Hic Sunt Leones: A year playing lacrosse for Rome

Playing for the Roma Leones Lacrosse team has been the highlight of my time in Italy. Moving to a big city can make you feel quite anonymous. Getting to know this great group of guys has provided some much needed glue as I settled here. My degree is a combination of language and culture. Culture is fundamentally based around people, their ideas and their imagination helping to form a collective identity for a country. It's impossible to fully understand this in a lecture in the UK which is why thousands of us get sent out on erasmus to experience something completely new.

Only through my time with the squad have I been able to start to understand these proud, interesting people. Most of the team are born and bred Roman with a few coming in from other parts of Italy. Roman slang is prevalent as well as a boisterous almost obstreperous attitude that they wear proudly on the pitch and while they are drinking off it too. Their chutzpah in how they conduct their lives could be misunderstood as arrogance but it is rather born out of a sense of mischievousness and curiosity.

I played my last lacrosse with them at the weekend in a joint community open day with Lazio. Lazio, the biggest sports club in Europe, have adopted lacrosse into their franchise this year so now the city proudly boasts both a Roma and Lazio team. We played our first derby in January which had more of a friendly vibe compared to what Roy and I saw at the Stadio Olimpico in May.

Hic Sunt Leones is the joint cry in how we start and end every game. It comes from the Latin roughly meaning 'here come the Lions'. Fabio, the coach, would gather everyone in a huddle, say a few parting words and would scream 'hic sunt' with us heartily responding with 'Leones'. I always enjoyed this pre-game huddle, it was a symbolic gesture of unity and too often we try and rationally dismiss and undermine how important a symbol or mantra such as this can be. In Philosophy For Life Jules Evans uses Socrates to argue the importance of mottos and mantras. Through repetition and reflection they become ingrained into our habits and attitudes. It's not enough to just have an idea of what you ought to do, you have to dedicate that behaviour as something central in your life.

Lacrosse is a fast, physical, team game. It therefore requires a huge amount of effort, underlined by a required harmony and understanding in the group. My favourite sports have always been on the water. Sailing catamarans or lasers provide a sense of freedom under the backdrop of the powerful ocean. As grass sports go though, lacrosse is hard to beat. The enjoyment of playing the game has always been in tandem with getting to know a great group of people off the field as well. This was one of the main reasons why I started at Edinburgh and was also true here.

Travelling with the team on tours and away games has provided some of the more surreal moments of the last ten months. Visiting Belgium as the only Englishman with 15 Romans to play a traditionally American game highlighted how far away I was from the life I had left behind. It's also a testament to the power of sport in bringing people together which I think is underestimated besides the various physical and mental health benefits.

The last competitive outing for the club was in Turin for the Italian Cup, the 'Coppa Italia'. Ultimately it was a disappointing end for the Roman team. A resolutely officious umpire from Bocconi called a series of dubious penalties in our quarter final meaning we were man down for over the half game resulting in a 4-2 loss to Milan Painkillers who we had beaten the previous month. I was a pretty useless player at Edinburgh and it was rewarding to see how 9 months of training have made a big difference. At Rome I switched to play in attack and under the perseverance of Fabio's coaching I started to rack up the goals, scoring in every game of the final weekend.

Any achievements on the pitch were outweighed by the holistic experience of spending time with the squad. It provided obligatory routine during some of the lows in January and February. Being relied on by other people was usefully empowering and gave a sense of purpose that I sometimes lacked in living here.

I want to thank everyone at the club for welcoming me as one of their own, it's been an experience that I will never forget.
TJP

Away in Milan, I'm bottom third from left! 
Twitter - https://twitter.com/pembertont
Insta     - https://instagram.com/timpemberton/