss my taxi.
On Friday night, I said goodbye to all the players. They truly are a lovely bunch. One brought me a gansito, which is like a chocolate and jam roll. Another had her aunt bake me a cake. That was shared with the whole group. Everyone loves cake, and it was good cake too. I wish nothing but the best for this lot, and I will remain interested and in touch for years to come.
Wednesday and Thursday of this past week, with just myself and the American, we split the older group by ability. I took the better group on both days. She was amazed at the lower ability of the weaker group and became visibly frustrated. All coaches have to start from the bottom (unless you are an ex pro with good connections). You have to work with the players who are completely clueless, and with little motivation to be there. As committed and passionate footballers, we can't understand why others don't know football, or don't want to know football, however we're not working for now, but for the future. It was frustrating for her, and we originally planned to both take a stab at each group, but she insisted, and persisted.
Genuinely, there's a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity about the game in Bacalar. No one is going to be pulling up trees any time soon, but who knows, in ten years, Bacalar could be a hotbed for girls football. The players were so interested to learn and it was a real pleasure to work in such an environment. I only wish I could have done more. If they had better foundations, I could have been far more effective with my coaching. Unfortunately the girls had no initial reference point for football knowledge and were not used to training. Simple games, such as 3v3, with each team defending a goal, took so long to explain and they almost seemed shocked that the exercise was so simple once they’d figured it out. Perhaps they’d been anticipating a minefield of cones, lines, and lots of shouting, like we see with the boys.
Football is a game of intelligence. I must have said that to the players every day. I kept reminding them that everything in football needs a decision. It became my catchphrase. The difference between a pass and a kick is the thought that precedes it. With the other coaches, my most used words were "decisions" and "repetitions." Over time, the players stopped just kicking it, and began looking for passes. I kept calling them out on it. "What was the decision you made then?" and they would look embarrassed as they admitted they didn't have a decision. I kept telling them that mistakes are fine, as we all do them, and it is part of the learning process, but there must always be a decision. Some of them even began to call the others out on it.
In the last few sessions, we could see a real difference. I want that improvement to continue. There were backwards and sideways passes. There were players running away from the ball and into space, instead of swarming like they did originally. Instead of being a fast paced, random, swarm, the games had become slower, with more deliberate actions, and more apparent thought processes. I love that. Please, please, please continue.
Lastly, before I sign out, I must speak of my love, respect, and admiration for the other volunteers. In a world where horrible acts are committed in the name of religion, where people say they will do things but don't (like how they care about veterans and will make a donation, or that they care about coal miners and will bring back non-existent jobs), or a world where people only do good so that they can share it on Facebook, it's rare to find truly good, honest and genuine people. I'm boring, miserable, and prefer my own company. The other volunteers realised that, but that doesn't mean I don't like them or think that what they’re doing is great. What Romina is doing is far greater than most religious people I have ever met, and there is not a hint of arrogance in her, nor does she give the impression it's all for show. This is genuine, altruistic, and giving something back motivates her. She wants to do the right thing.
Despite our different backgrounds and personalities, in four weeks, no one had any problems with anyone. We'll most likely admit to not being people we'd necessarily choose to hang out with in a more normal setting, yet due to the pure motivations and the absolute dedication of everyone at Girls United, we had no problems. Every volunteer in Bacalar, without a shadow of a doubt, wanted to do right by these girls. We gave them our best, and will continue to do so. We also worked as a team, there were times when we were busy, dehydrated, tired, or sick with stomach problems and we covered for each other without question. If I had to spend two hours with other coaches helping them plan their sessions, I didn't care, as it meant the players were getting a good service. If a coach was desperate for a rest and needed a drink, shade, sit down, or bathroom break, we didn't care. We were all pulling in the same direction. Work and credit are irrelevant when working with selfless people, and due to that, the quality of work is better, and the credit is rich.
If I had a heart, these volunteers and these girls would always have a place in it.
Nos vemos, bromigos.
More posts from Will's time in Bacalar can be found here: http://unorthodoxcoaching.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/coaching-in-paradise-bacalar-2017.html (or by clicking on the title of this blog post).
Our first academy has sadly come to an end and we have said our goodbyes – for the time being – to our very first volunteers. We felt a bit selfish keeping the volunteers and their characters to ourselves so we thought we would share with you some of their experiences and memories during their time with Girls United FA. We caught up with a few of the coaches to ask them some questions about their time with us, and here they are….
If you could describe Girls United FA in 3 words, what would they be?
Hannah - Bubbly, Smart, Determined.
Checo - Commitment, Happiness and Dedication.
Can you tell us a funny story about your time in Bacalar as a volunteer?
The funniest thing to happen has to be a few of the pranks Sergio and I played on the girls (Naomi and Hannah, who were in the room next door). Things like… turning their air conditioning off and stealing the remote, or…waking them up late at night by playing loud music through a Bluetooth speaker.
What was it like coaching at the academies? How did the girls respond to your coaching?
The players seemed keen to learn, yet at times it was difficult to get the point across, even with a perfect translation. All along I had been playing simple games that were relevant to football, as we were fighting on two fronts; the language barrier for one, as well as novice footballers. Games like 4v4 scoring into an end zone were difficult for the girls to understand – not because they were incompetent but because most of them were so new to football. However, once they got the hang of it they performed really well and there were definite EUREKA moments.
