Travel Blog: Gophers in Spain
Follow the University of Minnesota women's soccer team on and off the field as they travel to Barcelona, Spain. The Gophers will play in three games against professional women's teams from Spain as well as immerse themselves in the soccer-heavy culture during their nine day trip.
Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 8:00 p.m. CT (Minnesota)
Rashida Beal, Junior
Today the Gophers traveled back to Minnesota. It was a very long day of flights, layovers, and fast food. We departed from the hotel at 3:30 in the morning for the Barcelona airport. The first layover was in Amsterdam, where many people bought snacks and took naps. Next, we stopped in London, before the last flight which headed back into Minneapolis.
For many, the departure for home was a bittersweet event. In Barcelona, we had many unique experiences. Over the duration of the trip we saw priceless landmarks, watched some of the best soccer the world has to offer, and were able to compete against top Spanish teams. However, many of us were excited to get back home and settle in for the rest of the semester. After the games we played in Spain, we have a clear direction in which our team must develop for the fall. It will be exciting to build off of the foundation we have already laid as a team.
Thank you for following along and we hope to see you at the Robbie this fall!
Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 5:45 CT (Minnesota)/12:45 a.m. CET (Barcelona)
Katie Thyken, Junior
Hey Golden Gopher Family,
I am sad to say that today was the last full day in Spain for the Gopher Soccer team. It was an amazing and fun trip and couldn’t have been a better experience to enhance our soccer and global IQ. Today was the most open day of the whole trip. They gave us the whole morning and afternoon to explore and tour the parts of the city that we did not get to see.
Most of the girl’s days started pretty early (aka 1 a.m.) because we wanted to see what the Spanish night life was like. The Spanish clubs don’t even open until 11 p.m. because the Spanish people come out so late. A lot of people don’t go out until 2 or 3 a.m. We all got dressed up and went to find a local club. We ended up going to two of them, Club Hyde and Club Nick Havanna that were right by our hotel. Both of them were very cool. We danced to some Spanish music and they even played some American songs just for us. There were some Spanish boys ambitious enough to talk to one of the 19 girls that went and ask to salsa dance. Overall, it was loads of fun, and we had a blast.
After a good night sleep and a hardy breakfast, we were ready to explore the city on our own. There was some of us that wanted to go shopping. Some others went biking and toured the whole city and all the parks. I personally went to go see the old Barcelona Bullring, La Monumental. While the ring is still set up for the bull fights, it is used more for concerts and tours. We got to stand in the actual ring and be in the stands and got to see where the bulls were kept. There was a little museum at the end that had all the matador outfits and even had some of the most famous bulls heads mounted on the walls. It was an interesting sport to learn about and the history behind the building and that part of the Spanish culture.
After the bull ring, we went down to the harbor to see the Christopher Columbus statue. There was a statue dedicated to him because he reported back to the king and queen in Barcelona after his first trip to America. It was a stellar monument with lots of intricacies around the base. We then walked up a very famous street, La Rambla, to our hotel. Along the way we visited a huge outdoor market that had fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and anything else you could want. It was all fresh and made right there in front of you and very pretty cheap. I had a fresh Kiwi-Coconut smoothie that was surprisingly delicious. The weirdest things we saw there was fresh octopus, goat heads, and fresh flan.
Then we got to go to see the Barcelona’s Second team play against Deportivo Alaves in the mini stadium. This stadium was much smaller, but we were closer to the action which was cool. Luckily we were under the overhang because it started to poor making the field conditions hard. Even thought it was the second team they were still very technical and amazing players. The score was 0-0 after a long first half of back and forth soccer. Deportivo scored a little into the second half off a fluke goal off a cross where a couple players including Barcelona’s goalie slipped. But with about 15 min left, Barcelona scored off an amazing free kick that curved around the wall into the back post. In the last 5 min, one of the Barcelona players dribbled 4 or 5 Deportivo players to get a break away for a nice goal. He ended up injuring himself in the celebration, but it was well worth it because they ended up winning 2-1. BARCA, BARCA, BARRRRRRRCA!!
