Hey everyone- hope you're enjoying your Saturday wherever it is you may be. It's been about 2 months since I've made the move out to Israel and it's been a wonderful experience both on and off the field.
It didn't take me long too long to get acclimated to the culture and way of life (huge shoutout and thanks to my cousins being here to help me along the way). I haven't had a chance to travel around the country as much as I had hoped because of my busy soccer schedule, but I've spent some time in Tel Aviv and explored around the city that I live in, Netanya. Tel Aviv's scene reminds me a lot of Brooklyn- varieties of restaurants, coffee shops, and shops scattered in every direction of the city, water front with the Mediterranean Sea, and hipster vibes. Netanya on the other hand is very different. There is a heavy Russian and French influence and is much more spread out, but still easily accessible through public transit. The main attraction out here is having the beach so close (5 minute walk from my apartment) and that it is much less congested than Tel Aviv. Nevertheless, Tel Aviv is a short 30 minute drive (depending on traffic) or quick train ride away.
Soccer has been going great too. We've finally managed to climb out from the bottom of the table (club got pinned with -11 points to start the season due to financial problems) and we've been on a roll, which I hope that we can maintain as the season winds down.
Two weeks ago, an incident occurred during an away game where our fans were victimized by opposing fans who threw stones at them. The game was forced to stop in the 80th minute due to our fans storming the field for safety with the opposing teams' security inability to put a stop to the mayhem. Luckily, no fans or players were seriously injured. The event made national news and 2 weeks later is still a topic of discussion amongst fans, players, and others who are involved within the soccer world here in Israel. The verdict on the outcome of the game was that we would replay the game at a neutral site in 2 weeks.
These 2 months have flown by with a blink of an eye. I miss my family, Natalie, and most of all, KYRIE (my dog for those who don't know who that is). Luckily, my parents are flying out in a few weeks and then Natalie comes out shortly after that. Unfortunately, Kyrie won't be the trek out to this part of the world, but I know that he is patiently awaiting with his green ball for my return this summer.
Until next time,
Hey all- took a little hiatus from writing, but I'm back! For starters, happy holidays to everyone. I hope everyone was able to spend time with their loved ones. I also wish that the New Year brings you all a fresh, and rejuvenated start.
These last couple weeks have been very hectic for me, but I am excited to officially announce that I have moved to Israel and joined Hapoel Petah Tikva. The staff and players have been very warm and welcome, yet have set a certain standard for the club for the second half of the season. In addition to that, I have also become a citizen of Israel. It's an exciting time and everything is very new to me, but I am excited to get going.
I've been living in Netanya, a city 17 miles/27 kilometers north of Tel Aviv. Although everyone has been complaining about the weather, I personally don't mind the average of 55 F/13 C weather. As I get more acclimated to my surroundings, I look forward to exploring all the historical landmarks, beaches, and RESTAURANTS (big food guy).
With new beginnings come new challenges and obstacles that I get to face. As I get older, the new challenges of adversity that I face are a thrill. My previous experiences act as a foundation to who I am as I continue to add experiences, friendships, and memories.
As always, thanks for tuning and reading!
It's crazy to think that my 4th year of professional soccer is winding down. Sure, I am anxious to get home to see my family and friends and give my body some rest, but part of me feels hungry to continue playing. My last three off-seasons having consisted of training indoors in a 5-a-side field with a constant worry that I may or may not find a team for that upcoming season. Lucky enough for me, I have been able to continue my journey.
My career has turned out far from luxurious, but I am ok with that. The players that showcase their luxurious lives on social media in our day in age is something every player aspires to have, but not everybody is able to achieve that. I truly love the game and it has shown me that there is more to life than that. I finally understand the meaning of "hard-work" and it's something that will translate to whatever I decide to do when I decide to hangup the boots when that day comes. Without hard-work, I know I would never be where I am today. For those that have put in the hard-work into playing at any level know that the good days will ALWAYS outweigh the bad days.
