The Amputee World Cup is very similar to the regular World Cup. Teams play round-robin within groups before top finishers advance to the elimination rounds. The US drew Group E which includes Iran, Japan, and highly regarded Turkey. I decided that today would be the best day for a team photo, anticipating that players will be increasingly banged up and sun burned with each passing day. This is the strongest team the US has ever fielded although our goalies are both rookies and late additions to the squad.
The US faced Japan in their opening match. The game was scoreless at the half with the US squad looking more dominant. Midway through the second half, our goalie was red-carded for stepping outside of the box and Japan was given a penalty kick. This infraction is unique to amputee soccer, designed to keep goalies from thwarting break away opportunities. In this case our goalie lost track of where he was, took two steps outside of the box, made no contact with the ball (which went out of bounds by itself) or any players. His excursion had no effect whatsoever on the play but the consequences were devastating. We lost our starting keeper for this match and the next one and had to play a man short for the remainder of the game (much more punitive than regular soccer with only 6 field players to a side.) Our backup keeper got his first dose of amputee soccer facing a penalty kick from 7m which he was unable to save. Despite being down a man, the US still dominated for the remainder of the match but were unable to equalize the score. Nico had a great game and Maya captured the full match on video which I will post when we return to the US.
Opening ceremonies were held in the evening and included remarks by tournament officials and local dignitaries, introduction of the teams, a performance of traditional Mexican dance, all culminating with fireworks.
Nicolai was named co-captain of the US national team this morning. He shares that honor with 5-time World Cup veteran, Ignacio “Nacho” Medrano. I had to hold back tears of joy as the image of him at birth flashed into my mind. I remember feeling great sadness assuming he would never know the joys of athletic competition. I have never been so blessed with being so wrong. We are very proud of what Nico has achieved and the inspiration he has provided to so many.
The team practiced for 90 minutes and reviewed a couple of set plays. We watched the team from Japan practicing on an adjacent field and it is clear the US will have an up hill battle when they face them tomorrow.
Later in the day we met up with Burton Craige, the husband of my cousin, Heather. He has come for the World Cup games along with his brother, Tito, who was delayed in Monterrey but will be joining us tomorrow. Burton directed us to a very authentic seafood restaurant where we enjoyed a very nice dinner and taste of the local culture.
The family departed for Culiacan, Mexico where the 2014 Amputee World Cup soccer tournament is being held. Kyle and I are hoping to make a side excursion to the Copper Canyon region of Sinaloa depending on how the US team fares in the competition. Nicolai could not be more excited about this opportunity to play on the world stage. He has been training at school and is definitely up to the challenge.
For the second year in a row, Jeanine and I participated in the Concord 5K Turkey Trot, a fundraiser for our local running club and food drive for Open Table. I save actual trotting (and knee wear) for the soccer pitch. We completed our walk in 52 minutes and were undaunted by the 32F temperature. Good exercise for a good cause and a great way to justify portion size during Thanksgiving Day dinner. Jeanine prepared a veritable feast and it was wonderful having all the kids together for the first time in a long while.
Just in time for Thanksgiving we have been treated to a couple inches of snow. I don’t usually like to shoot through glass, but the light was exquisite and I did not want to risk missing it while I put on shoes. I now know where the expression “picture window” comes from.
Nico arrived early this morning on the red-eye from Colorado to join the family for Thanksgiving. We are all five under the same roof again and it feels great. Nico is also featured in the latest promotion from SideStix, the manufacturer of his crutches. They are offering a 20% discount through the end of the year for all World Cup participants.
On the way home from work I encountered one of the most vibrant red skies ever. I briefly paused traffic to get the shot as did many other drivers with their cell phones.
I managed to reach Great Meadows before the light show ended.
A gift from her father, Jeanine’s lemon tree has been very fruitful. One of the recollections in the memoir cookbook she is writing is centered on the lemon tree of her father and she asked if I would capture an image to accompany the story. The tree currently has six lemons, five of which are ripe.
