JK Eschelbach Under 17´s trip to South Carolina (USA)
Early in the morning the journey started. The team was taken to the International Airport of Frankfurt a.M. by bus, where they later took their plane to Charlotte, NC. Everything worked fine and our guys had a save landing 30 minutes earlier than expected due to 20 mph of tailwind.
Having arrived on their destination the boys were picked up by some big but typical American trucks which brought them to a diner where they were to meet their host families. The trip took about one and a half hours, giving the Germans, of whom barely anyone has ever been to the US before, some first impressions of the circuitousness of this big country.
At the same time as the boys arrived at the diner the Chapin Softball Girls Team was having a team meeting there, too, giving a huge applause to every German player leaving with his host family. International understanding with no big words maybe resulting from ours boys not feeling familiar with talking English that much by then.
With almost all the American boys playing actively for their high-school teams in the evening there was not much space for other activities, but everybody had plenty of fun making some first impressions of their host brothers´ excellent soccer skills. Different to German standards school sport is a really big thing in America and so it was really exciting for our boys to see how many people come to watch these games and how loud they cheer for their favorite players. In Chapin, next to the soccer game there was also a softball game where some boys had the chance to meet the girls they got to know in the afternoon again. There were also some teams practicing football, tennis, baseball and running showing the big variety in American high-school sport. After an exhausting but exciting journey and their first night on a new continent everybody spend the rest of the day getting to know their host families a little better before going to bed early.
On Wednesday all of the German players went to school with their host brothers. Due to all the American boys going to a private school all of our boys got a whole new experience of how school life can be. There was a lot more of technical equipment than in our German schools. Every student had his personal tablets and computers also having access to WiFi, which can hardly be found in any German school. In this way the boys got to see how studying can be combined with modern technology, probably making all of them want to have this at their schools back in Germany, too.
Another thing that really surprised our boys were the armed security people checking all entries and that they had to register themselves to be allowed to walk around in the school buildings.
While the boys were at school the adults were taken to a big shopping mall, where they had their first chance to encourage the American economy. Later in the afternoon American and German “soccer experts” came together in a bar to watch and analyze the European Champions League match FC Bayern Munich vs Juventus Turin sharing their idealizations of soccer with their new friends.
In the evening they then went to Lake Murray, the 4th largest lake in the US (can be compared to the size of the Bodensee, the biggest German lake) to reanalyze the game while cruising with a high-speed boat and watching the shimmering red sun slowly sinking behind the horizon.
In the morning everything worked like it was planned. We were meeting our friend and benefactor Carroll McGee literately on top of the roofs of Columbia in an exclusive diner, where we were then having typical, really well-tasting American breakfast together. Here everyone had the chance to take some fantastic pictures of the beautiful city of Columbia from a very special angle.
The second point of our program sadly had to be cancelled because the mayor had to leave town surprisingly and was therefore not able to welcome us officially. Instead of meeting him, we then went to the University of South Carolina visiting a place where 1000 sport athletes from all over the world come together to professionalize their sports while taking majors in international law and economics. Students who actively perform their sports for the university´s teams receive a lot of benefits, if their grades fit the expectations held on them. One could easily see that team spirit is a big thing here, not only on the pitch but also in the computer labs, where groups of students came together to help each other solving their problems they had in class. The main sports we got to see while visiting were track and field, basketball, soccer, tennis, football, baseball and swimming.
Another really interesting thing was a private tour through the big football stadium having a capacity of around 85.000 people to watch the games here. We got the chance to see some VIP-lounges and could have a seat in the press conference room. We also walked on top of the roof again giving us a beautiful view of the city and then later got to see a fully air-conditioned practice hall.
Later we got to know some really interesting facts about the stadium and its surroundings. The most surprising ones for us were that there are people spending more than 700.000$ just to have a house next to stadium so they can visit all the games in the season. We were told that this is “the American way of life”! 150.000 people meeting on game day celebrating a big sports event together although half of them can´t even go into the stadium. A really big thing!