You could tell that some of the girls weren’t used to seeing silliness from ‘adults’ and we enjoyed having fun with the kids. Many of the girls come from an environment where parents or teachers are strict, but soon enough they were giggling, telling jokes and playing childish games. The girls really started to come out of their shells and were interacting socially.
How would you describe your experience with Girls United FA to a friend or family member?
I would describe the experience as worthwhile and uplifting. The location is truly an undiscovered paradise. If you want to give something back and do something meaningful, then GU is the place to go. At times it could be interesting, humbling and shocking. As a coach, I have a lot of new equipment and kit but one day when we were playing a game with the locals; some of them were playing without any shoes. I was in full Adidas kit with brand new boots… It’s a world away from what we become used to back home.
How did it feel arriving in Bacalar? Can you tell us a bit what is it like.
When I first arrived in Bacalar I was surprised; first by the beauty of the place, it is an amazing little town, but also it was impressive how gentle and easy going the people are, they were friendly at all times and were always doing their best to help the academy. I also loved that everything is so near, you can just walk everywhere (that is if you can deal with the heat). It's such a great place to be, it was so great to get to work there.
Cuando llegué a Bacalar, me sorprendí muchísimo por la belleza del lugar, es un pueblo increíble; sin embargo, me quedé impresionada con la amabilidad y sencillez de la gente, siempre fueron muy amigables con la organización, y además siempre hicieron lo posible por ayudar a la academia. También me encantó que todo está tan cerca que puedes caminar a todos lados (si aguantas el calor). Me encantó haber tenido la oportunidad de trabajar ahí, fue increíble.
What was the highlight of the trip for you?
The highlight of my trip was definitely being able to play with the girls, they are all such great people, and I don’t know about them, but I had tonnes of fun at every training.
Lo que más me gusto del viaje, fue definitivamente el poder jugar con las niñas, todas estaban muy dispuestas a aprender cosas nuevas y seguir mejorando, además de que son súper divertidas, no sé ellas, pero yo me divertí en cada uno de los entrenamientos.
What was it that initially made you want to volunteer in Bacalar?
The thing that made me want to go to Bacalar was the fact that I was going to be able to teach at least the basics of soccer to the girls. It is unbelievable how difficult life can be for girls living in not very developed places and I thought that this was a great opportunity to show the girls how amazing they were, and how they also have the chance to achieve whatever they want.
Una de las cosas que me convenció de ir a Bacalar fue el hecho de que iba a poder enseñar lo poco que sé del juego y que iba a ayudar a que las niñas empezaran a jugar. Es impresionante lo difícil que la vida puede llegar a ser para las niñas que viven en lugares poco desarrollados y por lo mismo pensé que esta iba a ser una gran oportunidad para enseñarles a las niñas lo increíbles que pueden ser y cómo pueden llegar a lograr lo que ellas se propongan.
What was your favourite food or meal during your trip?
It’s hard to choose my favourite food, but the things I liked the most were the quesadillas next to the central park, the lady that cooks is amazing; and I also loved the panuchos, which is like a fried tortilla served with black beans, lettuce, red onion, tomato and a bit of avocado, it is delicious.
Me es muy difícil decidir cuál fue mi comida preferida, pero entre las cosas que más me gustaron son las quesadillas que están al lado de parque en el centro, la señora que cocina es maravillosa; los panuchos también son de mis comidas favoritas, y es una clase de tortilla frita con frijoles, lechuga, cebolla morada, jitomate y un poco de aguacate, y es deliciosa.
What has been the highlight of your volunteering experience?
The highlight of my volunteering experience was the sensation and the motivating the girls to learn and play football. The commitment of the whole team to transmit their learning to the young girls. Also, the joy that Girls United created in every person who participated in this project was super exciting.
What have you learned from volunteering with Girls United?
What I’ve learned from Girls United was that whenever you want to help someone or make a change in this world, you don’t really need to make huge things. If you are dedicated and want to help others, simple things such as football are enough to make that change.
What was the biggest challenge during your time as a volunteer?
My biggest challenge during my time as a volunteer was to transmit the young girls authority and respect without being tough, you always had to be gentle and show respect to the girls, but at the same time play with them and they the training sessions.
What have you learned from volunteering with Girls United?
I think I’ve discovered football as a language. I was telling my mom recently about one of the local volunteers, Beto. He’s from Chetumal – which is a city about 30 minutes from Bacalar. At first he was pretty quiet and I was shy with my Spanish, so we didn’t talk much. Recently though we’ve had some time to kick around a ball on the pitch before practice. I don’t know what it was exactly but it felt like we were communicating as we were passing around. Like our movements were in sync. This was the first time I’d experienced this and it finally felt like we were having a conversation – but like an experiential conversation. That was pretty cool.
What was the hardest adjustment that you had to make when living in Bacalar?
I think the hardest adjustment that I had to make was with language. It seemed to be a thread throguht my experience here. At the beginning especially, and at period through my time in Bacalar I felt so isolated because of my language skills. It’s funny though because I’ve been back in the states for a few days now and my first instinct is to speak to people in Spanish! There was a little girls in a playground watching my cousin and I. I turned to her to ask if she wanted to join us, but it almost came out at “quieres jugar?”… Something that I often asked the players who came to practice in Bacalar.