Tour has come to an end. Well after over 24 hours of busses, flights, and transfers, all of the SnS kids are now at home, safe and sound. What a great trip we had as we are all exhausted from the last 3 weeks. Our transfer was very smooth, even though we had only 50 minutes to changes terminals and planes in Paris. The Air France staff met us at our gate and walked us through passport control as well as security. We made our flight with only minutes to spare. Spent the next several hours on the plane reviewing the past few weeks and reflecting on how we can improve. At one moment, I stood up and looked around our group and most of the kids were still interacting, sharing memories, reading each other's journals, or watching a movie together. Even though we did try and sleep at times, knowing that these were our last hours together, kept us up, not all of us, but most of us. Once again the Air France staff commended us on our conduct, but it was not all roses.
Saturday night, I preached the importance of keeping up with our belongings and to continue our responsibility that has been an ear mark of our tour. Well, to no avail. As we exited our plane in Paris, I did a quick passport check, just to make sure we all have our belongings, etc, and guess what, one of our precious players forgot their fanny pack in the front seat pocket, even though we said to immediately place our fanny packs in our backpacks, so we will not forget it. Panic quickly set in and although against all FAA regulations, one of the Air France staff allowed this player to return to the plane and retrieve the fanny pack. Any guesses, some of you already know, but Sam Huston was the guilty one. By the way Sam, you owe me 1000 sit ups. No lost kids but 2 lost bags as we arrived in Houston, but at least the baggage staff knew of the bags and they should be returned to the owner in a day or two.
Another bus ride from Houston to Dallas allows me more time to reflect on these past 3 weeks. Italy was a great stop, although quick, the food, training, ice cream, and the sightseeing stand out.
The transfer through the Alps to Austria was breathtaking. Austria provided us our first test with competition and all 4 teams represented extremely well. Austria also gave us bonding time as all teams were forced to coexist by living together, team by team. Not to mention, cleaning together.
A grueling transfer to Sweden forced us to be patient with each other as well as force us to bond even closer than we are. Sweden provided us the stage that so many wanted for their soccer. The world's largest soccer tournament definitely lived up to it's billing as we played and watched some of the best the world has to offer and we stood toe to toe with these teams and players.
Each soccer fan needs to attend a World Cup but every soccer player needs to participate in the Gothia Cup. It is that good. And to top it off, we represented our country, USA, and our club, Stars 'n Stripes, in the opening ceremonies. Just wait for the video. What a great opportunity and one that our kids and staff will not soon forget.
We have forgotten more memories than we can remember right now, and for the coming days, weeks, and months, something will trigger some of these memories and bring a smile or a chuckle to our faces. Like Cody being left on the ferry, or Tripp with ice cream all over his face claiming that he did not have any, or Tim taking the 91 girls on the right bus but in the wrong direction, or the 91 boys beating the Georgian team at the Heden Showcase fields in front of many fans, or Tino scoring a goal in Austria and having kids from Albania, Bulgaria, and Italy chanting Tino, Tino, Tino, or Eddie stepping up in the 91 boys playoff game and making his PK, or Dalton having to re take his pk in the 10th round and making it to continue the game, or Lindsay and Sam stepping in goal to face off in the Austrian girls final, or the pictures that were constantly being flashed as we drove through the Alps, or the 93 girls quickly looking for their jacket to make sure the one Coach Ed was holding was not theirs, or Ceasar sneaking a bucket of ice cream and then denying it was his, or the 93 boys vs the 91 boys cheering at the girls final in Austria, or the team sit ups for leaving trash in the airport terminal, or the sit ups we handed out for not knowing the names on tour, or the early morning jog in Italy through the vineyards as we gazed at the Italian Alps, or the looks on the kids faces when we told them the pasta in Italy was a pre dinner dish, or the ice cream we had in Sirmione, or the rides at Liseberg amusement park, and the list just goes on.
We had a great trip and a huge thank you to each and every player, parent, and staff member for making this tour a huge success. I will cherish this tour for many years as it was one of our best and what a way to mark the 20th year of Stars 'n Stripes.
We did have some awards and they are listed below. To all, we wish you the very best and with soccer being such a small world, it will only be a matter of time when our paths will cross again.
Yours in Soccer,
Player of Tour
John Koutoupis Award
John Koutoupis Award
John Koutoupis Award - In recognition of a players attitude, conduct, discipline, and ability to be an Ambassador of USA and Stars 'n Stripes throughout the tour.