After having lunch in a downtown diner we had the chance to digest our food on a one-mile walk to the State Museum of South Carolina. Immediately after entering the building we suddenly had to leave again because the fire alarm went. Luckily it later turned out to be a false alarm and we could reenter the museum. In there we got to see a lot about the history of South Carolina, showing us the first ever fabricated u-boat and many impressions on the main topic slavery. We also learned a lot about the industrialization and the native people, who had lived on the coastline earlier.
The evening was then spent with the host families again. Many boys went to school sport events again, others visited friends of their host and everybody was enjoying warm and nice 79 degrees.
Friday was the day of culture and education. Our friend Ron Tryon showed us around at his former university, where he graduated in 1984. All of our boys fast recognized that it meant a lot to him showing us HIS university and so it did to us.
The University of South Carolina covers a total amount of 32.000 students with 4.500 employees to secure their comfort. On the campus one could find medical services and even an own police, making it look like it was a small city itself.
The university itself is an outrageous combination of old historical buildings kept in a really good condition and brand new buildings including world´s newest technologies. Here people of over 60 countries come together to study and build international friendships and networks. All the buildings are situated in a beautiful old park, making it a fantastic place for young people from all over the world to meet and life. Another thing to mention here is that all prosecutors in the United States have to take their final exams here in a separated area.
At the USC there are taught a lot judicial subjects like international law and economics, but also biology, physics, engineering and medical health care, which is a major in the US. A lot of students perform a sport to receive immense scholarships making it possible to pay for the tuition fees of more than 25.000$.
Our boys were showing a lot of interesting and politely asking a lot of questions while recognizing that it really meant a lot to Ron to “show us around his past”.
Later on we then went to see the Parliament and the State House, a beautiful historical building. Inside it we saw a lot of historical paintings showing the founding fathers of South Carolina and war scenes from more than 140 years ago. Everything was kept in the typical Southern style. Anybody not knowing what I´m talking about here should just watch an episode of North & South.
Our boys got to know a lot about American politics combining the legislative and the executive branch under one roof.
At the end of a cultural morning we then finally got to meet then mayor, who was back in town. Here we also met the attorney general of South Carolina and the chairman of the economic committee stating that our boys really seem to have a good reputation in Columbia. In his short speech mayor Benjamin mentioned that there is no other institution putting so much life into the international friendship between South Carolina and Rhineland-Palatinate like ours, JK Horressen-Elgendorf-Eschelbach.
In the afternoon we then went on to “Five-Guys”, a typical Southern restaurant where our boys had the pleasure to enjoy the local kitchen.
The rest of the day was spent in the families so all players could make their final preparations for the Sir-Alfred-Müller`s Cup, which was going to take place the next day.
Saturday was game day. The Sir-Alfred-Müller`s Cup took place for the 10th time and sadly our team lost again. Another big win for the outrageous American statistic, making them lead 9 to 1 now. But for the neutral viewer it was easy to recognize the actual spirit of the game. It was a really fair match with no fouls at all.
Analyzing the game we came to the conclusion that we deserved to lose, but not as high as we did. One of the main reasons might be that a lot of our players went to several fast food restaurants just one hour before kickoff, probably not their best ideas and making it harder for them to play. Together with the, for our players unusual, 78 degrees in March it was a whole new experience for them and made it a rough game.
But enough excuses here. The main reason we lost is that we did not play as a team like our American friends did. Nobody was ready to give all his best and play and play for others. That´s what our opponents did a lot better and so they did not leave us a single chance to win the game.
In the first half we had too many misunderstandings in our defense and so we conceded some really early goals against us, already deciding the game in the first half. Later in the second half we started playing like a team all pulling the same string and got some big chances, but often missed the opportunity for the final and deadly pass or lost the ball due to technical failures in ball control and so we were not able to come back into the game.
