August 18, 2003

Men's Soccer Diary from England

Aug. 18, 2003

ENGLAND - The Santa Clara University men's soccer team is spending 12 days in England to prepare for the upcoming 2003 season. During this time the Broncos will complete their roster and play five games in the hopes of being in top form when the season starts on August 30.

In the first of three installments of a recap of the trip from a players' point of view, junior midfielder Will Weatherly recounts the trip details of the first four days. Weatherly enters his third season on the Mission Campus after finishing second on the team in 2002 in points and goals scored.

August 13th-14th:

After what seemed to be an endless string of meetings about logistics and inevitabilities we finally departed to the San Francisco Airport. A constant buzz ran through the team as we check in, ate lunch and boarded our Virgin Airlines 747. The lack of legroom was made up for by an entertainment center in each seat offering movies, games, and flight information. Many of my teammates also commented on the looks of our stewardesses and their thick British accents. After nine hours of movies, airplane food, and sleep, we landed in London's Heathrow Airport. Customs was quick and easier than going into Mexico, and we were soon loading our motor coach. Two hours later we stopped for what we thought was Burger King, yet only offered warm Coke and two types of burgers. By the time our oven-like bus arrived in our hotel, I looked back to see half of our team shirtless and/or pantless. After a bit of free time at a local park, we had our first taste of English cuisine: liver disguised as steak. Not what we were expecting. Finally after a day of travel we found our beds and tried to catch up on sleep.

August 15th :

I awoke early for breakfast in my closet, excuse me, hotel room, and headed for my second dose of liver. There was a bit more excitement around the table as it was to be our first day of training as a complete group. Half expecting another public park as our training grounds, we arrived, to our delight, at the Manchester United training facilities. We couldn't have asked for a better field and our legs seemed just a bit looser and ready to play than 15 minutes previous. After a quick training and lunch, we returned to build our team for the season. Because of my poor shooting on the day, I enjoyed missing the same frame David Beckham used to hit, I assume, so precisely. Dinner was followed by a night out in Manchester where the team was free to see the town and enjoy the foreign experience. I must admit I was a bit unnerved by all the tight pants, but the hospitality showed to us by the natives made the evening quite enjoyable.

August 16th :

The day the majority of us had been most eagerly awaiting had arrived: the day of our trip to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United's opening day, but first we had a game of our own. The team arrived at the field early, which allowed the returning players to watch the freshman go through some fitness testing. It was nice to know that I would be playing. As the last rookie fell across the line, I made my way in to change for the game. After over three months off the pitch due to injury and off-season, I was eager to play again. Our opponent was a select U-21 team that was much more physical than I had expected from looking at them. I found myself playing center mid which was a change from last year, yet I felt fairly comfortable. We won the game 5-1, with the first goal being mine. I was happy with my performance and felt the team had begun our preseason well. The game gave us a few things to work on and was a success.

The most exciting leg of the trip was next. We left to the stadium directly from the game and arrived to mobs of red-shirted, drunk Manchester supporters. The atmosphere was unlike any sporting even I have ever attended including baseball and football playoffs. Players were met with cheers, applause, and unique songs from the adoring fans. When Ryan Giggs scored off a free kick the crowd erupted, shaking the stands and chilling my nerves. My camera probably took over 30 pictures throughout the game, as did my teammates. I have to imagine the fans behind us had to wonder about the 10 digital cameras constantly pointed towards the field. For all 90 minutes, my whole attention was directed at the field and the stars that trod upon it. The game was certainly something I will never forget. I can only hope the rest of the trip is half as exciting. As Manchester fans sang to their Bolton counterparts: Cheerio.