Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Summer in Cali!

Cali Life

Monday, July 29, 2013

Well, this summer I knew I wanted to play soccer like I normally do; I just wasn’t sure where.  I could live at home in Southern Maryland and play for the local team there and when I say local team I mean drive an hour and 45 minutes to practice... or.. I could venture elsewhere and continue to see the world!  Somehow I managed to make this happen with the help of a few people.

Within 48 hours of a facebook message I decided to jump on the opportunity of playing for a USL W-League team in Santa Clarita, California.  I literally messaged early Thursday morning and was on a plane to Cali by Saturday.  I arrived not knowing where I would stay and how the team would be or if I would even have a car.  Well, whatever, I was ready for a change of scenery as if I hadn’t been getting my dose of that already (Southern Maryland to Arlington to Thailand to Philippines to Bangladesh back to Southern Maryland).  So I packed my bags and flew out to cali!  The Santa Clarita Blue Heat team owner greeted me and took me to meet my host fam.  

On the way there, the owner, Carlos, told me my host fam was a filipino lady. Phew!  I knew I was in good hands and I knew my parents would calm down a little bit and stress less about my “gypsy-ness”. I was put up in a fabulous house basically on a cliff to view a beautiful valley. There was even a pool in the backyard.  My new host mom also had an extra van so I got to be a little soccer mom early and tut around in a minivan!  Hey, I couldn’t complain! 

my backyard

So far so good.  The next day we already had a game.  Well, this will be awkward.  Don’t know any of these people and now I got to warm up and potentially play a game with them.  I wasn’t expecting to play since I literally just arrived.  But with me you should always expect the unexpected.  Sure enough, at the end of the first half our centerback got injured and I was thrown into the game.  I didn’t even know my teammates names and some of them couldn’t speak english.  I managed.  At least Real World prepared me for something!  I went from 7 strangers picked to live in a house to 10 strangers picked to play with on a field. I know I’m so cheesy!  In light of the Challenge: Rivals 2, I had to make a comment!

What a difference it is playing on the west coast than on the east coast.  By now I would have gotten abuncha “WTF-are-you-doing-here?” looks and “I’m not gonna be nice to this new girl trying to take my spot.”  Instead the team was super friendly and on the field they still meant business.  If you could do better they let you know you should be doing better, but it wasn’t bitchy or mean, just “hey come on we are in this together.”  I loved the vibe.  It was a really great environment to be in.  My teammates were very easy to get along with and my coach was dead on.  He played professionally back in the day for Blackpool in the EPL so I knew he knew what he was doing.  All around I found myself in an awesome situation.  Nice team, smart coach, sick living set-up, a soccer mom minivan, all the while I am in Cali!

Our team also got to travel to Colorado and Seattle this summer and me being a gypsy meant seeing my friends that I have met in the most random places.  I got to see Miss Emily Schromm from Real World DC who I just met in Thailand this year at the Challenge.  I also got to see one my Philippine National Team teammates in Seattle.  The world is so small!!  I meet Emily in Thailand and see her in Colorado and Joanna in the Philippines and see her in Seattle!

Back to Cali, when I wasn’t playing soccer, I was trying to keep my fitness up at the gym and then I would relax and wind down at the beach with some friends.  Seriously, it is as awesome as it sounds.. soccer and the beach!  Also, did some aftershows for MTV so that helped pay for my airline ticket out here and for my ticket eventually back to Maryland, but I don’t wanna leave!

Now I am at the Philippine’s National Team Training Camp/Tryouts.  I figured why not get some more training in while I am here in California anyway. So I extended my trip, picked up a rental car and am now participating in camp.  Last week we had 4 hour long sessions of fitness, conditioning, strengthening, and ball work.  This week we are outside doing more team based work.  Next week I will return home for two weeks before I ship out to the Philippines for our annual ASEAN Football Federation Tournament.  This year there are 10 teams rather than 8 and the two teams added include AUSTRALIA and JAPAN’s U23’s!!!!!! We play Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, and Japan.  The tournament will be held in Myanmar, which I have yet to visit.  After I return from that, well I don’t know what I will be doing.  Being a gypsy has its downsides; never know what’s next!  I would love to play in Australia’s W League, but that’s a long shot.  Guess I will be back in good old St. Mary’s County!!  I will obviously continue to train and I am also starting to get my coaching licenses.  I don’t know what I would do without soccer, but I am glad I at least got my degree before I decided to become a gypsy. 