Mother swan and her three cygnets out for a liesurely paddle on Sabbatic Lake. This photo is the only positive outcome of a one hour journey to Taunton this morning where the Division 1 Over-50 Soccer Championship was contested. My team’s lackluster performance allowed Western Mass Lusitano to win by a score of 2-1 and secure first place honors and the trophy. Hard to be disappointed with a second place finish in a field of 66 teams, but I am. We beat this team earlier in the season and it would have been very nice to do it again this morning.
Jeanine and I slipped away this morning for brunch at our favorite spot for this meal, Nancy’s Airfield Cafe. The food is locally sourced and expertly prepared if somewhat over priced. We both ordered “Green Eggs and Ham” which we enjoyed while watching several planes coming and going. Our conversation was centered an the idea of learning to fly and buying a plane. No decision was made but it remains a possibility still under considered.
A visit from nephew John Quinn was all the motivation necessary for Jeanine to prepare a small feast. The menu included several items from one of her favorite cookbooks featuring the foods of Jerusalem. I was too busy enjoying the roasted sweet potatoes and fresh fig salad to photograph it.
For all the photos I take, I have been reluctant to print many. Perhaps it is because I spend so much time viewing them on a computer monitor which features emitted light rather than the reflected light of a print. About two years ago, I mounted a 47″ flat screen TV on the wall in our breakfast nook where a slideshow of some of my better photos runs continuously. A large digital picture frame if you will. With the recent arrival of 4K TVs on the market, I decided to upgrade to a 55″ model which features 8 million pixels compared to 2 million. I have never enjoyed my photographs so much.
Jeanine appeared on the cover of the Concord Journal this week. She accepted a donation for Open Table generated by an event at the Concord Umbrella, our local artist studio enclave. Donors purchased “Empty Bowls” fashioned by local pottery students with all the proceeds going to feed the hungry.
Autumn has given way to winter with temperatures plunging this week to below freezing. Ponds and marshes are beginning to ice over and soon we can look forward to snow. Images of sun drenched Mexican beaches are starting to become more vivid in this final week before we leave for Culiacan.
Growing up, I attended the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady with my family. This past Sunday my mother (pictured left) was honored for her 50 year membership in the society along with one other member who had reached this milestone. Raised Catholic, my mother was reluctant to embrace a new religion but did so after some coaxing from my father who was a quick convert after attending his first service. Attracted by Unitarian’s acceptance of other religions, she also found a home in the society and went on to volunteer as the chair of the Visual Arts Committee, the performing arts committee, and teaching arts and crafts to the young children.
I have fond memories of my religious up bringing and feel fortunate for the decisions my parents made.
The group pairings for the amputee World Cup have been posted. The USA drew Group E which contains Turkey, a perennial powerhouse. Nico is positively revved up for the tournament and we are all looking forward to our trip to Mexico and watching him compete.
I have now been a member of the Concord United soccer team for eleven years, first on the Over-40 squad and now with the 0ver-50 team. The club has been around for twenty years and in that time has never won a match against Stoneham, a club that invariably wins the northern division regionals and more often than not, the Division 1 championship. Today that all changed during our semi-final match with them. Ninety minutes of play had us tied. Thirty minutes of overtime produced the same result. Penalty kicks were tied 3-3 after five rounds. It then came down to sudden death penalty kicks which went to eight rounds before our goalie made a decisive save giving us the win. We celebrated at a local pub and I think it is the most meaningful victory we have ever enjoyed. We now advance to the finals next weekend and we have a solid chance of winning the whole enchilada.
Dressed for a night out on the town, Maya looked lovely as she prepared to join her friends for a birthday party being held at a restaurant in the North End. I spent the day winterizing the house which includes turning off the outside water, purging the irrigation system, setting up snow sticks along the edges of the driveway (so you know where to snow blow when everything is covered in white), and assisting Kyle who got a good start on cleaning the gutters.