After the game, we went to a nice restaurant to get food and then gelato and churros afterward. It was a great final day. I am really going to miss this city and its beauty. There is still so much that we could see and explore here that we didn’t get to experience. Hopefully I will be able to come back someday to see the other sites and see how the city has grown. Thank you to everyone who helped us get this once in a lifetime experience. We grew as a team and played some hard games. This city is one of the biggest soccer capitols in the world and to see how big soccer is here makes me excited to play this sport. Soccer is the world’s sport and it is great to know that people in Minnesota think so too and support us in our adventures. It will be sad to leave Spain and join the Minnesota cold, but I had a lot of fun as did the other girls! J
Goodbye from Spain,
Friday, March 21, 2014 - 5:07 p.m. CT (Minnesota)/12:07 a.m. CET (Barcelona)
Today was the first day of our trip where we had the entire morning to be able to explore and do whatever we wanted. It was also the day where everyone was able to sleep in! For most of us, our bedtime was around 1 to 2 am in the morning because most of us went to eat after we got back from our late-night game. So being able to sleep in until 9 or 10 am was heavenly. The group was split for most of the morning. Some went shopping or exploring the area around the hotel, a few rented bikes and rode down to the harbor, and a bunch headed to La Sagrada Família to be able to tour the inside of the beautiful cathedral. I decided to stick closer to the hotel and wandered around the shops with a few teammates. The shopping was fun. I enjoy the Spaniard's style of dress, so I was able to pick up a few items that I know I'll wear a lot. Here, there's a lot of patterns, denim, and layers that make up the typical dress of a European.In the early afternoon, everyone finally met back up as we headed off to an outlet mall about a half hour from the city. It was a cute little area, but the stores were mainly high-end designers so many of us only window-shopped. After our quick trip there, the main event of the evening was due!
At about 6 pm, we all dressed up to enjoy dinner and a Flamenco show. The team, coaching staff, and other parents all looked great; it's really nice being able to see my teammates in their own style and regular clothes instead of practice gear and sweats everyday. I've never been to a Flamenco show, so I wasn't sure what to expect. We were seated in long lines of tables and the servers promptly served us bread, a salad, the main dish of chicken and vegetables, and flan for dessert. Then the show began! The music was all live - three singers, a guitarist, and a violinist - which I thought really brought the show to life. Every single one of the dancers was brilliant. The work that must be put into these dances is overwhelming, you could see how much of a workout it was for them by the sweat on their faces, but it was still extremely fun to watch. We all left really astounded at how they can dance so well, and we walked back to the hotel or nearby cafes for churros and chocolate (it's almost a nightly routine now). The rest of the night calls for relaxing and preparing for our last full day in España. I can't believe how fast this trip has flown by, but I'm also very thankful for every day that I have been here and for everything I have experienced.
Thursday, March 17, 2014 - 7:21 p.m. CT (Minnesota)/2:21 a.m. CET (Barcelona)
Rashida Beal, Freshman
To start out the day, we watched the Espanyol men's team train. They had nice facilities, with multiple well- kept turf fields. The top Espanyol was having a light training day, so most people watched the second team's more competitive practice. It was interesting to see some of the drills similar to ones our team practices, as well as note the new/ different drills.
After the practice, we had free time to get lunch, shop, and explore the city. Some people went to the Picasso museum, while others stayed closer to the hotel. In the Las Ramblas area, my group ate at a pizzeria and stopped by a market. The market was filled with delicious fresh fruit, an assortment of flavored nuts, all types of candies, and some other produce. We were able to pick out some post-game snacks and enjoy a fresh fruit smoothie.
Then, the attacking group met to discuss strategy for the game. We enjoyed a pre-game meal at a buffet, which carried a combination of unique dishes, salads, fruit, a pizza bar, and an ice cream machine.