Til my next adventure,


btw... Ya’ll better be watching The Challenge: Rivals 2 every Wednesday at 10pm on MTV!!!! #teamred #teamcookemaria

The Challenge: Rivals 2

Well, after the Washington Spirit unfortunately cut me during preseason/training camp,  MTV made some room for me on the upcoming challenge.  Literally a week later I packed my bags and shipped off to Thailand.  Watch my experience in Phuket, Thailand as I partner up and try to win $350,000!  Episodes started airing July 10th and will continue to air every Wednesday on MTV at 10pm est!

Follow me on twitter! @cookemtv

Adventures in Dhaka Come to an End

Well, our adventures in Dhaka have come to end.  What an experience!! I would have of course fancied a better result, but nothing happens over night.  We brought a brand new team to the AFC Qualifiers with only a few weeks of preparation.  Thailand had been training all year and so at the end of the day, as much as it pains me to say, they deserve to go to the AFC.  Our final record was 2 wins (Iran and Bangladesh) and our 0-1 loss to Thailand. This ends our hopes of making it to the 2015 World Cup, but I guess that's why we still have another four years to work hard and train and make it to the next one.

Adventures in Dhaka Instagram Photos

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Adventures in Dhaka (cont..) First Game

First game! 

We have just arrived at the stadium. We walk off the bus and I can feel all the eyes of the people on the streets staring at us. I'm so focused that all I see is a blur of people and the light at the end of the tunnel for where our game awaits. The feeling of walking through the tunnel and into the stadium is one of pure bliss. My whole life I've been training for this moment. 20 years of kicking a ball and I am here. I am playing at the international level. This is the first step for the chance at the World Cup. If we win the next three games we will be in the Asian football cup. If we can place 5 or better of 8 teams we will qualify! What was once a dream has now become a tangible reality. 

As I enter the stadium, I see our competition in front of me checking out the field. Iran is dressed in pink warmups wearing white headress. No skin whatsoever is showing except their faces and hands. Are they really going to play fully covered in this heat at 4pm!? Definitely respect them. I can only imagine what obstacles they have to overcome to be here. I know playing women's sports in this side of the world is tough. There's not even close to the amount of the money that then women get compared to the men and far less supporters. Yet today the people of Bangladesh are the biggest supporters. There are hundreds of bangladeshians that have come to watch the games tonight! I don't think I've played in front of this many people before. Who would have thought that our biggest crowd would be in Bangladesh (well, so far!) 

We continue to the locker room. Our girls are all in zone listening to their iPods. For many, this will be their first international cap ever! I remember that feeling myself and I know they are too excited to be nervous. The vibe is so good in this room. We are ready to prove ourselves. 

We have a great warmup and we are ready to go. The sun is starting to go down and so is the temperature. This is perfect soccer weather. We have all gotten used to the Manila heat so we are ready to go. The FIFA song plays as we walk out holding hands. We greet the kids who will walk out with us. They are so happy to be here as well. They are all smiles and so adorable. First, the anthem of Iran plays. I look into the crowd. I take in this moment. Ahhh, I live for this. How lucky I am to not have only found my passion, but am able to have the opportunity to pursue it. 

