I leave the house with a dry mouth and expressionless face, run down 4 flights of stairs, exit the apartment complex, and make a hard left, narrowly missing contact with a rambling woman. My mind races with thoughts to apologize while my legs continue moving forward. I think,” Well, I can’t turn back now- no time.” I frantically travel 2 more streets before abruptly stopping at a stoplight. “Ugh, why now?” is an incessant, unwelcoming thought occupying my mind until I could dart across the road into my destination. The finish line is in sight, although I have so much more to do with such little time.
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It’s been about a year since my trip to London with my dad, although it feels like just yesterday. The soccer games, ambling along the historic streets of Kensington, sampling an eclectic mixture of food; it was all euphoric, really. Long story short, we’re going back. We’re planning to revisit some of our favorite destinations: The Emirates Stadium, Loftus Road, Craven Cottage, and Selhurst Park, while we show my brother and mom around the enchanting city that is Londres. We’re leaving December 28th so be sure to make your way back if you’d like to read about unique experiences written by yours truly.
It’s almost unbelievable to think I was studying abroad 2 and a half years ago! I spent my time in Valencia, Spain, but I will get into that later; this week I will describe a weekend trip to London. The visit was during early February, and as you can imagine, it was cold. The city was imposing, with noticeably wide streets, bright lights, and its effervescent personality. In short, it was an ideal place to spend a weekend, especially when you consider my friend Matt bought tickets for us to see Crystal Palace Football Club play West Bromwich Albion. We supported different clubs although we could hardly ignore a burgeoning Palace team that had risen from the 2nd division and now played in Premier League. What’s more, they played in a largely unknown part of South London with devout followers who welcomed foreigners. Cheap drinks and an atmosphere are rarely avoidable, so we ventured down to Croydon (South London) around noon on Saturday. We arrived at the stadium 2 hours early and were taken under the arms of Palace fans. They asked us to name a few players in the first team and were pleasantly surprised by our football knowledge. There was a brief pause in our conversation whilst the Palace fans exchanged a glance, and suddenly we were off to the pub.
The pub was down the street from the stadium. Matt and I were at a loss for words when we opened the pub door. There was so much going on- multi-generational fans belting Palace songs in one corner, drinking games in another, stories going in the other, although everyone was aware who was coming in and leaving the bar. After fighting our way to the bar for a drink, Matt and I migrated near the chanters and started singing along. It was in that moment where we found a type of solace reserved for only a handful of activities. Solace soon transformed to ecstasy thanks to a couple of pints before we left for the game.
The game was as gritty as predicted and Palace won 3-1. Palace’s coach Tony Pulis remained with his pragmatic approach that placed an emphasis on defense over elegant attacking football. I wish I could say more about the game. However, there was nothing of note except for the Holmesdale Road End. This section of the stadium contained fanatics who bled red and blue (Palace’s colors). They were proudly singing all game, spurring their team on. There’s nothing like it in American sports. Matt and I were enraptured by the joyous Palace fans who were in the stand adjacent to us. The whistle blew and exiting Palace fans were accompanied by good times. The good times were accompanied by good pints. Some in South London would say they go hand-in-hand, so Matt and I did as the Palace fans did. Pints were overflowing and served as sufficient fuel to begin our night.
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The Lewisburg Derby is a game entrenched in historical and political significance for the town, located in central Pennsylvania. One soccer team represents West Lewisburg, an area of the town that is known to be largely liberal and is constantly pushing for new progressive policies. The other side, North Lewisburg, is an area of the town known to have a staunch Republican view that is often directly attributed to its highly affluent population. With these opposing beliefs, one can only imagine the atmosphere of the stadium before the game. For many of those that attended last year, it is hard to forget the West Lewisburg ultras raiding the pitch at the final whistle to create what some called a malicious tunnel for their players only. With that in mind, there will certainly be security stewards to divide the two groups of fans at this year’s Derby
Leading up to the game, I was able to speak with the North Lewisburg coach, who was highly anxious as his team sat below West Lewisburg in the league table. The gaffer, who is beginning to get a little bit of stick from the fans for some of his team’s most recent results stated, “The magnitude of the game is huge and it’s having an impact on the players during training”. This sentiment was echoed by a number of players, particularly from North Lewisburg born Eva Williams. Her remark at the press conference alluded to the fact that training was a bit more intense during the week in preparation for the game. She added that the game is important to her, while explaining this is a game she’s dreamed about playing in since birth.
There was an electric atmosphere on match day with both sets of ultras congregating near the parking lot of the stadium. There was a bit of banter between fans, although West Lewisburg and North Lewisburg ultra-leaders chaperoned their respective followers to the stadium in collegial fashion. It was finally time for the game. The beginning stages of the game saw West Lewisburg display their trademark pragmatic approach with the coach instructing his players to sit in and allow North Lewisburg to have possession for the first 10 minutes or so. This was an interesting approach from the manager as North Lewisburg’s game is typified by incisive passes and fluid movement off the ball in attempts to slip in behind and score. Nonetheless, a disciplined West Lewisburg did not concede in the first period.
The second period saw the breakthrough with North Lewisburg’s Emma making a marauding run down the middle of the pitch showcasing her ability to penetrate and score. West Lewisburg showed spirit and initiative shortly thereafter, testing keeper Madeline. The hectic pace of the game started to slow around the 18 minute mark as North Lewisburg captivatied the crowd with their passing. A vibrant run inside the shoulder of the left back from Liana “Foot” Davis created space in the right-hand channel for defensive midfielder Bailey to assume. A crafty pass from North Lewisburgian Ava found Bailey in stride and resulted in a rather clinical finish from the Irish woman.
The third period started with West Lewisburg abandoning their original strategy, changing to a more attack-minded formation. At this point in the game, the North Lewisburg coach instructed his players to press high up the field in order to gain possession in the opposition’s final third. As a result, West Lewisburg’s scarcity of technical ability was exposed with “Foot” scoring a brace. The fourth period saw a discouraged West Lewisburg fall into deep disarray. Julia was in fine-form, always causing a problem with her bag of tricks and Olivia stymie West Lewisburg attacks. It was a great all-around team effort, with “Foot” named woman of the match, primarily due to her predatory instincts that at one point in the game saw her dispossess her own teammate in an attempt to complete a hat-trick. The referee signaled the end of the game with a whistle and post-match activities commenced. These largely consisted of orange slices and obligatory handshakes. Thus ends the 6 year-old Lewisburg girls’ soccer match of the year.