a year of extensive planning, last year's U15 Boys White team along with several players from the red team, Regent SC, and MYSC traveled to Barcelona with Coach Danny van Mol to participate in the Copa Catalunya last July. With the team originally scheduled to play in the Holland Cup in Danny's homeland, families made a quick readjustment when that tournament was cancelled and settled on the Copa Catalunya on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. It seemed at first that players would vastly outnumber any accompanying adults and fans, but by the time of departure the numbers were almost even, with 17 players to 3 U18 and 11 adult American and European travel companions and fans.
Taking in café life is all part of the international
competitive soccer experience.
The experience proved to be better than even anticipated. The tournament included approximately 160 teams from 20 countries, all of them spread out in hotels up and down the coast from Lloret de Mar, the tournament host site. Our group was housed in a hotel in the small seaside town of Pineda de Mar, a short walk from the beach and town center. For many of the guys, this was their first trip abroad and/or their first trip to Spain, so the plans combined soccer with several days of travel throughout the area, including visits to Barcelona (with a tour of Camp Nou Stadium), the medieval town of Girona, the northern coast with seaside cliff-town Tossa de Mar, and the mountains and monastery of Montserrat to the west. The tournament itself was a big hit — the team played six games (against two teams from Sweden, a Norwegian team, a Polish team, and two teams from France), and, in addition to official games, spent many afternoons playing street soccer (and basketball) in Pineda de Mar's central plaza.
The trip's highest highlights (there were many just plain highlights) were identified as: Barcelona — including especially Parc Guell and Camp Nou Stadium (complete with a locker room tour and photo-ops holding trophies), making noise at opening ceremonies, playing the orange team from Marseille, the beach, street soccer on the square, jump style at the disco, being identified as the hot basketball player by traveling Germans, the view from the top of Montserrat and riding the train to get there (for four-year-old Eric), and — unforgettably — the charming U17 girls team from Scotland. Consensus is that the trip's low point was hotel food.
The team's introduction to European soccer
started with the basics — pick up soccer
on the streets of Barcelona.
Now that everyone is safely back in town, with no injuries or illnesses and no lost players/ luggage/ ipods/ / cleats (all of it a potential concern), we feel relaxed enough to offer to share things we've learned over the course of the year with other teams who are considering going abroad. We were lucky to receive very generous corporate support for the team from Culvers, Jon Lancaster Toyota, Regent Soccer Club, Stephan's Soccer Supply, and Middleton Sports and Fitness, and had great success with several team fundraisers. These funds enabled us to provide partial scholarships for some players and to undertake the group excursions. We also have many thoughts about pre-trip organizing and the on-the-ground experience we'd be happy to share. Best contacts for any of that are Ken Felz and Marguerite Roulet. Overall, even though there were moments during the year when we wondered how and why we got ourselves into this, all would agree it was worth every moment spent collecting paperwork and sending emails and will surely be one of the guys' most memorable experiences.
Life's a beach in Barcelona.