FORMER Bega soccer player Jonah Caragher had a culture shock recently.
In August, Jonah, 16, was selected to take part in an international trial for Portugal soccer’s Club Sport Maritimo.
The club, which is based in the city of Funchal on the island Madeira just off the coast of Portugal, is where Jonah found himself in for the experience of a lifetime.
Jonah said he noticed the differences in culture the same day he arrived.
“It was my first night on the island of Madeira that I discovered one huge cultural difference between Australia and Portugal,” Jonah said.
“I was surprised to find I was sitting in an empty restaurant at 8pm when I decided to go out for dinner.
“I was thinking that everyone had dinner earlier and I was a bit late,” he said.
Jonah said it wasn’t until he felt peckish later that night he found out what was actually going on.
“It was later on at 11.30pm that I went down to grab something to eat and the restaurant was full.”
Jonah said shops and restaurants would close in the afternoon and people would rest and then re-open into the night.
The four-week visit to the club was a real learning experience.
“Being without friends and family for a month on a small island really taught me a lot.
“I gained a lot of independence and learnt a lot of new skills, both on and off the field,” he said.
Jonah said his usual day was busy and with the late night culture he was training at all hours.
“A normal day would consist of getting up at 9am to eat breakfast then having a gym session at 10am.
“After the gym session would be lunch around 1pm followed by stretching and recovery until training which started at 8pm and finished at 10.30pm.
“There were no early nights.”
Jonah said there were perks as part of the trial with the club.
“I was fortunate enough to get tours of Real Madrid (Spain) and SL Benfica’s (Portugal) home stadiums.
“One of the best things I did was going to watch Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid live at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, which had a capacity of around 90,000 people,” he said.
Jonah said his journey wasn’t all about football and he was privileged enough to take in some of the sights and the history from other countries.
“It wasn’t all football in Europe though,” Jonah said.
“I enjoyed tours of Lisbon and Madrid, stopping to take photos of all the historical landmarks.”
Jonah said he had a newfound understanding of what it takes to play at a professional level.
“Being at CS Maritimo for a month really helped me discover myself.
“I realised just how much effort goes into maintaining fitness, strength and conditioning,” he said.