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Ready to get back to work

My first season in MLS ended in disappointment when we got knocked out of the playoffs by Houston, but at the same time, it was a great season. We won the U.S. Open Cup and were the first expansion team since 1998 to reach the playoffs. However, the playoffs were definitely disappointing. But you have to move on.

So I went on holiday and tried to switch off. Usually when the season ends that's what I do -- I don't even talk to my agent for a few weeks. We put so much into the season mentally and physically that it helps to relax in the offseason by completely switching off from football.

I started my holiday in Kauai, Hawaii, for a couple of days. It was so beautiful, but we may have run into a little bad luck because it was raining a lot. That didn't upset me though, because I still got to relax the whole time I was there.

Then I went to Whistler for 10 days. I was a bit scared to go up because I haven't snowboarded for 12 or 13 years. But I still went straight to the top and loved every second of it. Luckily for me all the bad luck from Kauai turned into good luck at Whistler because there was powder there all week. It was absolutely amazing. It was the best boarding conditions I've ever seen.

After that, I spent some time in London and spent Christmas back home in Sweden. As great as things were in Canada, I had the most amazing experience ever over New Year's.

I took my godchildren to South Africa on a safari in Kruger Park. I've seen some pretty nice things on my holidays, but this was the most mind-blowing thing I've ever done. Even when I think about it now ... it's just mind-blowing. I had lions lying a yard next to me. If they wanted to take a bite out of me I would have been gone.

To have my godchildren there; for them to see wild animals that close was amazing. We saw a lot of animals -- some leopards eating an impala, some lions eating a buffalo. Our guide said we were very lucky.

While we were there in Cape Town we went to some shanty towns, which are the impoverished communities there. I wanted my godchildren to appreciate how fortunate our lives are. We came across three families of four living in a room that was the size of what most people would use as a guest bedroom. It was hard to see, but it was a real eye-opener. It was important for me to go and it was important to bring the kids. They got really sad, but at the same time they talked about it for a long time and how important it is to help other people. That was the purpose, so it was a good trip.

Now I'm back to football and I'm glad to be back in Seattle.

It was a difficult time over the last month because of the CBA news, because nobody knew what was going to happen. The players, from what I know, just want the same FIFA rights as other international players and I can't understand why there is an issue. Every player in the world has them and even small clubs can pay their players and survive. With our salary cap, I don't even understand how it becomes a financial issue. Before I left, I thought it would get solved quickly.

Some great clubs did show interest in me. That is flattering for me and really a big compliment to the league, too. It shows that they take the league seriously. I love Seattle and I have a special bond with the fans and the city, but I had to know that I would be playing. I'm 32 years old and not to play for a year would be terrible for me. When I got word on Feb. 1 that there probably wouldn't be a work stoppage, it made it much easier for me make the decision to come back to play football in Seattle.

It was very important to me to keep my word with Seattle, but at the same time I had to know that I was going to play somewhere. I am so happy to be here and I'm very excited to help, along with my teammates, to make this team the best team in America. We have the best fans and they deserve that. We're going to do our best and we are training really hard in Arizona right now. I can't wait for our first game March 25 against the Philadelphia Union. It should be a great season.

It's been a great trip. See you at my own blog.

Freddie Ljungberg is a midfielder with the Seattle Sounders. He also formerly played for Arsenal in the English Premiership and the Swedish national team. He writes daily at his own blog, www.freddie.speaksup.com.

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