Six years ago, we lived in Cyprus for one season in Ayia Napa.
Best holiday place ever! To be there for soccer…? Not so much.
We lived in a touristic area near the beach with white sand and clear blue water.
It was just beautiful.
Cyprus overall has so much history and nice food to offer that I really recommend going there sometime for a holiday.
And just to be clear… it’s not in Greece!
Cyprus is an island that means a lot to me.
The real foundation of my relationship with my husband started there.
We were ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ at the time and we just moved in together when this opportunity came for him to play soccer in Cyprus.
We decided to go, with the knowledge in the back of our heads it could “make or break us”.
Well… we are married now… so…
There were more Dutch soccer players, but all played for a different team than my husbands. The island is so small that we all knew each other. Shallowly and some on a real friends level!
We hang out at the homes and beaches and stories were shared.
The first few months (pre-season) were without any worries.
We had the time of our lives. We got free groceries; free food in restaurants and my husband played a very good season. The stadium was located high on a hill and the view was gorgeous! I looked out on to the clear blue ocean and a piece of the town where we lived. (Small detail, it was a really old stadium so I had to be careful for splinters in my behind when I sat down).
We also met our best friends for life from all over the world.
My husband’s club was a little bit different than I was used to, but it was a whole new country and they have their own culture and rules. My first clue was, when I got strip search by 2 men at the first home game, sitting in the stands as the only woman (Luckily my lady German and Czech friends joined me after a few games, only not for long) and how could I forget to mention… I was looking at a boat in the corner of the field.
I am still questioning who would put that there?
Even it all sounds beautiful and fun; there was also a down side of this great adventure, especially when the season started.
Crazy stuff happened around us.
Everyday my husband came home with the news that somebody was sent away from the team. It was like ‘the x-factor’. Players were coming and going! At one point only my husband and a Portuguese goalkeeper were the only 2 players who were still there from the beginning from all the foreigners. So that wasn’t a very comfortable feeling!
Even on the field weird things were happening.
For example at one game my husband couldn’t start and the question of everybody at the club was why not… on paper it said he received a red card?… but in real life that never happened.
There is nothing you can do about it, it is how it is.
And then there was the salary, which was a surprise every month. “Will we get it or not”…
As long the team kept winning, everybody was guaranteed their paycheck. (They won most of the time, so we were very lucky).
Unfortunately not everybody was that lucky…
After a couple of months, we invited a Dutch guy every week for dinner and to have a good meal at our place, because he didn’t get paid anymore. (He played for another team nearby) We didn’t really know him, but we heard of his situation so when you can help your own country neighbor… why not.
If I think back now at that time I laugh out loud, but when I was there, I lived in nonstop insecurities and fears. The stories of ‘the others’ weren’t helping either.
There was a Dutch family who just had a baby and his club didn’t want him anymore (even when he had a long term contract). He still came to the training, because that was his right. But after ‘some guys’ ambushed him in the locker room with the message “if he thought it was safe to leave his wife and baby home alone” he eventually gave up the fight for his contract and left.
But there is one story in particular still ‘haunting’ me… An example of big promises by an agent of the soccer player and promises by management of a club that you think you both can trust.
Unfortunately there are still sketchy agencies who have no idea (or maybe they do) what they can do to ‘ruin’ a happy families life by doing business with clubs who don’t really ‘follow’ the rules.
There was another Dutch soccer family who had the “once in a lifetime” opportunity. (Some opportunity’s you cannot say no to in soccer).
They sold their house in the Netherlands and came with everything they had to Cyprus. Along the way they struggled with a lot of personal problems and with their new club. On top of that the husband never got paid. They were stuck with a huge rental house in a strange country with no income! The agency ‘cannot do anything about it’ and the club eventually sends the husband away. He needed to find a new club as soon as possible. It’s not only the soccer player they screw over, it’s an entire family!
He traveled all around the world to find a new club so he could provide for his family while his wife and kids were still in Cyprus.
We visited her a few times just to make sure she was ok. The kids were so adorable, that it was always a pleasure.
Even our mutual Dutch friends did everything what they could to help to soften the stress. It was a situation that nobody ever wants for another (soccer) family. But this is our lives! Everything can happen in soccer!
“One day you’re in, one day you’re out”.
I regret how I handled it at that time, because I should have helped them more. But I was too young with no children to understand the pain and fear she; the wife had to be in!
Now as a mom I understand every bit of it.
The people that we have met on that island (related to soccer) will always be in our lives. What happened over there, nobody will be really honest about it, (even I left out a lot of details) and maybe that is why our bond is so strong. No matter which league they play, they all will know where I am talking about right now.
We didn’t see this family for at least 6 years but I still follow them, and once in a while we give each other a small update. Eventually their lives went ‘back to normal’ but this story is an example that the soccer world is not always ‘glitter and glamour’!
There are still ‘sketchy people’ hanging around in professional soccer who can ruin careers and that playing soccer can be an insecurity life.
Not only for the soccer player… also for the whole family around him.
I rest my case!