Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Our Final Friendly

As we write this, the team is preparing for its final friendly match at 9pm tonight, approximately 2 hours from the hotel.  Class was held after breakfast and for those veterans of the Europe tours with the men's soccer program, you will remember the Bear Bucks Auction!  Quiz 5 challenged the students to demonstrate their proficiency in art and 20th century Spanish history and cultural politics.

We also discussed yesterday's bus presentations by Korey Caster on Camp Nou, Demitri Kastrinakis on the insane genius of Salvador Dali, Ryan Dunnigan on the youth development system of the USA and Spain, Keven Cassidy on Gaudi and Modernism and Dalton Lewandowski on Spain's wheel sports industry. We are all looking forward to our final presentation by Chad Burke who will be summarizing his research on Picasso.

By the way, as we moved into our final round of quizzes the coaches and players are running nose to nose! We wanted to share with you some thoughts from the players about the things they missed about the comforts of home.  Here's the top twelve comforts we miss the most: our own beds, working air conditioning, the freedom of driving our own car, a washer and dryer- for clean clothes, consistent internet access, the gym, free and available cold water, home cooking, grass soccer fields, American TV, Gatorade, and American food.

Because we leave so early tomorrow morning for the airport and are not certain of internet access, let us sign off now. We can't wait to see you all when we touch ground back in the good ole USA.

The Insane Genius

Bonjour!  Off to France!

For our final city tour we traveled north to Perpignon, France.  Over the course of history this city has been part of Spain and part of France. Our local guide explained the complicated history of this city.  We were all enthralled with the beauty and the pleasant, cool air.  We visited religious and government buildings and learned of Perpignon's rise to power through its development of the fabric and cloth industry.

We had free time for lunch before heading to Figueres, Spain, the home of the Salvador Dali museum.

Dali was an eccentric artist who's body of work generated a lot of discussion among the students. Dali is best known for cubism and surrealism.

We had dinner back in Costa Brava at the hotel and students wandered the local boardwalk with its many vendors and family activities.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bits and Pieces of Observations and Thoughts from Our Group

Which member of the WNE men's soccer team has a budding career as a tenor?

Why is there so much graffiti in Spain?     We've noticed so much graffiti on public buildings; sidewalks, walls, and especially disappointing historic buildings and doors that appeared to have been there for centuries.

Why can't we get around like the Spanish?    There are so many transportation options in the cities that we have seen; rental bikes, motor bikes, bike lanes, bus lanes, metro and even double decker buses and small tourist transport trains.  Need we tell you how much we have walked?

Smoking is permitted.  It doesn't take much to find cigarette smokers and cigarette butts in very public places.

Ice is a rare commodity in Spain.  It's amazing that what we perceive is a cold drink and what the Spanish perceive as a cold drink is very different, in our experience.

Itty bitty elevators; barely room for two players and luggage.

Where are the public water fountains?

The pace of life and the siesta are very different from what we are used to as Americans.

Energy efficiency in the hotels includes using the key card to control the lights and AC.

Shower door design leads to puddles.

Food staples: pork and ham.

Taking a Closer Look at Spain's Sport Industry

After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we headed to Camp Nou, the home of F.C. Barcelona or "Barca."  The stadium is the anchor piece of a large sport-entertainment complex.  There is a tech-rich museum, Barca's famous youth development academy complex, retail, restaurants, a mega store, a hockey rink, and basketball and handball museum.  All of us couldn't help but think this facility had a mini "Disney village" feel.  There were lots of tourists moving throughout the complex with a personal audio tour device.  The integration of technology throughout the stadium was impressive and we just happened to be there the day that the club was announcing the signing of Thomas Vermaeven, formerly of Arsenal F.C. of the E.P.L.  There was a live telecast of the event and the students were able to watch as the event unfolded on large screen televisions located throughout the large outdoor concourse area.  Students had a great opportunity to identify elements of Catalan culture woven into the complex compared to what the group had previously seen at Real Madrid's home stadium.  After spending some time and  euros in the stadium three story gift store, we boarded the bus and headed out of the city.