Whatever reasons there are, it was a fantastic game and a good experience for our boys, starting the game with flags and the national anthems. The American side deserved to win and we are looking forward to winning the trophy next year back in Germany. Congrats to our American friends so far.
Later in the afternoon everyone came together at Lake Murray to have lunch and afterwards go swimming, boating or jet skiing. A nice lake day with the American moms bringing all their best foods, making our boys have the opportunity to choose between 30 different meals and snacks, which all tasted really good. Here our coaches also got the chance to meet almost all the host parents, having a first chance to tell them how thankful they were for having their boys. One of the most amazing things then was the visit of a falconer giving our boys the chance to get really close to one of the fastest and deadliest raptors. All in all it was a great lake day.
Sunday was family day and everyone moved on to his second host family. Every of our boys stayed with new their host families, who had prepared a great variety of individual program lists for our boys. Monday all of them told us they had an amazing day.
On Monday we went off to Fripp Island, a private island with a lot of exclusive residential areas. On our way towards the coast we could spot a change in landscape and infrastructure. Driving through and past Beaufort, where we also made a short stop, one got easily reminded of the scenery of “Forrest Gump”, which was shot here. The houses here also seemed to be smaller and not as well-kept as in Columbia. The people instead seemed to be spending their money on big trucks, a kind of different lifestyle here.
Beaufort itself is one of the oldest cities of the United States. Slavery had played a major role here like in almost every part of Southern America. Beaufort drew its wealth and richness from its main import and export good indigo, which was used to dye cotton wool. The use of indigo can also be seen in the older parts of the city, where almost every house had indigo blue walls.
After listening to a very interesting tour around the city guided by Ron we then went on to Fripp Island, only stopping one more time at a PUBLIX supermarket where our boys had the last chance to buy important snacks like chocolate and energy drinks, which they needed for the next two days.
The closer we got to Fripp Island the wealthier the region seemed to be becoming again and on Fripp Island it was pure luxury. Two golf courses and an immense number of noble mansions were a whole new experience for our boys.
Another really surprising thing here was the fauna. There were a lot of wild but gentle deer standing and grassing next to the roads or even in the back yards, but also some dangerous alligators, which one really got to take care of. None of us had ever seen a wild alligator before, we all only knew them from our zoos in Germany and so it was a dangerous but fascinating experience for all of us.
The rest of our first day on this beautiful island was spent at the beach playing football and then at the poolside.
At night there were some lizards somehow having made it in one of our boys´ rooms really scaring them because they were afraid of being eaten by “those small alligators” over night. Really funny for us to watch how our tough grown up boys suddenly became scared little kids again.
Today was the day of “relaxing”. For our this meant they could spent the whole day playing ball at the beach or lying around sunbathing at the poolside. We also had access to WiFi here and so our players had the chance to send some pictures of our beautiful accommodation home to their parents. Our food was prepared and cooked by Ron, who pampered us with some really delicious “Beaufort Stew”.
Today our sunburned and mosquito stung boys had to get up early at seven so we could leave our mansion at half past nine. It turned out to work better than expected and everybody was ready in time without our slave drivers having to use their whip once.
From here we then drove to our new destination Charleston, one of the most historical cities within the whole country. Milestones of the American history were achieved like e.g. the independence from Europe but also the end of slavery.
After another guided tour through the historical parts of the city our boys had lunch at Chick Fil A, a common American restaurant chain. Immediately after this we went on to the Tanger-Outlet, where everyone had 90 minutes to buy as many as clothes as their luggage allowed them to take back to Germany. Huge benefits for Nike, Under Armour, Adidas and Reebok on this day.
After we picked up everyone at our meeting point we went back to Columbia, where the first question our host families asked was “ARE YOU HUNGRY?”. Luckily everybody could be saved from the threatening hypoglycemia as we went to another diner. So all in all it was Wednesday was a perfect combination of culture, gourmet food and shopping.
