Karina LeBlanc's Journey to the Women's World Cup

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Hi Everyone,

In light of the opening weekend of WPS, I want to wish all the players, coaches and organizations the best of luck this season!  I know that the players in this league are living out their dreams everyday. Every time they step on the field, they recognize this, and that feeling is worth every single struggle we all go through to get to this stage.

I am living out the other half of my dreams as I am with Canada preparing for the 2011 World Cup in Germany this summer. We are currently based in Italy and have been training here because our new coach is from here. Her name is Carolina Morace and she is a highly decorated female soccer player- and out here in Italy, she is a true legend. Whenever we mention her name, no matter the age of the person we are talking to, they know who she is and almost immediately start to praise her. To be honest, I have “name-dropped” a few times since I’ve been here (haha it never fails) and just using her name makes things happen. She is a genius of the game.  Her intelligence for the sport allows all of us to learn something new daily and I am absorbing it all. Since her hiring, we have jumped up to 6th in the World and our only loses in the past year has been to Germany, US – ranked 1 & 2, and Sweden (this past weekend) here in Rome. She has made a name for herself in Italy not because on the side she practices law, but also because she was one of the main commentators for the Serie A TV (which is like ESPN/CNN to Italians). Everyone watches and even with such a tough and critical following, she has somehow has come out with people loving her.  This clearly means she knows what she is talking about, as soccer is life here in Italy.

We are staying in Rome at the same hotel where the away teams of Roma and Lazio stay as well (Serie A teams). Our training facilities are a part of the hotel, so the gym and field are within 100 yards of our rooms. We get to watch their “day before” training sessions, which has been a blast to see the players we see on TV weekly, training right outside our bedroom doors. Last weekend, I got a chance to go with my fellow goalkeeper Steph Labbe to see the Roma vs Juventus game. Juventus’s goalkeeper is Gigi Buffon, also Italy’s goalkeeper (and one of my all time favorites and fellow PUMA athlete), but he did not play. I have to admit, initially I was disappointed not to see him on field, but the other goalkeepers did not disappoint, as there were several great saves. It is interesting to watch a game live because the energetic Italians were up in their seats screaming, whether good or bad, at just about every play on the field. There were times I caught myself looking more at the fans than the game because it was an experience in itself. Italians love their soccer and I truly appreciated seeing such passion from the fans- I can see how this sport means so much to everyone here.

We have been lucky that on our days off, we are able to travel into Rome and enjoy the little parts of this beautiful city. Everything has lived up to its reputation here. The food is delicious – I really have never tasted pizza and pasta this good before. The people are so warm. The architecture is breathtaking and the lifestyle seems so simple. I’ve been to the Coliseum, The Vatican (Sistine Chapel and climbed the top of St. Peters for the most stunning view of Rome), Spanish Stairs, Trevi Fountain, and Pantheon.

There is a lot to learn here from the culture and I am enjoying all of it. I love educating myself through travel and conversation. My teammates laugh at me because I have a new accent now that is a mix between English and Italian. I add an “o” to everything with an accent and believe that I am speaking the Italian language. For example, (and this is the worst but today had everyone laughing) “I have-o to go-o, over there-o.”   If you say it with an accent, everyone understands…or so I think. If I don’t know how to act the word out with my hands, gesture or point, I just add the “o” and I believe I am fine. It has worked so far for me.  I yelled cab-o the other day and a cab pulled up. I asked for a bank-o and someone pointed me to a bank. The list goes on but in my head it works out just fine and I seem to get what I want-o so I’m golden-0!

The training has been hard but good and even though there are days when I crawl into my bed and read or get online, I am happy to be where I am. My team is like a family and with spending so much time together, we are growing closer and goofier which is right up my alley. Since I am the oldest (at age 23 of course) I get my own room so I have time to myself when I need it and when I don’t, I find someone to bug or they come to my room and chat with me. We truly are living out our dreams here in Rome. On the days where we  only train once, it is nice because we either get to sleep in or have the afternoons to relax, have some coffee or hang around ‘Italian-style’.  If we have two sessions, the bed & treatment room are my best friends. For some of the girls, the pool is their spot to either lie out or go swimming, but to me, it is a beautiful ice-bath. I am a Caribbean girl so I claim that there is no need for me to jump into a cold pool everyday to heal my body.

I’ve been fortunate to celebrate my birthday here (as I said my 23rd birthday of course), and as I started the custom of “pie-ing” my teammates and coaches in the face. On my big day, I got it back-  but it tasted so good, I enjoyed it! My fellow teammate and PUMA-mate, Robyn Gail is putting together a video for everyone and that will be featured in my next blog (along with some other trips to Rome). I may be getting older, and there are days my body does remind of that, but I am not sure spending all this time with my teammates is making me wiser when I am off the field! We spend our time on twitter, tweeting one another or other soccer players and thinking of ways to prank one another. There is a serious side to me, but for now, when I am off the field I seem to be ignoring it!

This journey to the World Cup, though it will be my 4th, it is unique in so many ways because so many things feel new to me. I am enjoying every step along the way and hopefully through these blogs and tweets, you will follow along with me and enjoy the ride. Till next time, Buona Notte (which means goodnight).



Website: KarinaLeBlanc.com
Twitter: karinaleblanc
Facebook Fanpage: Karina LeBlanc (KK) Fanpage