Мини–Футбол (Or, My Amazing Soccer Team)

April 23, 2012

The girls on the soccer team have been a huge part of my life this year in Russia. In the fall, I understood about a third of everything they said – now, 95%, the remaining 5% of which is slang. For example, “плюс сто пятьсот” (plus five hundred) is the equivalent of a very emphatic “me, too!” As far as I understood the explanation, this came from some viral video on You Tube, and is very, very slang. The girls are quick to warn me which new words and phrases should not be used with my professors. One of the older girls, Anya, sometimes drives me home after practice, since it’s on her way home, and our car rides are always lessons in Russian sayings and expressions.

Mini-football/ mini-soccer is played on a parquet wood floor, similar to a basketball court (or occasionally, an actual basketball court). There are four players and a goalie, and the rules are such that goalies do not play a very active role in the general flow of the game – passes back to the goalie are very limited, so it’s really just the four players on the field. Technique is a bit different from playing on grass or artificial turf – 95% of first touches on the ball are with the bottom of the foot, which offers more control on the wood flooring. Chipping the ball into the air for long passes is common, although in general headers and volleys occur with much less frequency than on the “большое поле” – the big (grass) field.

This past week we played in a weeklong tournament. We won our first two games – I scored a hat trick in the first) and then on Friday we played the strongest team in our group to determine who would move on to the semifinals in first place in the group. They scored two goals early in the first half, then partway through the second half their goalie deflected a long shot right to me, and I scored. With literally a minute and a half to go, we had a corner kick. I was standing roughly at the top of the three-point line, if you’re thinking of a basketball court, and our captain Natasha chipped the ball to me. I one-touch volleyed the ball to the left-hand corner of the goal. Volleys out of the air are pretty common fare on the big field, so to me it was exciting that we scored, but the goal wasn’t particularly special. However, all my teammates wanted a breakdown of how exactly I scored of a volley. We lost on Saturday, so we ended up playing for third place on Sunday, against the same team as Friday. Again, they scored early in the first half. We really controlled the second half, and had a lot of chances to score, but then in the last minute I ended up with the ball to the left of the goal. My shot ricocheted off one of their players who was running back to defend, and she deflected the shot right past her goalie to tie the game. So we went to penalty kicks. Despite the fact that at practice I had not once scored a penalty shot (my talent for them apparently does not extend to mini-football), I made mine, but we ended up losing 4-3. We were of course disappointed, but we played well – and although my Soviet-style coach may not agree, having fun is the most important in the end.

The tournament filmed the games on Sunday, and after our game a woman wanted to interview me – in part since I scored the tying goal, and definitely because I’m an American who speaks Russian and that makes for a fun story. I warned her she would need to speak slowly… I didn’t make any glaring grammatical mistakes, as far as I noticed, and spared her completely idiotic responses. She asked about how I ended up in Russia playing for this team, how it compares to the level of soccer in the U.S, and how it felt to score the last-minute winning goals on Friday and on Sunday. I mostly talked about how wonderful my teammates are, because I figured that wouldn’t go amiss. (And they are all a wonderful bunch). This was one of those moments that reminded me that I’ve come a long way since August…

Somehow, I have no pictures of us actually playing…but here are some photos from the Russian Cup for Mini-Football that we went to see, and from some of our other weekend adventures.

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2 Responses to “Мини–Футбол (Or, My Amazing Soccer Team)”

  1. nateinsiberia said

    Congratulations! By the way, I love +100500, the guy’s pretty funny. Check out “This is хорошо” for similar but cleaner-mouthed comedy.

  2. Carol Ames said

    Love to see all the pictures Hillary and congratulations. Glad to hear all of your language skills have improved so dramatically.

    Thanks to all three of you for a great year of stories and information.

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