This is the second installment chronicling the Chico State men’s soccer team’s trip to Spain. Authored by senior midfielder Dylan Wakefield, the adventure begins in the University Stadium parking lot at nearly 2 a.m. on July 31. Around 60 giddy travelers were somehow able to fit their own bags of personal belongings into a bus, as well as many bags stuffed with Chico State soccer gear. Like any trip overseas, excitement hung thick in the summer night air. But there was also a mystery of what was to come…
After a couple of hours playing Tetris with our travel bags, we finally hopped on a bus at 1:45 a.m. in the University Stadium parking lot.
We arrived at the Sacramento International Airport at 3:45 a.m. and zombie-walked our way through baggage check and security. Only a few of us were ask to hand over the forgotten Gatorades and water bottles we left in our carry-ons—typical additions whenever we travel.
We finally left Sacramento at 6:05 a.m. Armed with earbuds, our own music-playing devices, and some newly purchased two-for-$20 travel pillows, we fell asleep with the hum of the airplane in the background of our music and thoughts. Soon after, we landed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for our layover before our final stop in Madrid, Spain.
Our power naps on the flight to Atlanta energized the team. The group’s vibe was nothing shy of ecstatic, and we were all chatty Cathys and couldn’t stop fidgeting with anxious energy during our layover. Carter Johnson, senior center midfielder—and the chattiest Cathy of them all, spent his time playing a game with assistant coach Bertin Loyola: As fellow travelers walked by, Johnson and Loyola tried to kick a soccer ball that was a little larger than the size of a softball through the other’s legs (a play called a “meg”) over and over and over again.
Head coach Felipe Restrepo started to relax a bit and let his 10-year-old son, Diego, explore with our team. Jeremiah Egujie, a transfer from Arizona Western College who we refer to as Lukaku (after a forward for Manchester United), took Diego under his wing and wandered around different shops. The rest of the guys sat around in groups, mingling with parents and alumni while speculating together about what Spain had in store for us.
Still, none of us knew what to expect at this point. All we have are pictures from Google Maps and stories to help create ideas in our heads. But like we said before, we’ll be playing fútbol and doing so in Spain. And as long as there is a round ball, a white-outlined area, two goal-like objects at both ends, and jerseys that read “Chico State” across the chest, we will feel right at home.
Everything else will be the cherry on top of our Spanish sundae.
—Dylan Wakefield, journalism