Fútbol (or soccer) has always been my favorite sport. I’ve played for fun the past several years back home, but when I moved to a Latin American country, I surprisingly found it more difficult to come across similar opportunities. In Chile, women playing fútbol for fun is not exactly all that common, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. And while I may have played on co-ed teams back home, that’s really not a thing here either.
All that to say, I hadn’t really been giving the sport much thought lately, but my lovely roommate who knows I love to play called me one day while she was at work, telling me one of her patients plays for an all girls league and was wondering if I would be interested.
Now, there are a couple interesting things about how this started:
- It started with a phone call in Spanish, which went smoothly and was reasonably understood. If I compare that with the first time my roommate ever called me, which turned out to be an inevitable disaster, I feel pretty good about the whole thing.
- Things happened right away. Within minutes of this phone call, another girl was contacting me through messages, gathering my details and giving me the scoop. I was soon signed up and ready to go…and officially added to the team’s WhatsApp group.
Ok, so think for a second about the way you may text your friends in English sometimes…or even the way you used to. Things like “where r u?”, “whatcha doin?”, “rotfl”, etc.
Now, imagine that in your second language. And I don’t just mean Spanish in my case, I mean Chilean. Thanks to my being here for some time now and for my roommate helping me understand her abbreviations in her texting, I’m able to catch on to some. But, Lord help me, it takes a lot of effort to read through those messages.
Here are some examples:
“Bkn” = Bakan. (Chilean word for cool, great, awesome, etc.)
“wna” = Wena. (This is basically “buena”)
“Sí po” = This is the equivalent of “sí”in any other country, but Chileans like to add “po” to the end of everything. The word is meaningless, but it definitely marks a Chilean.
“tb” = también (also)
“Chuu” = chuta (soft exclamation)
“acá en mi Ksa” = “here in my house”, the ksa means casa
“Ake ora c jugara..oy” = A qué hora se jugara..hoy (wow, this one was really just out of control)
“Pk sipo”= “porque sí” or basically “because it does,” and the “sipo” is another written version of the added on “po”
“Xfis” = I love this one. This means “porfis” which is basically a loving way to ask “por favor” or “please”. My roommate calls it “un por favor amoroso.”
Ok, so aside from all the written confusion, last Thursday we had our first game and it was time for me to meet these girls for the first time. I am oh so thankful that some girls coordinated a meeting spot in one of the metro stations before the game, because we then took a bus and walked up a dirt road on a dark hill to get to the fields that were located at the very top. If I had arrived at the hill by myself, I would’ve just been lost.
On my way to meet these girls I was starting to think, “What am I doing?” It’s already pressure enough to join a team of a bunch of strangers and hope you’ll mesh well, but doing that in your second language? Before you have it mastered? I can tell you I was really quiet in the beginning. Thankfully, I had some successful conversations or exchanges with a few of the girls. In fact, the entire walk up the hill I was chatting it up with a really nice girl on the team. The thing is, when people talk to me and then when they talk to each other in their native language, it’s always different. Jokes being made and rapid comments quickly exchanged…it was insanely difficult to follow. Of course, I know at this point that I know more than I give myself credit for, but it was a lot of pressure nonetheless.
They let me play right defender all of the first and most of the second half. I was loving it! Getting back out there, sprinting down the field to beat someone to the ball or kicking it away from them…all the thrill of the sport came rushing back. To balance it out, however, there was a member of the team (something like an assistant coach I think) on my side of the field yelling out directions to me for the entire first half. She didn’t really focus on the others either – just me. As I haven’t quite learned all the fútbol commands in Spanish, I was stressing out wondering what the heck she wanted me to do. And I couldn’t run over for a pow-wow with her because we were on a small field with only 7 players and the action was constant. So I just kept hearing “Heidi, [rapid Spanish command]! Dale! Dale!”
Not to mention that during half time she told the whole team “La Heidi no me entendía!” This is one of those many moments you have to learn to just laugh at yourself. We all laughed. I reenacted my fear showing how confused I was out there, and they laughed and were all very nice about it. I also got some compliments after the game!
So I did it! I have joined and played with a team where not one of them speaks a word of English (or if they do they sure don’t show it). We won 9-1 that game so I’m feeling pretty good about our outlook for the season. There will be more stories to tell about this experience I’m sure of it.
I wonder if I’ll earn the nickname “la rubia” (the blonde) because I’m the only one on the team!
Oh, and one more fun fact about this, the league we play in is for “baby fútbol”. I actually had to go to stores and ask for “zapatos de baby”, but I clarified that they were for fútbol of course. This is basically fútbol played on a small field with artificial turf, 7 players, and different shoes (no cleats). Love the name!