The Christchurch United Under-16 players are still buzzing after returning home from the incredible experiences during their 17-day football tour of Spain.
The mixture of 14 and 15-year-olds from the Christchurch United Football Academy spent the past two weeks as guests of the famous Valencia FC Academy which is renowned for producing some of the greatest players in Spain.
After earlier watching the Valencia first team in action in the Primera Division and the Europa League, the New Zealand youngsters on Sunday were part of a priceless footballing experience when they witnessed Barcelona FC claim the Spanish title at the famous Nou Camp stadium.
“It was an unbelievable night,” said Christchurch United Academy Director Colin Williamson. “The Nou Camp stadium was pumping and the Barcelona fans were all still in the stands celebrating two hours after the match. The boys won’t forget that night as long as they live.”
(The Christchurch United touring party was part of the biggest party in Barcelona when Messi and co grabbed the Spanish championship)
The Barcelona championship match was a fitting end to a whirlwind tour that was built around daily trainings under the guidance of the Valencia Academy coaching staff who in the past produced superstars like Manchester City’s David Silva and Real Madrid striker Isco.
In the last few training sessions, the Christchurch United players were joined by the familiar face of Christchurch United product Eric Suguhara, who is currently part of the Barcelona Football School in Australia and happened to be in Spain for a tournament.
“Eric knew most of the boys and joined us for a few trainings and our final practice match against one of the local teams. He did really well despite being a bit younger than the other players,” said Williamson.
(Training hard at the Valencia FC Academy)
Between the heavy training schedule, the Christchurch United squad played four matches against local club teams and learned many valuable lessons, even though those lessons were at times painful.
“The Valencia coaches found some good opposition for our boys, and even though we were often just as fast or skillful as the Spanish players, they showed us how we need to be a lot smarter,” said Williamson.
“In most matches, we got caught out by quick counter-attacks or punished by them scoring from free kicks. They knew when to commit a small foul to slow us down on attack or draw a foul in a dangerous position,” said Williamson.
“It confirmed why we are working on developing intelligent players at Christchurch United. These matches showed our players that wonderful skills alone can get you so far, but that you have to be smart to become a great player.”
The Academy Director was proud of his players who had made great strides and showed tremendous courage in a narrow 3-4 defeat against Vilmarxant CF in the final match, despite conceding two early goals and losing two key players to injuries.
“When the Valencia Academy Director handed them all their certificates on Friday, he said they really earned it.”
(The Christchurch United squad are awarded their certificates by Valencia coaching director)
For more information, contact Academy Director Colin Williamson on 021-772763