Fairly often I look up from whatever I am doing and think “I’m a lucky sod”. Recently such moments happened far more frequently than usual. (And here Sod= unworthy individual)
It happened so often beacuse I spent a week in the remote countryside around the town of Aurich, which is near the North Sea coast. I was here working alongside the Netherlands National Football Team, the German National Football team, dedicated hotel staff, and some loving regional club managers to stage two international friendly games between the under 15 men’s teams.
My role was to make sure that the team from the Netherlands was comfortable and had everything they required for their training, studies and so forth. Therefore I spent the week with the Dutch team, accompanying them, joking with them, and running errands for them. We worked from day to day and as the week went on I became somewhat more comfortable in my role, but I still think I lack a sense of foresight, which can only be gained through practice, and an awareness of the structure of these kinds of events.
My work was made easier by the fact that the Dutch team were wonderfully easy going, while also clear in their requests and complaints. In response the personnel in the Hotel were generally fast and forthcoming, and everything was sorted quickly. And the games themselves turned out to be the easy bit for me, because there were so many people on hand in Leer and Wilhelmshaven to assist in any way possible.
For me personally it was also incredibly rewarding. Possibly one of the biggest burdens (financial aside) of unemployment, is the feeling of uselessness that has crept into my everyday life. While I am very good at filling my time, there is a distinct difference between feeling that one is being helpful, useful and productive, and just filling time. As such, even though I was far from being well-versed in the art of being a Team Liaison Officer, this job was great for me. I felt like I was working for something, that I was helping create something.
This meant that arriving in Leer and finding a stadium full of kids because they all got a day off school was really fulfilling. Realistically it was an honour for the organisers and the players, some of whom were representing their country for the first time. But with my DFB badge I felt like I had somehow contributed, if just a little bit. Unfortunately, ‘my’ team, the Netherlands, got off to a poor start. This meant that when they came back after the half time and really started showing what they are capable of, they were already down one goal. After plenty of chances, the score unfortunately remained the same.
Two days later however, after plenty of friendly jokes, an official dinner and a chilled dinner with a mountain of pizzas, the Netherlands had a second chance and made the most of it. The game took place in Wilhelmshaven, a much larger stadium, but with fewer spectators (no school day off). This time the Dutch boys took the lead and then managed to regain momentum after a second-half tie and settle the game 2-1. The team played with more energy, more commitment and succeeded in keeping the pressure on. And I cheered like a true Netherlands fan.