Our house is part of a small hamlet of eight disparate houses, in a small village of twenty-two properties, in a small town of eleven parishes, and with a constantly diminishing population of just 2,330 people (down from 4,841 in 1970). One of the main reasons for our decision to move here was to be surrounded by mountains and forest and be remote from the everyday bustle of town life, but also to be part of a small friendly community, and close enough to a town for shops and services.
People choose to move to foreign climes for many reasons; the weather, the cost of living, the pace of life, and wanting to experience and enjoy a different culture and way of life. For us it was an element of all of these, but predominantly for a different and slower pace of life so that after nearly thirty years of twelve hour working days we could take a step back from the vicious and destructive circle of work, eat, sleep, repeat.
We both believe that it is important to become active members of the local community and I have to admit that Amanda has been much better at assimilating than I have.
This is probably more thanks to her brilliant command of the Spanish language and her ability to make friends. Since moving here in 2014 she has; worked in two schools, a local language academy, and for an adult education enterprise; taken a job in a local cake shop; attended courses and events; and, undertaken a few ad-hoc translation works.
But her latest ‘community integration’ initiative is the one which makes me the most proud.
She is now a fully-fledged amateur footballer, with more than half a dozen games under her belt, for Ribadeo FC/Sporting Pontenova FC combined Feminino Club de Futbol, playing in the Segunda Grupo 1 of the Liga Gallega.
It was all thanks to a chance conversation eighteen months ago when one of the ‘Friday night ladies’ (a group of Mums who met for a cheeky glass of wine on a Friday night while watching their kids play in the local park) said she wouldn’t be coming next week as she was going football training. After a brief chat, her interest was pricked and she agreed to join the lady, and twenty other local girls and women, who were trying to establish a new football club, the first women’s eleven a side team in Lugo.
A year of training turned into five-a-side friendly game which they lost 25-1, and which eventually saw a merger with a group from nearby Ribadeo (30km away) for depth of squad and to form a side to seek entry into the lowest level of the Galician ladies league. Two heavy defeats in pre-season friendlies heralded the start of the season, with understandably low expectation from coaches, players and nearest and dearest, and on the 1st October 2017 a narrow 2-1 defeat away in A Coruna against SCD Pastoriza was their first ever competitive match.
Since then the team has come on in leaps and bounds. They train twice a week (in all weathers), have two coaches (the head coach who swears like a trooper, and his milder mannered assistant) and have remained unbeaten in the subsequent fourteen rounds.
After sitting out the first eight rounds, while confirmation was sought from the UK that she was not contracted to any club over there, Amanda has become the super-sub making second half appearances on seven occasions ranging from playing the full half to the last ten minutes.
Last Sunday her side overcame some atrocious conditions including; vicious hailstorms, gale force winds, and ankle deep mud, to beat their opponents by 11-1. They currently sit fourth in the division as they hit half-way point in the season, and the hard work in training and dedication to the cause has paid dividends.
As they are the only side in Lugo, all away games have to be played in A Coruna which is a ninety minute drive away. You have to admire their determination and can only be in awe of the way that a group of women, many of whom had never played competitive football before, have gelled into a very good football team who are a joy to watch and are currently in with a reasonable chance of promotion to the top flight of Galician ladies football in just their first year in existence.
To say I’m proud is an understatement.