By October 20, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

The Lowry Lowdown: The experiences of an American Footballer playing abroad


Playing in foreign countries is one of the many benefits to playing soccer at a high level and can be a wonderful and eye opening experience. However, the exposure to different cultures presents various challenges. I am guilty of taking for granted the everyday luxuries we have in America and from an early age tried to challenge myself to better acclimate to the diverse food, languages, climate, culture, sanitation and safety challenges that can instantly cause a soccer trip to take an unexpected turn.

Las Ramblas in Barcelona

Language Barrier

I was in Spain trialing with teams a number of years ago and a man stopped me on the main street in Barcelona called Las Ramblas: a beautiful long street full of vendors, restaurants and shops that is unmissable thanks to the lines of trees down both sides of its path.

The man kept speaking to me in Spanish about a topic I couldn’t comprehend with my broken Spanish. The topic became apparent after a few minutes when he asked me to buy him a gay porno mag, then tried to kiss me. I came back to the US and immediately took a Spanish class.


Experiencing different cultures and ideologies is part of the fun of world travel but on a trip to Brazil I met a girl who wanted me to take her back to the US and marry her. We were 14.


The altitude, temperature, humidity and even pollution play a large part in performance and results when playing abroad. During a trip to play Club Necaxa in Mexico a few years back, the team’s stadium smelled more like a cigar lounge than a soccer pitch. I am confident I inhaled a pack of cigarette smoke during the game.

Bullet hole as a result of an angered fan attacking a rival opponents bus.


I’ll never forget the first time I went to Costa Rica, walked into a bank and saw three guys with automatic weapons in hand standing guard. A few days later after watching a professional game, my team and I got swept up in a post-game soccer riot and almost had our bus tipped over by the unruly mob throwing bricks and rocks through our bus windows.


A fellow teammate of mine once invited a trialist to stay with him during his time with our club. This young professional had recently played in a developing nation and was hoping to join our team. He had previously lived in a country where basic sanitation wasn’t the standard. In that country, when you wiped after using the restroom, you put the tissue paper in the trash. He had never been to the United States and seen our advanced sanitation systems. My teammate’s selfless act quickly became a smelly situation.

Food and Water

Adjusting ones diet to diverse food and procuring clean drinking water can be a major concern when traveling abroad.  A number of years ago I was on a trip with an MLS team in Mexico. Our game started on a wonderful evening with a roaring crowd in a downtown stadium buzzing in anticipation for some entertaining soccer. Play ebbed and flowed in favor of one team and then the other until a point in the match when one of our players ran over the bench and demanded to be subbed. This is an unusual occurrence and one for which our coach was unprepared.  The coach demanded that he stay on the field and asked quizzically why he wanted to be taken off. To this day I’ll never forget his response.

My teammate told our coach that he had relieved himself in his pants and wasn’t feeling well from what we presumed to be contaminated water. He proceeded to walk off the pitch and went straight into the dressing room. We were baffled at first but it soon became clear that he wasn’t the only one. Many of our players were trying to just keep it together through the match and after the game it was revealed that nearly half the players and staff had gotten sick from the suspect water. I barely made it through my time on the pitch without a similar accident.

As an American, we can sometimes take the things for granted that other countries consider luxuries. And although these seem like horror stories they are the memorable experiences that provide perspective and the ability to understand how other cultures live.

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