This takes me back to when I visited El Salvador. The son in the family I stayed with was just a few years younger than me. I asked him what he wanted to be after school and he couldn't answer it. He said, "What do you mean? I will graduate and live here next to my parents. I will farm and provide for my future family." I will never forget Mario. He too plays soccer, but will never get to do anything with it. How sad it is to be in a life where you can't dream because you know it will never come true. And for this reason, when I am out on the field, it is so much more than playing because I love it. It's for God who gave me this gift. It's for my family who have supported me, for my country, and for those that don't get the chance. Be thankful for everything that you have. Being here, I have certainly realized my blessings. This trip is really opening my eyes! From being spoiled playing soccer in America to competing here in Bangladesh; I am still kicking a ball, but the experiences are completely different! 

"And now the national anthem of Philippines"
I stare at our flag. This is my third year representing the Philippines. I hadn't even visited or seen that side of my family until I was 18. I have learned so much about my background and roots by being able to play for this country. There was something missing all along and finally I put in that puzzle piece. 

Game time is about to begin. We say our last prayers and then our last cheer, "Malditas! Laban!"

The whistle blows. Jesse taps the ball to Jo. Jo launches it towards Iran's goal. Is this ball going to go in!? The keeper barely gets a hand on it and it's a corner kick. Tasha sets it up. I think this will go far post like we practiced. I am ready for it. The ball is in the air and going in my direction. Perfectly placed on my head, it sails in the goal past the defender and keeper. Did that really just go in!? Omg! It really just went in! One minute into the game and we have scored! Great start! 

Two minutes later. Fabulous possession by us. We are really feeling it today. Finally we are against girls (normally we only scrimmage guys in the Philippines) and we have so much time on the ball. We are actually faster than our opponent for once. And bam goal by Megan. Another minute goes by and again goal Philippines by Jesse! 3 goals in under 5 minutes! Wow!

Another two goals before halftime.

We start the second half. These Iranians are picking up their game. They are starting to get more aggressive. Though, their fouls are too obvious and the ref is handing out yellow cards. I respect these women though. I mean right now they look like ninjas dressed in all white, and they got that fight in them. I slide with one of the Iranian ninjas to attempt to get a cross off. My leg starts to cramp because apparently four bananas today was not enough! The next play that same girl comes up to me and during the set up of our free kick. She smacks my stomach. Thump. Wtf! Umm yes? She says something along the lines of nice try on the last play. I guess this is playful banter! And I just nod and she taps me one last time on my shoulder and smiles. I chuckle on the inside. Did she really just do that? Kinda funny now that I think about it. This is so foreign to me! I am so intrigued by their culture! Crazy how this sport we play connects all of us. 
The game continues.
Final score 6-0.

Step one complete! We walk off the field and the crowd is wild. I think they are really having fun. I don't think they get foreign visitors often so they are all so excited! So many people waving at us. All these photographers taking pictures of us. This feels awesome! Our first game and our first win. Game 1 down. Two to go. We can do this! ‪#‎believe‬ ‪#‎malditas‬‪#‎teampilipinas‬ ‪#‎laban‬

Adventures of Dhaka (cont..) First Practice


First practice...

Walking out the doors we pass three male guards dressed in uniform with guns as well as three females whom are also wearing bullet proof vests and helmets. This is starting to get a little scary. Our first peak of Bangladesh in daylight, and we have guards to walk us ten feet to our bus! 

Our practice is apparently an hour and a half away due to traffic. We are off and the streets are overflowing with big tricycles, motorized and regular, as regular as you can get here! They have an optional roof that is like a carriage but decorated with the flair of Bangladesh; lots of bright colors and sequins, and pretty patterns. The unique roof mask the rusty trike underneath. There is nothing new in the city. Everything is old and refurbished. All the cars, buses, bikes, trikes, etc are all old, rusty, and rackety. As we ride along the road all we hear are the incessant honking of horns. No wonder this will take forever; we are going as fast as the cyclists pedaling their trikes! 

