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First Week, First Win in Norway for Santa Barbara Girls Soccer Team

Participating in the Norway Cup is just one of many highlights for 13 local players and their families.

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Members of the Santa Barbara United 14-under girls soccer team share a bonding moment before a Norway Cup match in Oslo. (Gabe Rocha photo)

[Editor’s Note: Santa Barbara United, a soccer organization of 12- to 14-year-old girls, is the only U.S. team to enter the world’s largest youth soccer tournament, the Norway Cup. Thirteen girls from Solvang, Goleta, Santa Barbara and Carpinteria are in Norway until Aug. 2. Here, three players reflect on the team’s experiences during the first week. Check Noozhawk and for team updates.]

We thought we would send a story every day, but there’s just no time. From the very first day in Lillehammer, when we arrived to seven welcoming and gracious families, to Sunday when we won our first match of the Norway Cup in Oslo against Oslo Nordstrand 4-0, our days have been full to the last of the almost midnight sunlight.

We aren’t quite north enough to experience the true midnight sun, but it really does stay light until about 10:30 p.m.

Lillehammer on Lake Mjosa, the largest lake in Norway, is a lovely town of about 25,000. Surrounded by lush farms, the town is picaresque, friendly and easy for our team to explore.

The girls, under the supervision of their host families, climbed the 800-plus steps to the top of the Olympic ski jump and watched young and older practicing their jumps, visited a wonderful “living” museum that demonstrated the history of Norway, hiked in the mountains and enjoyed a nearby water park with their Norwegian “brothers and sisters.”

Our parting on Saturday morning was filled with “tusen takks” (thousand thanks), invitations to come to Santa Barbara and come back to Lillehammer, and heartfelt hugs. 

This first week also offered time for soccer practice and two “friendly” matches with local teams in Lillehammer. We needed to adjust to the nine-hour time difference, recover from 16 hours of travel and begin to feel comfortable in this land of many similarities and differences, such as language, foods and sleep patterns.

Age Solheim, Britt Svoen and their daughters, Une and Ida, made this week in Lillehammer for 13 American girls, ages 12 to 14, and their family members one that will remain a special time in hearts and minds.

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Santa Barbara United players and others jump off a bridge into the river in Lillehammer. (Britt Svoen photo)
Now we concentrate on soccer and the Norway Cup. On Saturday, after a “friendly” match with the girls from Zimbabwe (0-0) and a barbecue in which the girls shared songs and dances, was the opening parade — 1,500 teams and 30,000 players being welcomed by one another and the city of Oslo.

The Kenya team shouted “Obama, Obama” when they marched by us. Some of us smiled and gave a high-five sign; some of us shouted back “McCain , McCain.”

On Monday and Tuesday we have matches against two more Norwegian teams. Other teams we could play in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals are Brazil, Kenya, Vietnam and Palestine. Whatever the teams, the spirit that infuses the Norway Cup is one of mutual respect, interest and lots of fun. What better way to see and be a citizen of the world!

Quotes from the team:

» “It is a great experience meeting people from different countries.”

» “We discovered SoftIs, soft ice-cream.”

» “My family was kind and giving.”

» “The Olympic ski jump in Lillehammer was my favorite experience so far. We climbed the 850-plus steps and watched some jumpers practicing.”

» “We all tried the goat cheese, brown cheese. It is sweet and rich.”

» “The houses are really beautiful in Lillehammer, and in Oslo we are in apartments.”

» “I liked jumping off the bridge into the river in Lillehammer after the scrimmage.”

» “Boy, am I happy we one our first game.”

» “Living with my team is the best!”

We will write again soon, maybe after our wins Monday and Tuesday. Keep rooting for us!

Michelle Goss, Adaezia Hill, Amber Holland are Santa Barbara United players.

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