In preparation for the game, we discussed things we needed to improve upon from the other games. Warm up space was limited due to other events at the facility, and the halves were shortened to 35 minutes each. The game unfortunately started out rough, with Espanyol scoring in the first few minutes. Their goal was well- earned and difficult to read. Our team settled in much quicker than in the other games and were able to compete for the rest game. Even though we earned many opportunities, we were not able to earn a goal. Overall, our team adjusted many of the issues we are experiencing and came into the game with a much more motivated attitude. Though a loss is not ideal, our team now has a vision for how we will improve over the rest of the spring season.
We were also able to socialize with the other team after the game. We have them some Minnesota gear including t-shirts, drawstring bags, and pins. The team was very grateful and friendly afterward.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 7:50 p.m. CT (Minnesota)/2:50 a.m. CET (Barcelona)
Krystle Seidel, Assistant Coach
Hola Minnesota Soccer fans! This trip to Barcelona has been such an incredible experience for our student-athletes. We have been exposed to unbelievable sightseeing, museums tours, Spanish cuisine and shopping in numerous cities surrounding Barcelona. Not to mention that we got to watch arguably the best soccer team in the world (we will know for sure after the Champions League ends) score some of the most impressive goals that we may ever witness in-person in our lifetimes.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 7:20 p.m. CT (Minnesota)/2:20 a.m. CET (Barcelona)
Katie Thyken, Junior
Hello Again Gophers!
Katie Thyken here again reporting from Barcelona. Today was a more relaxing day. It was the day that we got to go to a beach on the Mediterranean Sea.
We went to this little town of Sitges located right on the water. There were beaches with white beautiful sand. In the morning, we got our jog and stretch on the beach to get ready for our game for the night. While it wasn’t hot, it was warm enough that we were all wearing shorts and a t-shirt, so that was nice. It was also great to run barefoot with the sand between your toes (much better than snow). After jog and stretch there were some Gophers who were brave enough to go into the water. The water was freezing cold, a lot like an ice bath. I just got my feet wet; I’ve done the Polar Bear Plunge before, don’t need to do that again. It was also nice to play in the sand. Frisbees were thrown around and holes were dug, as well as some just took naps laying on the sand. The sun was shining and if it wasn’t for the breeze, it would have been very hot outside. Many girls got a little burnt on their faces and arms. Pretty relaxing and chill by the beach.
Other than the beach, there were a lot of small shops close to the water, and along the streets into the city. These shops were everything from shoe shops, to full FC Barcelona gear shops, to chocolate shops. A lot of the girls got presents today for their friends and family. Also, it was cool to see what the clothing style was like in Spain. I feel like from what I saw, a lot of the girl’s clothes were fancier and less comfy than in the US. Regular, boy cut, or bell bottom jeans are out of the question, only skinnies were sold that I could see. Also, not as many running/tennis shoes, they were more flats and heals.
We were on our own to find a good lunch spot in Sitges. Four of us found this pizzeria that had wild pizza choices. We all said that it reminded us of Mesa back home in Dinkytown. Instead of pizza though, I tried an empanada de pollo (Chicken Empanada). It was a lot like a spicy chicken pot pie. I also tried a Spanish bratwurst and that was a little spicier, but very close to the same. Both were very delicious and I would eat again.
After a good pregame meal of pasta, it was time for game two. Today we were playing CF Sant Gabriel. They are in the first division of the women’s semi pro league in Spain. We were all pumped from yesterday’s game, ready again to show Spain what Minnesota can do. The field was a little wider than yesterdays, but the turf was just as fast and had a lot of bounce. Hard surface to play on and hard one on your joints. Stands were small and there were not many locals who attended. Like many Big 10 games, the Gopher cheering section dominated the local crowd.
