Another beautiful morning in Madrid has lead to yet another unforgettable series of experiences. The team woke up this morning for their final training session located back at Real Madrid’s training complex. With both games out of the way, today brought a very low key and enjoyable mood that allowed for the team and coaches to interact with the Madrid staff in a casual practice. With the alumni and other guests in attendance, what started off as a heavy warm-up session quickly transitioned into a thrilling tournament of soccer tennis. Guests, alumni, players, and both FU and Madrid coaches joined in on the action. It was exciting indeed. There were a lot of hard fought battles out on the field today but Clint Ritter and Bennett Yort walked away with the “silverware” as they defeated Lewis Hawke and Graham Seagraves in an edge-of-your-seat title game. After the soccer tennis wrapped up, a small game of 9v9 was established between coaches, players, and alumni to wrap up a great week of soccer.
One of the primary focuses of this trip was to not only allow for the team to experience world class soccer and play where world class soccer lives, but also to become more cultured and gain an appreciation for a world that is to most – unknown. This afternoon everyone piled on the bus for a citywide tour of Madrid. It was a jam-packed 4 hours of information that enabled to players to become much more knowledgeable about the Spanish and the customs they practice and the culture they portray. First, we were told about how the country came to be and the shifts in leadership and power as well as the strategy as to why Madrid was the capital and the reasoning behind its strategic geographical design. All of this told right on the steps of the Royal Palace of Madrid. We continued on to more central Madrid as we learned about the famous novel Don Quixote of La Mancha and the cultural background that it provided, as well as the famous bear and tree crest that really defined a lot of what Madrid was built upon. The more of inner Madrid that we experienced the more history we saw impacting the architecture in the surrounding buildings. From the 1500’s to the 1900’s, we viewed a series of architectural eras that did a great job of reflecting the history and culture of the city. Overall - a great tour.
Another one of the focuses that this trip was created with, was the idea of was to link current players to the former ones. With a solid group of alumni already in attendance, the players have had incredible opportunities this past week in getting to know the predecessors to the program. With that being said, today we were blessed with running into one of our previous Paladins who lives here in Madrid! Mark Gabriel, a graduate of the Class of 2013, works here in Madrid where he teaches kids at a local school the subject of English through both science and physical education courses. We caught up with Mark at dinner and asked him what one of his favorite things about the program was - “Furman was a great program to be involved in, it has given me and still gives me a lot of support through both soccer and the network it provides for me today.” As one of the program’s top priorities of this trip, it is always nice to see just how well the alumni can pour into the lives of these players both currently and when they move on to pursuing careers in the real world.
Overall, and excellent day was had by all – enjoy some snapshots below!