This past Saturday, Kim and I took the train over to Utrecht to do some exploring. As we got off the train we were welcomed by the biggest indoor mall in the Netherlands. We decided we should go see the famous church, canals, and have lunch before we went crazy shopping! As we walked towards the Domkerk, cameras in hand (just being a tourist!), we were stopped by a lady who informed us that there was a parade going on for Sinterklaas!
(For those of you that don't know... most of you probably... Sinterklaas is in other words the Dutch Santa Claus. Although the holiday is actually not celebrated until the evening of December 5th, Sinterklaas arrives a couple weeks earlier by boat from Spain. Sinterklaas is considered a patron saint of children and sailors. Originally, he was a bishop in modern-day Turkey. In medieval times, the feast was both an occasion to help the poor, by giving them food and putting money in their shoes. Today, the children put out a shoe at night and get little goodies in them from Sinterklaas the next morning. It is said that Sinterklaas was accompanied by a little black boy, whom they call Zwarte Piet. Today, there are many Zwarte Piet's, and everyone seems to love dressing like them! Typical treats that kids receive in their shoes are: Chocolate Letters, Papernotes [small, round gingerbread-like cookies], and small toys.)
So.... Saturday was the day that Sinterklaas arrived with all of the Zwarte Piet's! I knew about the holiday already, but the kids had been telling me all week that Sinterklaas was in Holland, and I was confused as to why until the parade! It was pretty cool to watch because the parade was actually by boat on the canals! As the Zwarte Piet's came by, they sang the traditional Sinterklaas song, and all the children sang along! It was fun to see all the children dressed in their Zwarte Piet outfits as well! Reminded me a bit of Christmas at home. Have to love the holiday spirit!!
After this, we finally wandered over to the church and it's famous tower, only to find the parade had also gathered there! The tower and church were once connected, but a storm took out a large part of the church, leaving a sizable courtyard in the middle. This is where the parade seemed to accumulate, including a band of Zwarte Piet musicians! We stayed for a bit and enjoyed the sights, but eventually decided that shopping was calling our name!
After a few hours and some damage done to the bank account (not that much damage..!!), we had to head back to Den Haag to meet up with some teammates for dinner and movie! We joined Steph, Lizzie, and Becky (who plays at Bloomendaal) to see Due Date. (Review: If you liked the Hangover, you will like this movie. Very funny!) Following many laughs, we went to a local cafe in the middle of town for a nice dinner. It was a very relaxing night in the wake of a busy day. At least I know that if I need to do any more shopping while I'm here... Utrecht here I come!
This past week we played games on Sunday, Wednesday and again on Sunday. After getting our first win against Kampong that first Sunday, I was excited for the rest of the week. Not only had we got that monkey off our shoulder, our games on Wednesday and Sunday were against Klein Zwitserland and Pinoke, both winnable games. KZ is right down the road in Den Haag and was sitting at the bottom of the Hoofdklasse with just 2 ties. We had known their pain until a few days prior. We weren’t ready to let up though. In fact, we were just getting started! As we took the pitch Wednesday night under the lights, we came out strong, dominating the game and taking a 1-0 lead . Despite our commanding play, we once again were unable to generate a lot of return in our attacking zone. Then, with 10 minutes left in the game, we got a yellow card- just like against Kampong. This time though, we did not hold our composure as well. We got another yellow card just minutes later. With only 9 players on the field, KZ took advantage of our 2-man deficit and earned a corner which gave them the game-tying goal. With just minutes left to play, we were not ready to give up that easy. We fought, despite a player down, to create opportunities, but the time and the 3 points we were chasing seemed to just slip away. It felt like another loss. Although we still got a point in the standings, we knew we let an important win get away from us.
Frustrated and disappointed, we still had to take away the many good things we did in the game. We have to keep playing like that- but for a whole 70 minutes, and we will get results. At times we need to be a bit smarter in attack, including earning more corners and quality shots. Also, we need to be a bit smarter about game situations and the time of game. In other words recognize when we are winning, when we are player down (or 2), and when we need to stay composed to manage the clock.
The last Sunday we played Pinoke, who traveled to our home turf from Amsterdam. Although I thought we were ready to keeping taking a step forward from the last two games, we came out flat in the first half. We gave up a goal off a corner to leave ourselves with a 1-0 deficit going into halftime. Even with a second half surge, we couldn’t find the back of the net. Once again, we left the field empty handed. It can be mentally difficult to see yourself at the bottom of the league, when you know you have the skill to be in the mix of things, competing with everyone. But, it is a team sport, where everyone plays a role, and the discipline and effort must be given for a full 70 minutes. Every team is good in the Hoofdklasse, and no one can be overlooked. That is the beauty of it. You must show up to play every Sunday.
This coming weekend we play at Den Bosch. They are currently vying for the top spot and they have won the majority of the championships in the past 10 years. But we have nothing to lose. We have no expectations. We are the underdogs, and we are going to continue to fight!