Today signified the conclusion to our tour over here in Spain. While we have had a blast playing, learning, and experiencing different things, the general consensus amongst the team leans towards a wanting to be back in the states. Since this was our last day nothing was on the agenda for the majority of the day. Other than lunch being scheduled, the rest of the day we were given free reign to explore the other parts of Madrid we all enjoy. Popular places like Calle Street, and the Mercado de San Miguel, located in the famous Plaza Mayor, hosted an assortment of restaurants, shops, and even a Pro-Life festival – and it was all available by foot! One of the important things that was focused on in last nights dinner was the importance of family, and how valuable it really is. With that being said, Coach Allison challenged a lot of the players who went out to shop today to buy a post card and send it to their loved ones in reflection of just how much they appreciate them. In addition, it was also evident that we had to go through a “Postcard 101” course as a result of some failed attempts to mail them (believe me it was funny). Continuing on through the day, after everyone completed their shopping, we reconvened back at the hotel around 6 pm for a quick bite to eat before we headed out to our night activity.
Rayo Vallecano vs. Granada was our final team endeavor before we departed from Spain. Looking back to the previous games we attended, it was hard to see how it could get better than what we experienced. Despite watching Barcelona and Real Madrid earlier this week there was something very exciting and cozy about viewing a smaller league match. With both of these clubs (Rayo Vallecano was saw play earlier against Barcelona) being smaller in relation to the giants of Spain, we were able to experience a true and genuine fanatic intensity that could have only been displayed by the die-hards that follow these small clubs. It was an amazing game. With Rayo, the home team, being down 1-0 at half - it prepared us for an intense second half. With the score ending up 3-1 in favor of Rayo, we witnessed a true soccer match that was added to our other collection of great games from this week. 18 goals scored in the 3 matches we attended – wow.
The conclusion of the match indicated the end of our Spain experience. There was a unanimous exhaustion that was given to us from our crazy week, but a in a very good way. Before the game, Mark Gabriel (alumni living in Madrid) stopped by the hotel to say a few words of wisdom and pass along the importance of staying involved with the program both inside and out of soccer. The objective of this week was to experience the beauty, soccer, and culture of Spain and through that grow closer to each other – alumni, guests, coaches, and players included. That goal was reached. What felt like just a program at the beginning of the week soon turned into a family feeling that has enabled a sense of accountability between us all. Throughout the week and all the activities that this trip provided, I can honestly say as a by stander, that there was a huge difference between the beginning of the weeks interaction up until now. Coach Allison always asks the players, “Why do you do, what you do?” in an effort to spark a thought about what one of the purposes of life is – and last night a senior answered with this, “We do what we do because of what has been done for us”. This team will walk away from Spain with some insane experiences that will probably only be had once in a lifetime, but more importantly it walks away with a family. The goal now for the boys is to continue to work hard for the program and reflect the same kind of love that has been bestowed upon them by family and the alumni. And once again, there isn’t enough gratitude in the world that can be given to those who have enabled us to partake in this Spanish adventure. Hopefully upon our arrival back to the states it will be evident that everyone's investments for this trip were good ones.