Assistant Coach Darren Marshall traveled to Russia to coach the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) Girls U-17 Region I team in the 2014 Kuban Spring Tournament. Check out his blog as he recounts their experiences on and off the field!
My name is Darren Marshall and I am the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) Girls U-17 Region I Assistant Coach. We have taken a wonderful group of young ladies (view roster
) on a trip of a lifetime to the 2014 Kuban Spring Tournament in Sochi, Russia! Along the way I will write updates of how we are doing, but also, please like our Facebook page
to see pictures from our trip!
We have arrived on the first leg of our journey. We stopped in Istanbul for 48 hours before traveling to Sochi.
We all met at JFK airport, checked in and got ready for our flight. We lost one player, Sam, due to illness just hours before the trip, and she was crushed! Sam you are with us in spirit and we want you to get better soon. Keep your fingers crossed for us as we take on this adventure!
We landed in Istanbul, went to get our visas and then proceeded to passport control. As we looked around, we saw a friendly face, Alper. It was kind of weird to see him inside at customs but maybe things are a bit different than what we are used to in Turkey. Alper greeted us with a smile and a hug. We walked towards baggage claim and there was a police man following us watching the girls. Nervously I asked Alper what he was doing. He laughed and said, “You are guests of the Turkish Federation, so we want you to feel welcome and safe while you are here. We have the Turkish Federation Bus outside waiting for you. You will have a police escort with you during your trip.” We grabbed our bags and started to proceed through customs. The airport police officer walked us through and stopped traffic so we could walk to our bus. We loaded up, got on the bus and saw that we had a police car in front of us with its lights flashing, and a car behind us with a light on top and two traffic officers in it. They really rolled out the red carpet for us and it made us feel very special.
It’s now 7:30 am. We got to the hotel, had breakfast and dropped off our bags. Now it was time to see a little of the city. As we drive to our first stop, Alper tells us about the road we were on - a part of an aqueduct from ancient times - then he points across the Miramar Sea to two towers. He tells the girls, “Do you see that over there? Right now you are in Europe and over there is Asia.” So we were literally driving on the boarder of Europe. We get to the Blue Mosque and wow what a site! It was one thing to have heard about this but it was even more impressive in person. We stopped for a second to take a picture outside of it and then proceeded inside. We all had to take off our shoes and all of the girls had to cover their heads. We walked inside to see the beauty of the mosque that has been there since 1616. There was an area where we were allowed to take pictures so we walked over, but there were also parts that were sectioned off and we were not allowed to enter. We only looked from afar. In the back we saw a section that said ‘Women’s praying area.’ One of our security officers showed us a guide to the Mosque. He took us through as a group and showed us the detail and beauty of the history of the Mosque. Wow! They were so welcoming and hospitable to us to invite us in and treat us like this. Talk about impressive and touching. It was incredible. We then proceeded outside and headed to the Turkish Bazar for some shopping.
We went back for lunch and then headed off to training. Ian, the girls’ head coach, had a light session. We are excited to see that we have a very good team here. It is important for us to get things right as we have a great chance to make a run for the title here at the tournament.
After a great session we headed back to the hotel and found our friend Muge there. She was from the Turkish National team last year and is now working for the professional club Galatassary and their youth boys. She is the first woman Phiso in a Men’s professional club in Turkey and is doing great things! She also brought the staff and the girls a gift from the club! How awesome!
We had a wonderful day of sightseeing and training and now we are back at the hotel to crash! We have dinner and then bed! Tomorrow we play against Turkey and then we continue our trip to Sochi to play in the Kuban Spring tournament.