Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 4

There is only one possible theme I can start with, and that is the fact that Asmir will be playing in the 2014 Word Cup in Brazil! Amazing, Amazing, Amazing! Bosnia left it late to seal qualification, knowing that with Greece likely to beat Lichtenstein at home, only a win would do. On the 68th minute Vedad Ibisevic scored his 7th goal of the campaign, and that proved enough to take one of Europe’s newest countries through to the 2014 World Cup.

I was in Sarajevo last Friday, to see the last home qualification game. The eventual 4-1 victory over Lichtenstein was comfortable but quite nervy, with the stakes increased by the fact that 4 of Bosnia’s players were carrying yellow cards and on strict instructions not to take any risks. The celebrations after the match were subdued as well, but I don’t think the atmosphere in Bosnia on Tuesday night will have been anything less than euphoric. It is a country that takes Football very seriously (it's a national obsession), and there will have been a lot of sore heads and little work getting done on Wednesday.

It’s also great how relaxed the atmosphere is around the players. Although the fans are kept at a safe distance most of the time, players are able to meet and socialise with their families, and I know this helps Asmir to relax and keep things in perspective before the big games. I had the privilege of meeting Safet Susic, the Bosnian Manager and Paris Saint-Germain legend, and it’s his philosophy to keep things as normal and grounded as possible.

I wasn’t able to travel to Lithuania, due to Dressage commitments, but I did manage to watch the match with Asmir’s parents in Germany and of course everyone in their town was thrilled by the result, although I did think Asmir’s dad was about to pass out from the stress of it all. Asmir’s younger brother is also a highly talented goalkeeper, and I dread to think how their father (also a top ‘keeper in his time) will cope if they come to compete for the gloves.

The result on Tuesday brings relief as well as huge satisfaction, as we can now plan a little bit further ahead. Needless to say the result gives our summer holiday next year a somewhat South American flavour and I will be asking Abbey Clancy for Samba lessons! The World Cup will be a logistical challenge for families almost as much as for the teams, and it will be interesting to see how organised Bosnia will be.

Whilst my main attention is naturally on Bosnia, it’s also great to see England through, also leaving qualification to the last game. It would be great fun if Bosnia and England were drawn in the group stage, but I’d be lying if I said my loyalties would be split! Asmir will not be the only SCFC player in Brazil next summer, with Geoff Cameron and Brek Shea both appearing for the USA, and Palacios for Honduras. I hope you will all get behind our players, even when thet are not representing Stoke. 

Stoke: reaching the parts other clubs cannot reach

It’s fair to say that there is not much cross-over between my Dressage world and Asmir’s football, but occasionally I like to think I help to spread the Stoke City gospel. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had visited the World Dressage championships in Denmark. Whilst I was there I met Dressage dream team Patrik Kittel, Swedish Champion Dressage rider and his wife, Lyndal Oatley who represents Australia. Nothing to do with Football, absolutely nothing to do with Stoke City. That was until I received this picture, and a message wishing luck to Asmir! You never know where new friendships will be born. Top International Dressage riders in Stoke City tops – it’s a bit random but the word is getting out!

Nicolle x