At the top of her game after only 5 months in Israel

Rebecca Glueck has managed to obtain citizenship, enroll in ulpan, and join the women's soccer league.

rebecca glueck 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
rebecca glueck 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Rebecca Glueck (pronounced "Glick") has achieved quite a lot since making aliya five months ago. Originally from Kansas, this 23-year-old has managed to obtain citizenship, find an apartment, enroll in ulpan, become one of the best players in the women's soccer league, get called up to the national women's national soccer team, find a social network and be interviewed on Dudu Topaz's television show. She has every reason to be optimistic, but... "I'm so frustrated with learning Hebrew. I feel like I'm on the verge of understanding everything, but I'm not there yet," she said at an Ibn Gvirol cafe, frustrated that she hasn't mastered the ancient Semitic language in only five months. She gets up at 7 a.m., hits snooze on her cell phone "like 15,000 times" and then heads off to Ulpan Gordon in Tel Aviv for five hours. Extremely fit - she runs every morning, goes to the gym, practices soccer twice a week and plays one match a week - Glueck won't allow herself to indulge in much of what the city has to offer, unlike some other soccer players here, who she thinks don't take themselves seriously enough. She has nothing but praise, however, for teammates at the Ironi Ramat Hasharon Soccer Club. Tracing Rebecca's journey to aliya is not easy, so where did the idea of coming to Israel to play soccer originate? "After I graduated [from college], my dad asked me what I was going to do next. I'm not sure what the exact thing was, but I've always had a special place in my heart for Israel, and I love soccer. So I wondered if Israel had soccer. "My parents took me to Israel when I was in my early teens. My family has friends here, and we keep in touch. My dad offered me [a chance] to come to Israel. His best friend comes here all the time on business. My father said I would have great opportunities if I wanted to go. "My dad loves Israel. His heart is in Israel." Why is he not here? "My mom, she wants to be close to her grandchildren." "So I said I would give it a go, and I knew already what kinds of opportunities were waiting for me... I wanted to meet with universities and I had no appointments set up - and at some point I was quite discouraged. A few days before I came here I went on a run, and I was thinking to myself: Man, I'm going to Israel. What am I going to Israel for? I'm crazy. I'm so unprepared. "The Jewish Agency's aliya emissary in Los Angeles, the person who had been helping me all along, sent me an e-mail before I came here, saying the national women's soccer coach [was] waiting [for my] call." AN EXUBERANT, animated, athletic and smart young woman, Glueck is still finding her feet in her new home off the field. On the field, she is an aggressive, confident striker, playing out ahead of the pack. Off the field, she seems more easy-going and open to "whatever." "I don't like anything boring in my life. I like to have fun. It's not fun if things are normal. I came here looking to find where my heart might be, you know what I mean?" she said. "When Israeli guys hear that I'm a soccer player they're kind of awed. They're like: women play soccer in Israel? Really? I guess I don't look much like a soccer player. I think I look more like a nurse," she laughed. Currently, there are at least four Israeli-born female soccer players playing on college teams in the US, and they usually join the national squad for international games. Rebecca is the only American-born college star and new immigrant playing on the women's national team. Two days after arriving here, Glueck was introduced to the Ironi Ramat Hasharon women's soccer coach, who immediately realized her potential and guided her to the Wingate Institute, where she met the national women's soccer coach, Alan Shaier. "The [national] coach reminded me of my all-time-favorite-in-the-entire-world coach back in Kansas," Glueck said. "We clicked so well and immediately. He didn't ask me any personal questions, like where I was from or anything like that. He wanted to know what position I played, what I thought of the game, technical stuff. "We spoke for a few hours, at the end of which he invited me to join in a friendly game the team was playing that afternoon against a male team made up of Wingate sportsmen." "Ten minutes later I find myself wearing a white-and-blue sports uniform. I've been in Israel for just a few days. I've met the national coach and now I'm out on the field and I'm like YEAH! Is this happening to me? God, thank you so much!" "The coach told me just to relax and get out there. He also put me out with the forwards, up front [even though Rebecca had played midfield in college]," she said. "All of a sudden I got the ball, beat a defender, I take a shot, and it goes in the goal. We won 1-0. I was in La-La land." "Being a striker takes a lot more confidence than playing in midfield, it's a lot more pressure," she added. "You have to be ready and stay composed when you're right in front of the goal. And I'm a bit of scrapper, I really get in there," she said, punching her way through imaginary defenders with her arms and legs in excitement, drawing the attention of caf -goers around her. AFTER THAT practice game, the coach invited Rebecca to stay the weekend at Wingate to take part in a training camp for the national woman's team. "The girls here are more technically proficient than they are fit," said Glueck, who describes herself as a "fitness-holic." "It's less of a running game here, less physical. Still, the national team could beat most, if not all, US college teams, and could compete on the international level. We're getting stronger every day." In the past month, the team has beaten Cyprus 6-1 and drawn with Wales 1-1 in a 2007 Women's World Cup preliminary. Glueck scored the first goal in the Cyprus match, her first official goal for Israel in her first game. "I nearly started crying when they played the national anthem in Cyprus. I'm standing there and thinking, 'I'm playing for Israel. It's such a great feeling.'" Right now, what concerns Glueck is an endorsement. She doesn't make any real money from her sport, and one day, in a rare acknowledgement of a minor technicality, she realizes she will have to do other things to survive here. "How many fans even come to our games?" she asked, explaining why women's soccer is nowhere near as lucrative as its male counterpart. "Usually a lot less than one hundred." Her club team has a few team sponsors, like chocolate brands, but none of the players have personal sponsors or endorsements from private firms. Glueck, as well as her other teammates, gets a salary, and she also receives some financial assistance from the government as a new immigrant. "But you know, it won't last. I can't survive next year after the money from the government stops," she said. "My dad sends me checks all the time, and I rip them up. I look at them first, but I rip them up. My parents have done everything for me, but I want to make it here on my own." So, what do you plan to do after the soccer season ends in May? "Nursing." Rebecca studied nursing at Southeastern Louisiana University while she starred for the school's Division I soccer team, the Lady Lions. And then? "I live my life day-to-day," she said. "If you're not happy today, then tomorrow is not even worth it. I'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow." What about your future? "I see myself here in Israel, hopefully married and starting my own family. I just got my passport," she added gleefully. "It says I'm Israeli."