The First Day of Training

The Cerano Hotel is my kind of hotel; clean beds, hot shower, free wi-fi and located right in the middle of town. The owner, Andreas greeted us by name. He had personally arranged for Remy and I to share a room with two twin beds on the first night but after Remy checked into the Sports Academy Dormitory, he moved me into a single room. Andreas also held a room open for me if I chose to return to the Cerano after my planned excursion to Berlin.

My son, one suitcase and I fill a European elevator to the extent that the door refused to close twice. However, the elevator cab is approximately twice the size of the entire bathroom in room 204. I cannot change – BECAUSE I HAVE NO CLOTHES – so we walk into the beautiful web of streets surrounding our hotel and do some serious bonding.

Cologne feels safe and affluent. The stores are busy and we buy tee shirts and other frivolent ‘necessities.’ Then jet lag hits us both like a sledgehammer. I am using the Cerano’s wi-fi to catch up with a busy day at the office, I turn around, and Remy is zonked. It is 4 p.m. and he sleeps until 6:30 the next morning.

Mark Dillon and I have been friends for twenty years. We played together for many years; a treat for me – not so much for Mark I suspect. He has been in soccer all his life and any kid that comes under his wing is blessed; Mark is the consummate professional.

We flew to Philadelphia in the 1980’s at our own expense to lobby FIFA to consider the USA as a World Cup Venue. Everyone knows the end of the story but in the beginning, it was just Mark and I, Joe Mittiga, Mike Daniels and a couple of other intrepid pioneers. Once success became evident, hundreds of politically correct people took the reins and the credit. None of the original six adventurers received anything other than the joy of watching the ’94 games …but that was all we really wanted in the first place.

Training will take place in the training facilities outside the massive Cologne Stadium but first, we have to negotiate the Weiden West U-Bahn Line One. However, as you might expect in Germany, travelling the U-Bahn is a no-brainer and we hook up with Mark at 9 a.m. in a McDonalds outside the Cologne Stadium. He had just driven into town from Belgium with two talented 12 year olds he was also introducing to the magic of Coach Klaus Pabst.

Remy checked into an impressive room on the sixth floor of the Sports Academy Dormitory; he changed into his training gear and we walked together to Klaus’ office. He was his usual friendly self and genuinely happy to see Remy again. Now it is all up to the kid; Klaus does not take any prisoners.

I left the morning training session and went back downtown. The last thing my son needs is a big-mouthed soccer dad on the sidelines. Besides, Mark promised to bring Remy to meet me for lunch at SportsCheck, a large apparel store in the city. The big test would be at 7 p.m. when Remy took the field to train with the FC Cologne U-16 Academy.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous as I took the U-Bahn back to watch the evening session; there was always jetlag, older kids, not speaking German, a raft of excuses I could fall back on if he didn’t shine.

I should not have worried.

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