Anyway, the game started and right away you could tell they were great technically. They could all hit a long ball from defender to forward exactly where they wanted it with a superb first touch after. They were playing a 4-5-1 that turned into a 4-3-3 or even a 2-5-3 when they were attacking. They were passing the ball around us for the first 15 minutes. We finally settled in to how we like to play, but we could not get our possession to connect well enough. We had a couple of chances, but they finally got the first goal by pressing us in the defensive third. After half time, we were keeping the ball much better, but the final passes/touches were not quite there. Those last little passes/decisions between a goal and a counter attack were off. They got another two goals in the second half. One was from a good cross to a free girl that wasn’t marked, and the second was from their pressing us again. We got a couple of chances overall in the second half, but couldn’t put any away. The final score was 3-0. It was a real eye opener for all of us that we are not technically good enough and have a huge step to take in order to be as good as the team we played today. They played a very similar press and possession oriented style like we do, and they just played it better today. It was a good learning experience today, and we will have to apply it into tomorrow’s game against RCD Espanyol.
Goodbye for now!
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 7:07 p.m. CT (Minnesota)/2:07 a.m. CET (Barcelona)
As we continue along our trip in Barcelona, the days keep getting better and better! To start, we were able to sleep in a little longer today (a whole 45 minutes extra!) and got our day going on an hour bus ride to the city of Girona. It was a beautiful little place with cobblestone roads, a towering cathedral, and a quaint old town center; this is definitely a picturesque place you'd see in a movie. It was also nice being able to explore the city for a bit while taking in the warm, spring weather.
We then transferred over to another town, Figueres, to tour the Salvador Dalí museum. To be fair, the only piece I know of Dalí's is his painting,The Persistence of Memory (the one with the melting clocks), and I have always thought it was cool but odd at the same time. Now, amp the strangeness about 100 more times and you'll maybe be able to picture what this museum was like! He had all kinds of art - paintings, sculptures, furniture, and some interactive pieces. Even the outside of the building was completely decorated in sculptures of humans with baguettes on their heads. It was neat to explore though because every piece was different and extremely unique; I can see now how he has created such a name through his art. The museum was something I'm really glad to experience, and the team felt the same.
The only nice part about our two hour bus ride back to the hotel was that we were able to take a long nap. With a game fairly late that night, the nap was needed to recharge our batteries. When we arrived at the hotel, we walked through part of the downtown area to our pre-game meal. It was a buffet, with lots of healthy options such as salad and fruit and also a bit of meat and pasta. Afterwards, it was time to prepare for the game.
Monday, March 17, 2014 - 5:00 p.m. CT (Minnesota)/12 a.m. CET (Barcelona)
Rashida Beal, Freshman
Hello everyone! I am Rashida Beal, a freshman defender on the Gopher Soccer team. I plan to major in Psychology. For over 13 years soccer has been one of the most important things in my life, and it has now given me the opportunity to travel abroad. Being able to play against and witness a different style of play from the Spanish teams will be an experience that will have a large positive impact on my soccer career.
Today was yet another eventful, beautiful day in Spain. After breakfast at the hotel (again filled with delicious pastries, fruits, and juices) we headed off to the Monsterrat Mountain. It was about a 30 mile bus ride, which allowed many of the Gophers to catch up on some well needed sleep. The long, winding roads leading up to monastery on the mountain offered a gorgeous view of the cities below.
Many players took the opportunity to ride all the way up to the top of the mountain, on which we walked some of the path, climbed even higher on some rocks, and took many pictures of the scenery. From atop the mountain, we could see the rolling hills and trees for miles, all contrasted against a bright blue sky. The two pictures below demonstrate this remarkable landscape. Some others also had time to visit the museum, which had many different pieces from various Spanish artists and the church with the statue of La Moreneta (the Black Madonna).
After the Monsterrat, we returned to Camp Nou stadium (home of FC Barcelona) for a tour. The tour was comprised of the FC Barcelona museum (which had trophies, vintage gear, and other memorabilia), interactive videos depicting the history of the team, a stop at the visitors locker room, a close up view of the field, and the press box. We were able to walk up the same area that the Barcelona team enters before their games. It was amazing to be able to experience so much of the history of a world-leading soccer program.