My youth, collegiate, and professional career has also given me the opportunity to build a special bonds with current and former teammates/staff. I can't say I keep in touch with every single one of those people, but I have built a great circle of friends with lots of wonderful memories with those that I am able to keep in contact with.
I would love to give a shoutout to everyone that has been supportive and helpful in the past year, but this list would never end and you guys would probably never read another one of my posts. Shoutout to Natalie for joining me on this journey in Finland these past few months. Also, a shoutout to Anna and Boris who have been supportive of helping me achieve my childhood dream. As this year concludes, I look forward to what my future holds for me and continuing to build the legacy that I will look back on with no regrets. One love everyone!
This past Saturday, we played a game against KTP and won 3-0. Not only did we win, but I also appeared on the scorers sheet and even got man of the match! Don't worry, this post isn't about me boasting my performance.
I wrote this post because for the first time in my amateur and professional career, I first-hand experienced acts of racism during a game. We were forced into the locker room for a brief intermission by the officials before resuming about 10 minutes later. For a long time now, it has been preached countlessly to remove racism from the game. We've had a member of the players association come in and speak about it, held up signs before games reading, "Put an end to racism" (or something along those lines in Finnish), and we even took a team picture that was taken to social media to create awareness. Still that was not enough.
I have lived and friended with people from all over the world. Whether you are African American, Asian, Hispanic, Caucasian, Gay, Straight, or anything else, it shouldn't matter. We as people are all made different and should not be pre-judged for what we are on the outside.
So I leave you all with a little food for thought- next time you attend a public event, think before acting. Whether you are a spectator or a participant of the event, consider that your actions indeed do have an impact on all those around you.
So in October I turn 26 and although its relatively young in comparison to an average person's lifespan, I feel like I've had more experiences than the average person that's 25 going on 26. I've lived in 7 states and had the chance to visit over 15 different countries and I think that's been HUGE in my development and maturation as a person.
Everyday is an opportunity to learn about yourself and others around you. If you disagree, then I strongly consider you give yourself a long look in the mirror. Now, playing football has enabled me the chance to be a part of many teams. Every group that I have been apart of has been unique with ranging personalities and skills of managers and players. I cherish the memories that I've been able to make and look forward to making more. Every single one my former teammates who have decided to move on from playing all say that nothing in the real world compares to camaraderie and bond that is created in a locker room.
Football like life isn't always sweet and "picture perfect". There's lots of peaks and valleys that need to be overcome to reach one's goals. As I've grown older, my personal goals have slightly changed, but I like to think that I have already reached my biggest goal- playing football professionally. There's always room for improvement and settling for "good enough" is simply just not good enough. Anyways, stay tuned for more!
P.S. Check out my gallery. Boris and Anna came to visit me a little over a week ago so there's some pictures of us!
For those of you that don't know, I am currently living in Valkeakoski, Finland. Now to brief you all on this city (village); there are currently about 20,000 people living here, but I swear it feels like there is 2,000 people. There's a handful of restaurants, two grocery stores (that I am aware of), and a massive paper mill factory, which also happens to be in my backyard. This has been a HUGE change from my abode last year- New Jersey/New York, which has a multi-million person population, any type of restaurant you could possibly think of, and tons of places to go and explore. Despite the vast difference between the two cities, day by day I have learned to appreciate Valkeakoski.
Why Finland? Well, at the end of last season, I decided that I would give playing in Europe a run. In February, I packed my bags and was off to Sweden to make my dreams a reality. After two months of trials and empty promises, I had an opportunity to make the jump across the Baltic Sea to FC Haka in Valkeakoski,
Finland who play in the Ykkönen division (second tier of Finland).
Playing soccer or football as I constantly get reminded of by teammates has given me the chance to travel the world, meet people from everywhere, and experience different cultures that I would never be able to in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago. Often times I get asked when I'll stop playing and go get a "real job", but the truth is that I love living my dream of playing soccer as my day job and the thrill of traveling is just an added bonus. Guys out of contract always reach out wanting to get themselves into the "perfect situation", but in a reality that is impossible. I always tell them what my inner conscious tells me; "don't be afraid to try a new experience."
Until next time,