Along the way, the class heard presentations about the state of sport in Spain from Neil Williams who identified the Barcelona Olympics as a significant event in the modern growth and development of Spain's sport industry.  Doug Castellano in comparing Ronaldo and Messi provided the group with fodder for a provocative discussion about the role of futbol in Spanish culture, the integration of foreign players into La Liga....and of course, the age old question of who are the best futbol players of all time.  It is probably no surprise to you that the Messi vs. Rondaldo debate is a contentious one and that ultimately, the group agreed that each athlete has contributed in meaningful ways both from a cultural and business standpoint to their respective franchises.  Lastly, Scott Trautwein presented research on the state of the Spanish sport industry.  His talk featured a summary of current world class professional athletes ranging from Nadol to Gasol.

After arriving in Costa Brava, the students and coaches checked into our seaside hotel and spent free time exploring the area.  We held an early evening class where we continued to discuss the cultural and historical etiology of the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barca, dating back to the Spanish Civil War and Spain under Franco.  Quiz three results were given and YES, you guessed it....the coaches and the students quiz scores were tied!  Quiz four was administered....stay tuned for the results.

The class closed with a discussion of the continued call for independence by Catalonia.  Students recounted several observations and experiences that spoke directly to the on-going push and pull between Madrid/the traditional Spanish nationalists and Catelonia.  The hotel is just teeming with people.  This is the largest facility we have stayed in.  Interestingly enough, the water flowing from the taps in the rooms is salt water so many of us made a bottled water run to the local market.  Dinner was a large scale buffet and tomorrow we head off to France for a one day visit with a stop at the Salvador Dali museum.  

Catalonia at its best!

On Saturday morning we visited the famous Sagrada Familia Basilica.  This was a much anticipated visit as students had studied about this famous building as part of the online course, pre-travel.  There is really no way to describe this master work by Spain's most famous architect, Antonio Gaudi.  His work represents modernism in Spain and is very symbolic of the Catalonian spirit.  The work incorporates nature and color and light in most unusual ways but to amazing effect. Ask one of the students if you are interested to hear more but you can't find a straight line in Gaudi's work.

After our visit to the Sagrada Familia, we spent some free time doing last minute shopping in Barcelona.  We grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the hotel where some of the players took the opportunity for a short siesta before our fourth friendly game against F.C. Gava.  The game was held at a local sport center about 30 minutes from our hotel.  Imagine our surprise to see a baseball field located directly next to the soccer pitch.  This is the first baseball field that we have seen. The field was turf and the water canons were in full operation. The Golden Bears came out strong against this seasoned F.C. Gava team.  Many of the things that were discussed in the training session the previous night were points of emphasis of the players, according to Coach Sullivan. The Spanish style of play was in full evidence and it was another tough evening for the Golden Bears. In keeping with the Catalonian reputation, the club members were friendly and welcoming.  There was a good local crowd in attendance and clearly we saw the importance of futbol to the local community as fans of all ages sat under the trees.

After the game we enjoyed a typical Catalan meal at a local restaurant. We were served twelve tapas.  Tapas are roughly equivalent to appetizers such as cheese, potatos and meats. The team enjoyed sampling the wide variety of offerings. One of the highlights of the evening was the celebration of Dalton's birthday. The restaurant piped in a version of  Happy Birthday and we all sang along.  Our tour coordinator, Sylvia,  arranged a special cake for Dalton. Dalton will always remember his 19th birthday playing soccer in Spain. Tired and full, we returned to the hotel after midnight.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Captain's Blog

Hola mis amigos(as)... As you all know, the men's soccer team has been having a once in a life time experience here in Spain. Here in Spain we have had the amazing experience to play futbol against some very high quality and experienced soccer teams. Last night we experienced playing against a local team,  F.C. Vilafranca in the outskirts of Barcelona. As we got to the game we walked into a small stadium that had sprinklers wetting down the field with some local fans in the stands. We did not get the result we would have liked, but we are getting to play against some of the best teams we will ever play in our lives. These teams and players have been playing their entire lives, living and breathing the game. Playing against these teams is an eye opening experience, seeing the speed and accuracy of their passing and movements on and off the ball. This style of play has been very challenging to compete with but provides amazing practice for us and hopefully will give us a competitive advantage for the upcoming season. Although the results of these matches haven’t been in favor of our team, we look to take out positives from this experience and learn from each game.