After so many exciting tours, the team enjoyed having some free time this evening. Different groups explored different areas of the city, but my group headed to the harbor, which is a port on the river about 15-20 minutes away by foot. We also stopped for dinner at a local restaurant, where we ordered tapas (which are an assortment of appetizers) and our own entrees. On the way back, we had to stop for gelato! Each of us got three scoops with three different flavors. Some favorites were the mint chocolate chip, strawberry, cherry, and raspberry. Below are some pictures of the tapas and various items around the city.
Today offered some great sight-seeing alongside sunny, warm weather (a big change from Minnesota!!). Tomorrow we look forward to new scenery in some of the smaller cities, as well as our first spring game here in Barcelona against Badalona CF. We are all more than excited to be able to play an opponent as well as play here in Spain. Thank you again to those who contributed to this trip, as well as those who support our soccer team year round.
This experience will give us life-long memories and deepen our understanding of the soccer culture here in Europe.
Sunday, March 16, 2014 - 6:45 p.m. CT (Minnesota)/1:45 a.m. CET (Barcelona)
Katie Thyken, Junior
Hello Golden Gophers!
Katie Thyken reporting from Spain. I am a junior, majoring in Mechanical Engineering in the College of Science and Engineering. I play attacking center-midfield. It is the most fun position because you get to play offense and defense; you are always in the heart of the game. Can't wait until I get to try playing here in Spain. Thank you all so much for helping us experience this country.
Today was our first full day in Spain and it was AMAZING! Woke up bright and early to a traditional Spanish breakfast at the hotel. Lots of meat and cheese out as well as many pastries. The best part was all of the good fruits. Peaches, Pears, and Kiwi are all missed when you are in the middle of a MN winter. The croissants and Nutella was a good combo as well.
After the hearty breakfast, we had a bus tour around Barcelona city ending at the famous Park Gϋell. Park Gϋell was a famous "Park" intending to be a city center, with all city amenities, created by famous architect Antoni Gaudi. The architecture of the park was mind blowing. It was created mainly out of stone and had very intricate mosaics all around decorating the stone. Gaudi was inspired by nature and that could be seen in all of the buildings and structures. It was first green part of the city that we had seen with lots of trees and flowers. It also had some exquisite views of the whole city down below. It is something you truly have to see in person.
After the Park Gϋell, we went to see another of Gaudi's works La Sagrada Familia. It is a Roman Catholic Church in the heart of Barcelona that has been under construction since 1883. The church has progressed slowly over the years, and in expected to be finished in 2026 with the help of Gaudi's original view with the help of his sketches. This church is one of the biggest and most detailed ones I have ever seen. Each side had its own theme that encompassed a peace of Catholicism (Nativity, Glory, and Death). As an engineer, it shocks me that in 1883 they were able to build such a high and beautiful structure.
After the Sagrada Familia, the team needed a jog and stretch to get our legs ready for our game on Tuesday. Our strength and conditioning coach, Dan Warnke, ran us through the streets of Spain. Nice to run outside for once in about 5 months. Then lunch in a traditional Spanish bakery with a couple of teammates got us ready for the BARCELONA GAME!
Barcelona was playing Osasuna, a Spanish team from Pamplona. The stadium was huge and gorgeous, second only to ELR. The stadium was packed even with 4 levels of sections high. There was a section of diehard Barcelona fans sitting right behind the goal, singing and chanting the whole game. A couple of chants were noticeable so that we could cheer along. Osasuna had some good chances right away, but it was Barcelona who put away the first one. Messi got a sweet goal and the whole crowd went crazy. Cheering, chanting, hugging going on all around us. After that, Barcelona just dominated. They ended up getting two more in the first half and 4 more in the second, overall 7-0. Messi not only got a hat trick in the game and 1 assist, but he ended up breaking the all-time Barcelona goal scoring record with 371 goals. After that game, I definitely have to get a Messi jersey because he was unbelievable.