As I look out the window I see everyone's legs are covered and it's a million degrees out. Men are wearing jeans, long skirts, and even white or brown men's dresses. Every woman is wearing longsleeves and many have their heads covered. We complain about having to wear pants in this sweltering heat and the women are covered head to toe every day of their lives! (We have to cover our legs when we leave the hotel, but not when we play)

Ahh. Now we are in the middle of the intersection and there is a vehicle within inches of every side of our bus! There's a traffic officer screaming holding a wooden stick. Not sure what that is for. I don't know if red lights mean go here but there is no regard to any of the traffic lights. 

We pass a lot f beggars and people selling stuff. They don't care about being aggressive as they tap on our windows and stare at us. One man is missing an arm. Another man we see is so skinny you can see his ribs from the backside, okay maybe not his ribs, but every bone is seen poking thru his skin. Our coach passes a muffin she saved from the plane to an elderly woman. 

This is extreme culture shock. I cannot believe Bangladesh can even field a team with this way of life. This is a life of survival. I've been living a life of following my dreams and passions. We take so much for granted back in the states. The simple things we overlook everyday, from freedom of expression in our clothing to driving our own new car at 16 to having a nice clean bathroom and shower. This is definitely the worse I've seen. 

I think being in the city is worse than being out in the country. I've been to the province in the Philippines and the campo in El Salvador and there, it is so clean and beautiful despite lack if luxuries. The city though is just filthy and dirty and crowded. I could never live here. I commend these people for what they have been through and what they are still going through. Not one of my teammates can take in this scene and not be thankful and grateful for what they have back at home. We are truly blessed; and it's experiences like these that make us take a step back and realize how great our lives are. ‪#‎humbled‬

Adventures in Dhaka (cont...) Food and Shelter

Sorry in advance for grammatical errors etc.. In posting all from my iPhone!

Food and Shelter

We are finally getting settled in our hotel. Last second, they changed our hotel because of protests happening nearby our original what they said. But it is also just down the street and our hotel now is obviously cheaper. Our hotel unfortunately doesn't even come close to meeting the standards of motels in America let alone hotels. I can deal with ugly, but I can't deal with dirty. Too bad for us, we all will have to deal with dirty! I don't even want to go into the details of the decrepit disgust of a room we live in. Just picture being in a small space where you just want to stand still and not touch anything or even breathe and by then you've already gotten bit by a million mosquitos.

I slept in a full track suit last night on top of my covers. We do have aircon but our first room did not. That room was even worse and looked like the girl from "the ring" lived there . Though we are lucky now because we do have a shower while other girls have only a hose next to their toilet!!! As for our view.. Well not much of one, just worn and torn buildings and trash. We do have wifi in our new room, but it goes in and out, but still super happy about the wifi!

Hmmm the food.. Well can't say it's the greatest. It's definitely not the best food for competition. They are trying to work with us though so hopefully we get some better fuel. Right now we have a bunch of different kinds of porridge like substances to choose from. Not sure what's in all of them. All the dishes are spicy, but they said they would tone down the spices. I don't mind a little spice, but I don't kno about it in three meals a day. I mean we had green chilis in our eggs this morning! We always get served a soup to start which I believe is customary here. They like to eat in courses. As for a dessert.. Well nice try. The yogurt is lumpy and plain and the tapioca mush has some weird taste to it. I shouldn't be eating dessert this week anyway! We did get toast this morning. Can't go wrong there. Of course we have rice so we can all live on that if need be. And everyone knows I always keep peanut butter with me so ill be fine! Yes peanut butter and rice.. Try it!

That's about all for now!

Adventures in Dhaka (Bangladesh!)

Started to document the trip beginning yesterday:

Just touched down in Bangladesh. I'm in another world. I feel like I'm in a movie that's taking place 30 years before my time. We are greeted by our hosts with people taking pictures and video taping us. They are so happy to have us. I feel bad for the looks we have on our faces. I'm sure my face is like what the heck!