We are currently in Barcelona and it is an amazing atmosphere that reminds me of a Spanish New York City. People of all ethnicity and cultural diversity swarm the street talking a mix of languages and accents. The city square, Placa de Catalunya, can be compared to Broadway. Hundreds of thousands of people walk the street of Las Ramblas shopping and eating the cultural food. Off this street are narrow alleys that sell anything from high quality olive oils, to one of a kind jewelry. Today we got to experience a three hour walking and bus tour of Barcelona. We left our hotel around 9:15 and took a bus ride up to the hills of Barcelona where we took our first stop at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic stadium. This stadium was located up within the hills that over look the city and it was an amazing view of the city. At the top of these hills our team was able to see Sagrada Familia that stood out like a sore thumb towering over the local buildings and apartments. After leaving the hills we soon arrived in a small marina/sea port. Here we took our second stop where we walked across a  board walk that over looked a  beach. This beach was a smaller and a quieter atmosphere compared to Valencia but was a nice view of the Mediterranean sailors port. Once leaving the shore we then hit the real part of the tour where we then stopped back at the city square where we followed our guide Anna through the small alley ways.The afternoon was spent on our on exploring the area and grabbing a bite to eat.

We had a light training session from 5 to 7pm followed by dinner at the hotel.

Your guest blogger, Chris Bruton, Captain (Management and Leadership major and Center Back)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Most Unusual Sight

We're on the road again...after breakfast, we loaded up the bus and headed north along the east coast of Spain to Barcelona.  It's about a four hour drive and we stopped  half way along the road for a quick break at an amazing rest area with a view of the Mediterranean Sea.  You don't see that back home on the turnpike!!!  En route, we heard two presentations.  Bus presentations are a great way to learn more about student research and individual student's interests.  It's also a great way to educate the group and effectively use our time in transit.  Thursday's presentations were delivered by Lucas Hayden who spoke about the history of Spanish weaponry and metal fabrication.  Chris Bruton shared his expertise on Spanish inventors.  Lots of interesting questions were asked of the two who demonstrated great mastery of their subject areas.

Upon arriving in Barcelona, the bus dropped us off at Barcelona's famed Las Ramblas.  Imagine Boston's Quincy Market and New York Times Square for miles and miles!  It was crowded and there were lots of tourists and vendors displaying their wares.  Street performers and artists and a huge open air food market added to the experience.  Dynamic, colorful, and rich....you certainly had a sense that we were in Spain's second largest and considered to be most modern city, the wonderful BARCELONA!

We checked in to our hotel in the city district and had a great pre-game dinner.  Everyone has commented on the excellent service we have received in all of our hotels.  Right after dinner, we left for our third friendly game.  The match was held about an hour from the hotel in a sport complex.  We learned that the club is about to celebrate it's 110th anniversary.  We played Vilafranca F.C. and local media was in attendance.  The Golden Bears lost 6-0 in our best showing of the trip.

A most unusual sight?  The guys were asked to put on jerseys provided by the home team so that they would have numbers on both sides of their shirts.  To be quiet honest, our team looked great in the black and white stripped jerseys but it was quite a shock to see the guys in any other color than our whites or Golden Bear blue and gold!  After the match, we were treated to a buffet supper and a local fruit drink provided by the home team...a sort of Spanish post game tailgate party.  We had a chance to visit with the local club manager and swap pins!  Thanks, Professor Hamakawa, Director of Center for International Sport Business in the College of Business, for providing us with a handful of F.C. Golden Bear lapel pins to share.  It was a beautiful cool night and we loaded back on the bus and headed back to the hotel.