After the game, it was dinner time. A group of us went to a restaurant called Toto. It was a little restaurant with a wood fired oven and everything. I decided to be adventurous and asked for the waiter's recommendation and went with that. It was a streak with a great tart sauce. I ate every bite, but didn't quite lick the plate. So far, the food here in Spain has been excellent. The day wouldn't have been complete without chocolate and churros. I think I could eat that every night.
Day 1 was a blast and I am so excited for all that is to come in the next couple of days! Again thank you all for helping us get here, this is a dream come true! More to come later!
Saturday, March 15, 2014 - 5:00 p.m. CT (Minnesota)/12:00 a.m. CET (Barcelona)
Hi Gopher family and friends!This is Olivia Schultz here. I'm a junior currently majoring in biology in the College of Biological Sciences. I'm typically an attacking center midfielder for the team, but I dabble in the forward roles as well. This is my first-ever trip to Europe, so I'm beyond excited to be able to play soccer and visit a country that is such a leading force in the sport.
So after close to 20 hours of traveling, we finally made it to Barcelona. It was sunny and about 60 degrees, so I already was loving the change from the colder Minnesota weather. We then met our tour guide and headed to our hotel. The hotel is right in the middle of everything - shops, cafes, you name it. It'll be fun to continue to explore the area throughout the our stay. Once we found our rooms, most took a small nap then went out exploring before dinner. Later in the evening, we walked to a restaurant within a block from our hotel, and had a four course meal - tapas, a starter, the main course, and dessert. The team all thought that the starter, a seafood paella, was the main course, so you can only imagine the surprise when the waiters kept bringing out more food afterwards. Even with the dessert from the restaurant, a few of us immediately went to a nearby small cafe and ordered churros with chocolate. This is probably one of my ALL time favorite desserts, so it was only fitting to get them on my first night in Spain. Needless to say, they were amazing. And this is only the beginning! The real fun hasn't started yet.
Friday, March 14, 2014 - 12:25 p.m. CT (Minnesota)/6:25 p.m. CET (Barcelona)
Deana Waintraub, Assistant Coach
Today, we begin our travels to Barcelona, Spain, a trip that we have been planning and preparing for, for quite some time. It is a little hard to believe that it is already here...
From a soccer perspective, we started our competitive portion of our Spring earlier than usual and have now been on the ball, as a team, for 5 weeks. In that time we have been practicing diligently, and hosted two indoor tournaments, which included teams from the University of South Dakota, North Dakota State University, Iowa State University, Minnesota St Mankato, and Concordia St. Paul. We were victorious in both tournaments and have continued to train and compete against ourselves to further prepare for our opponents in Barcelona. We will be playing Badalona CF, FC Sant Gabriel, and RCD Espanyol, and we anticipate a very possession oriented style of soccer, which we feel that we will match up against quite nicely.
From a fundraising front, we have taken on several team endeavors from a Phone-A-Thon, to a Chip and Putt Social, to Schwan's Cares, Soccer Clinics, Applebee's Dining to Donate, and an Online Auction, and are so appreciative of all the support we have received from the community, Athletic Department, and the parents. Beyond all of these efforts, this trip would have been possible without the help and support of Deborah Olson. She is our #1 Fan and supporter, and we cannot thank her enough. She and Phil Simon will be joining us on our trip and will be able to share in our extraordinary opportunity.
During our final week of preparations, we have conducted several meetings with the team, made photocopies of all the passports, as well as distributed the bag tags, itineraries, and other necessary travel information. Our airport shuttle will pull out of the front of Bierman at 1:00PM SHARP and we will truly be on our way!
Throughout our trip, there will be a number of blog entries, pictures, videos posted on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Continue to check back daily and see what your Gopher Soccer team is up to in Spain. Until then #GophersInSpain, WE OUT!