Sadly our trip is going towards its end now, but our hosts gave everything to make us have another awesome day. We went to the McEntire Airbase, a national air force base, which barely any of the American boys had seen so far and so it had also been a new experience to them.
The base was the home of many jet and helicopter pilots who are anytime ready for their missions. All the pilots here have to be able to deal with a lot of different situations like coast guarding, coordinating civil defense, supplying their troops with replenishments but also fighting in war, so they can really be called elite troops of the United States of America.
The missions they had achieved in the past were shown to us by short films with rock music making them look like real Hollywood heroes, but still in an informational and serious way, so they can easily be called heroes of their country.
After listening carefully to all the presentations given by the pilots and then asking thousands of questions we were also shown how the National Guard together with these pilots had saved more than 3.000 people from drowning during the flooding last year. This really gave us an impression of how these people serve for the well-being of their nation.
Sadly nobody was allowed to take any pictures here, but an official air force lady guided us and she took some photos which we got later, so everyone could show his friends in Germany that he himself had been standing just one meter away from a brand new F18-jet.
Leaving the base in the afternoon we headed to a soccer diner in Columbia to have some really well-tasting burgers and fries again.
Later in the evening there should have been our mixed tournament together with our American brothers, but due a lot of them having to play for their school teams in the evening it had to be cancelled. Instead we had practice with Lee Morris, a former British professional player, who now is a youth coach in America. This had really been an equivalent compensation for us because nobody of our team ever got coached by a professional coach.
The rest of the day was then spent in the host families with most of our boys watching their host brothers` soccer games.
Friday was our last day in South Carolina. We met at 10 in the morning at Soccer Plus, a well known sports store where everyone had his last chance to fill his luggage a little more. Almost all the host families from the first and the second week came to say goodbye and also a lot of their children because there was no school this day. So there had been a really big committee to see us off showing that so many transcontinental friendships had been build here. But before leaving, we all bought some more sports clothes in Tripp Miller´s store, which is the main supplier of SCUFC.
Picking their favorite clothes everybody had the chance to get the emblem of SCUFC printed on them by an older but charming lady in a backdoor room. This seemed a little bit off-the-wall but it somehow works for 5.800 active players and their fans, somehow reminding of that Bob the Builder slogan “Can we fix it, yes we can!”.
After a 45 minute shopping time our untiring guide and friend Ron said goodbye to us officially, again stating how important our international friendships are to keep peace in the future and live together in harmony, no matter where you are from, which confession you stick to, which your skin color is or whatever you want to achieve in the future and this is the real spirit of our exchange. We all hope that these special friendships are life lasting and if our boys only understand a little of it by now our boys will have a bright future with friends all around the world. The last thing he told is that he hopes, like we do, that our boys will send their children on this trip once to keep this exchange and the resulting friendships alive in the future. A really heartwarming speech by a fantastic man, who did all his best to make us have the best time possible in Columbia.
By the end of his speech it was the time that everyone suddenly realized that they won´t be able to see their new friends for a really long and not everyone could hide his tears. This shows how much the exchange meant to both sides, the American and German, creating a large community of really good friends sharing the thought of soccer combining nations.
After Ron´s speech all 18 German boys and probably the same amount of American boys went to a bowling alley, spending their last two hours together. Again a lot of tears, hugs and the last pictures were taken here before the American moms send our boys back home with their best wishes.
On our way to the airport we had our last meal, this time not being burgers and fries but a pizza and pasta all you can eat. Barely anyone recognized the salad bar, but who could have expected that.
The way to Charlotte took another two hours with just one short break because Peter forgot his phone in his host dad´s car. This made him the only one getting the chance to see his hosts again, who delivered the phone quickly.
At the airport everything worked fine without any bigger problems and we got back to Germany safely. At this point there is nothing left for me to say despite a really really big thank you to everyone who gave us the chance to make one of the most amazing experiences in our lives.