We arrived into Israel early Wednesday morning and drove directly to Jerusalem from the Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv.  Jerusalem has literally been at the crossroads of history since time immemorial, and the site of so much conflict in its long history.  It’s surprising that it can still be so beautiful and enchanting.

Everywhere you walk in Jerusalem has historical overtones…Church of the Holy Sepulchre, The Dome of the Rock, Mount of Olives, the Western Wall, the Jaffa and Damascus gates…yeah, honestly its a bit like taking a living history lesson.  Zach was totally in his element!

It seems like an eternity since Sami had her tryout for the U18 soccer team that would be competing at the 20th Maccabiah Games here in Israel, although only ten months ago it seems like forever!

Last night we attended the opening ceremonies at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, with 80 countries and 10,000 athletes participating, each country, like at the Olympics marches into the stadium to much fanfare. It was incredible to see Sami as part of the Canadian team march into the stadium with her teammates…such a thrill for a 16 year old, and I dare say even more so for her dad.  🙂

It was a late night getting back to the hotel, and to make it to the her game today I had an early morning departure from Jerusalem, taking a shuttle bus to Tel Aviv which is a little over an hours drive away, not too onerous. However, my plan was to then take the train up to Haifa to watch her play her first pool game against Great Britain with the game starting at 2:00 pm.

Now in my mind that was all well and good but in the Jewish faith Friday thru Saturday night is the sabbath or Shabbat as they call it, and me not being religious failed to remember that today was Friday so when I asked the concierge where the closest train station was to the hotel he was a little perplexed…

He asked where I was looking to travel and I told him about my daughters game in Haifa.  He then informed me that trains would not be running after 2:00 pm, so even if I was to get to Haifa, some 100km north of Tel Aviv there would be no way of getting back.

My only options would be to hire a taxi to drive me up there, then wait for me the two hours while I watch the game and then drive me back…

To be clear there was no way I was going to miss Sami’s first game no matter what, so asked him to arrange for a taxi to pick me up at the hotel at 12:30 pm.

Interestingly when my taxi driver arrived at the hotel and introduced himself (Ael) to me we hit if off right away and ended up talking the whole the drive. After dropping me off, he then parked his taxi and came to watch Sami play.  It was fantastic! During our conversation he told me about his two kids (21 and 19 respectively), and his love of soccer so it turned out to be a perfect day with us both cheering Sami on.

Canada’s first opponent was Great Britain.  As you can imagine with their rich soccer heritage they tend to travel with a big fan base, and today was no exception.  You just have to love when the crowd starts singing their English club songs during the games to motivate their players.

At game time it was a sweltering 34C, fortunately the field was close to the Mediterranean so there was a slight breeze, but it not enough to escape the heat!  Fortunately both teams were going to be equally challenged because of the weather, but even in the warm ups the Canadian girls looked ready to play.

After being slathered in sunscreen, the girls took the field and from the very first whistle looked like the better team (no, not a biased parents view – just the facts!)

Sami started on the bench, but came on at the 15 minute mark of the first half.  Wow, with her first touch of the ball she got around her opponent and as quick as a flash put through a perfectly weighted ball to her teammate who then slammed it in the back of the net from the top of the box. A great start – one touch, one assist!

By this stage of the game it was already 2-0 and the rout was on!

The Canadian girls challenged the team from Great Britain in every contest and didn’t allow them to find any sort of rhythm, thus then game became an abject lesson in utter frustration for the GB girls.  The game was all over by half time with Canada leading 4-0, and although they had lots of scoring opportunities in the second half they couldn’t get it into the back of the net.

After the game I got to say quick hi to Sami, which was great. She’s having a fabulous time and loving every minute of the experience.

The USA played Sweden in the other pool game today and gave them a football lesson beating them 9-0.  As you’d expect the US team have a deep talent pool and will be very hard to beat, although we haven’t seen Brazil, Australia, Israel or South Africa play yet so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in each of the pools.

All I know is that we have a win and three points which until someone else plays, puts Canada firmly on top of pool B. The team now has two days rest before their next game on Monday.

It made my heart swell to see Sam play for her country today, surprisingly I found it to be quite an emotional experience, both today and last night at the opening ceremonies, which caught me by surprise to be honest.  Nothing wrong with shedding a tear of joy occasionally.

I can’t put into words how proud I am of Sami and her accomplishments – she just one amazing young woman!

So until next time when I’m hoping to share good news with you about Canada making the semi final round…

Enjoy your week.