I've been to a handful of places in the world but never anything like this. I did my research before coming here and already know the turmoil Bangladesh has been thru and is still going thru. They have just become independent in 1971. But preceding that Bangladesh has faced cyclones, famines, military uprisings, and more. On top of all of this I have simply not been exposed to any kind of culture like this before. I've realized how terrible the states have stereotyped people in movies because I find myself very uncomfortable being around people that are dressed incredibly different. Some men are wearing long dresses with hats like the monkey Abu in Aladdin (no idea what they are called or how else to describe them) and some women are completely covered and you can only see their toes poking out from their black dresses when they walk. I mean you cannot even see their eyes! I feel exposed by wearing my conservative polo!

Anyway, we finally our going to get on our bus. Wow. This bus is oldddddd. And it's not jus an old fixed up bus, but one that fell into a river, got attacked by elephants, was used to gather the daily trash, and was left alone for 40 years before picking us up. Well this will definitely be a humbling experience.

The inside matches the outside. Surprise! It's not so much having to see and deal with old things; it's that everything is covered in filth. We have only been here for not even two hours and we hve already gotten a sense of the unfortunate poverty that exists here.

Our bus doors are no longer functioning by pulling the handle but by manually opening it. It is literally held close by a little piece of rope tied in a knot. While we are traveling in crazy traffic, we pass by weird little cars that are the car version of a trike in the Philippines. The helper in the bus randomly gets out of the bus and pours water on the windshield outside and while the bus is in transit jus jumps back on. Meanwhile we watch trucks pass with people sleeping on top of them. I can barely make out the buildings and scenery ouside in the muggy night, but everything looks old and well, ratchet! Once again, where are we!?

Drafted!!!! How I got here!! 2/14/2013

Drafted!!!! How I got here!!
Thursday, February 14, 2013

It has been a week, today, since I was drafted for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).  Washington Spirit picked me in the last round of the Supplemental Draft.  Although, I have not made the final 18-20 player roster, I have been awarded the opportunity to compete in the 32 player training camp.  This is such an honor and a blessing to have even made it this far and I am so grateful!  I never thought I was good enough to compete at this level.

My Soccer Story:  

I grew up in a somewhat small town.  When I was younger, I played on all boys teams and then eventually when I was on girls teams I played up a few age groups.  The coach was always someone’s dad so I didn’t have the best of training; but playing with boys and older girls, I became equally strong and fast and nonetheless, competitive.  When it came to high school, my dad insisted I try out for Maryland ODP and my 9th grade year I made it!  My dad partly regretted that decision because that meant leaving work early and driving me two hours away every Monday for practice.  After that, my ODP coach suggested I get on a more competitive club.  And so came Bethesda Extreme.

Bethesda was a difficult adjustment for me.  I was certainly the least technical player, but had the drive and passion for it and when I say drive I mean literally as well!  Practice would be an hour and half to over two hours away on top of high school, other sports, and extracurricular activities.  All of this was in the hope of playing in college.  At this point, I still didn’t think I was good enough to compete Division 1, but I kept at it and by senior year I had a few choices, none of which were full rides.  I valued my education and future and so those were very important and my decision process.  I became set on the Coast Guard Academy which offered me all three, but of course they were only Division 3.  However, I didn’t close the door to Division 1.  A week before my early acceptance to the Coast Guard, Loyola University Maryland called me up and was able to give me a full ride.

I remember my dad asking if I would still go to the Coast Guard Academy if I was offered a full ride to a Division 1 school.  Thinking that was an impossible feat, I said “Absolutely I’d still go to the Coast Guard.”  Then I got that call and couldn’t believe it.  I was always the underdog at the competitive level.  In my hometown I was at the top, but outside of St. Mary’s County and Southern Maryland, people didn’t know who I was.  I wasn’t exactly a standout on Bethesda either.  But, my Loyola coach had coached me for a year in ODP and believed in me.  He knew he could develop my skill and game and that I had the tools to get there.  I was recruited based on my potential.

