From the Convenor of Football, Stephen Wilmot
On Friday 2 December 2016, 34 students and 4 staff members met at Sydney International airport for what would be the start of a once in a lifetime experience for all involved. After 21 hours of flying we arrived in Madrid and were ready to immerse ourselves one of the biggest footballing nations. The trip included the opportunity to watch many games, play against some European clubs, train with some of the best clubs in Europe and be able to enjoy each city with a walking tour through each.
We started the football tour watching Atletico Madrid v RCD Espanyol at Vicente Calderón Stadium, which was a great way to overcome our jetlag. The students were able to see the like of Torres playing right in front of them in a game that finished nil all. The boys then started the next few days training at the Real Madrid training complex, which was one of the biggest complexes of football fields that many had seen. After two training sessions with Real Madrid we were then taken on a tour of Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Real Madrid’s home ground. This was our first of many stadium tours and it set a high bench mark with the boys visiting the home change rooms as well as being able to sit on the bench where the players sat.
During the next two days the boys were then able to train with Atletico Madrid where they were again put through their paces in some intense training drills. While waiting for our second training session there was a moment of real excitement among everyone as we realised the Atletico Madrid first team were training below. Unfortunately we weren’t able to watch for long as it was a closed training. Julian’s dreams were then shattered when Torres walked a different way to the change rooms meaning he did not get to meet him.
The second game we watched was a Champions League game of Real Madrid v BVB Dortmund. This was an exciting time for the boys as they were able to see the likes of Christiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. The game finished 2-2 with a quiet cheer from Oliver Tamsett as Dortmund finished top of their group.
While in Madrid the boys also played two teams, first being local club ‘Tres Cantos’. Unfortunately the results didn’t go our way with the development side going down 0-3 and the senior team 0-2. The next day then saw the boys wanting to redeem themselves from the previous game against ‘Rivas’. The 1st XI game finished with a 3-1 loss, the goal from Waverley came from George Hatziandreou. The development team played a great game passing the ball and putting some of their training into action, however, fatigue took over most of the players with the final score of 4-0 and not a fair indication of how well the team played.
While in Madrid we were also able to do some guided sightseeing of the city centre to experience all the city had to offer.
With the excitement of the Champions League game still among many of the students, we then had an early start with a flight to Barcelona. Once we arrived we were straight on the bus to a training session with RCD Espanyol. The boys again were put through many technical drills and learnt some new techniques.
Following the training we then were able to do our second stadium tour of FC Barcelona at Camp Nou. We also were able to do a walking tour while in Barcelona to experience the rich history the city has to offer and visiting the sites such as the Sagrada Familia.
The boys also had a training session with FC Barcelona with another action packed training session learning the main football philosophy from another great club.
On the second day in Barcelona we played our third game of the tour against local club ‘Almeda’. This was another game of redemption and the boys put everything into the game. The senior team played first and had a great 5-0 win. Three goals by Zachary led the way, assisted with goals by Julian and Jerome. The development side put in a great effort to draw 1-1 with a great goal by Matteo. After an action packed two days we were then off again with our next stop Berlin.
After arriving in a cold Berlin in the afternoon we were off to see a Bundesliga game of Hertha Berlin v Werder Bremen. This was a different experience to the Spanish football we had just witnessed as the atmosphere of the crowd was loud the whole time with the cold having no chance of stopping their team songs.
We started the second day with a visit to the local church for some reflection time and to remember those lost in an explosion at a football stadium in Turkey. This was followed by a visit to the Christmas Markets for some food and a much needed warm drink before we began our walking tour of Berlin. Our guide, Gerald, took us to a number of the iconic sites around Berlin including the Brandenburg Gate, The Reichstag and Checkpoint Charlie and provided a number of interesting insights and anecdotes about the history of Berlin, from the rebuilding time following the war, to the rise of underground techno clubs in the 1990’s. One of the most powerful places we visited was the Holocaust Memorial, a maze of uneven two and a half metre high stones, designed to mirror a Jewish cemetery, which we made our own way through to remember the atrocities of the war. After this we headed back to the Christmas Markets for another couple of crepes and hot chocolates and the opportunity to buy gifts for friends and family back home.
While in Berlin we also trained with Hertha Berlin in cold conditions which had many of the boys wanting to run around to keep warm. Hertha Berlin was a great side to visit and train with as we were able to learn the club’s background and philosophy which involved targeting youth in their area and ensuring their education wasn’t affected while training with Hertha Berlin. By doing this they were training their own players to limit having to buy players in.
The last leg of the football tour was upon us with our arrival in London. With a two hour bus ride to the airport, a one hour plane trip to London and another one an a half hours of travelling by bus, we arrived at Ardingly College for our fourth game. For many fatigue had set in as we had been sitting down for most of the day. With a limited warm up we started both games. The results unfortunately didn’t go our way in either game as the opposition were far too strong in the conditions on the day. Both teams finished with a 0-6 loss. Despite the loss the boys were very appreciative of the skill and finishing of the Ardingly teams and enjoyed a hot meal at the conclusion of the game in a large hall, which reminded many of Hogwarts.
The second game we played was against The Forest School. Two very strange games ensured. Heavy conditions and a determined opposition ensured hard games for both teams. The senior team lost 5-7 after leading for much of the game. Zachary scored four goals and Julian I one goal. The Junior team lost 3-4 again and as with the senior team controlled the game for long periods.
Over the next few days in London we were able to visit Stamford Bridge Stadium for a tour with two great tour guides and train with Chelsea FC’s development coaches. We were able to again experience the change rooms, benches, press room and the accomplishments of the club at Stamford Bridge.
While in London we travelled to White Hart Lane to watch Tottenham v Hull City. This was a highlight for Mr Darvill and Mr Hillman to be able to see their team play, however they were very quiet throughout the game as we were seated in the away section with Hull fans. We also had the great opportunity to watch Crystal Palace v Chelsea at Selhurst Park on a very foggy day. Many of the boys enjoyed sitting next to the Chelsea fans with their cheering throughout the game and the atmosphere of the final game they would watch in Europe.
During our visit of London we witnessed such amazing architecture such as Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street and Big Ben in what was a once in a lifetime opportunity and could be the last time the majority of us would visit such an amazing city. During the sightseeing we learnt about the rich history London has from its buildings to the monarchy. On one of our final nights we were lucky enough to visit the West End and watch The Lion King.
One of the most humbling experiences on the football tour was visiting the JFK School. This school caters for high special needs students aged from 7-19. This was a wonderful experience for our boys and gave them an opportunity to interact with some very special children. Unlike all the other activities on the tour this was a chance to give a little back. The response from the school was great and as you can read below they were very appreciative of our visit. “I would like to say a big thank you from Harriet, myself and everyone at JFK for sending us such a wonderful group of students. They behaved with maturity, were respectful, inquisitive and showed empathy and understanding in what must have been a daunting situation to come into. The students on both of our school sites were enriched by the visit and they have left a lot of smiles on happy faces.”
Lastly I would like to say a huge thank you to all who helped with the football tour to create the great and memorable experience had by all. From our great tour guides in each city, the great boys we took with us, the parents who were always helpful in the lead up to the tour and finally the amazing staff of Mr Patrick Darvill, Mr Lachlan Hillman and Mr Anthony Banboukjian who gave up part of their holiday and time away from their family to make such an amazing memory for the boys.