Loyola was a rough journey at times, but it all paid off.  From being a clueless freshman to transforming into a confident senior, I continued to develop as a player and a person.  Our last game was the most devastating day of my life.  No more soccer, at least competitively speaking.  I knew I had much more in me.  I was a late bloomer and was hungry for more.  As reality set in, I knew I had to continue with my life.  I ended up getting a job back in my hometown after college, but continued to play in the summer in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL).  People thought I was insane to drive 90 mins just for practice. Or that after 40 hours of working I would drive 4 hours to Philly for a soccer game and then drive back.  And then MTV called me up.

The Real World was a crazy experience and I am glad I had it even though it wasn’t the greatest point in my life.  But, it derailed me from being at a desk for the rest of my life.  Post-show I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and decided to enjoy my summer playing in the WPSL again sans job.  The women’s World Cup was taking place and joking around with my teammate about the playing for the Philippines became a reality.

I literally googled the Philippines National Team that night and was surprised they even had one.  That week, the federation emailed me back and wanted me to compete in a tournament that fall.  Weeks later I flew to the Philippines to play for my mom’s homeland.  This was huge for me.  Growing up in America, I was kind of cheated of seeing my filipino side.  The majority of my mom’s family still lives in the barrio (kinda like the neighborhood in the countryside of a tropical island) and I had only met them once in my life.  So going back to the Philippines and going back to my roots was one of the best, if not the best, experience of my life.

Although, the Philippines is far less developed in terms of soccer than many parts of the world, it allowed me to continue to play. I also became a forward when I was there and began to see the game from a different perspective and became more comfortable on the ball.  Our national team played with men to prepare ourselves for tournaments in Asia since there were simply not enough girls or competition to play with or against.  And this is where I am now, in between tournaments and back stateside.

Since college, my life has led me in various directions and I never really know where I will be next year or even in 3 months.  While home in Maryland, I decided why not try out for the new pro league.  I want to see where I stand.  I am here anyway.  And what if this turns into something more.  

Well, I went to tryouts and what a difference it is playing in America versus Asia.  My height, build, athleticism used to be my advantage and now it was matched.  Not only was it matched but it was outdone by women who had skill and more experience at this level.  I was completely shocked when I got drafted, but I am extremely happy to be able to compete with these talented women.  

I am not your ACC Alum or PAC 10 standout, but I am that small town girl that never gave up and just kept going.  Today I am still not that player that has peaked or is at their prime.  I am still a diamond in the rough, a project so to speak.  But I do have that potential and I do have the heart.  

Soccer is certainly my passion and I am happy to have made it this far.  I have realized that soccer needs to be a part of my life and so I want to play as long as I can and learn as much as I can so one day I can help others to become their best and learn the beauty of this wonderful game.  How blessed I am to have an opportunity to compete with some of the best soccer players in the world! This already is a dream come true.  I know that I am playing for much more than myself.  I am playing for those who didn’t get this opportunity. I am playing for my alma mater, Loyola University Maryland. I am playing for the Philippines and the Asian Football Confederation.  I am playing for my coaches, teammates, and my family that got me here.  Lastly, I am playing for God who has blessed me with this opportunity.  For all of those things I will give it my best and no matter the outcome I will be happy to be in my boots.

Peace out,
Cookie <3

Repost: Malditas Claim LA Viking Cup 11/28/12

Repost:  Malditas Claim LA Viking Cup 11/28/12

A day after the Azkals claimed a huge victory over Vietnam in the 2012 Suzuki Cup, the Philippine Women's National Football Team, also known as the Malditas, showed that they too are more than capable of coming out on top in a big game.

The Malditas escaped with a 4-3 penalty shootout win following a 1-1 tie in full-time, Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) against the California Cosmos, to be crowned as champions of the LA Viking Cup, at the Santa Ana Stadium in Santa Ana, California.

The Malditas emerged from a four-team field undefeated, defeating the Metro Stars 1-0, and Leon 8-1, sandwiching a 3-3 draw with the Cosmos in the round-robin phase of the tourney. They then got revenge on the Cosmos in the Final, besting them when it counted most. - AMD, GMA News”