20 September 2018

The second week of the summer holidays saw boys from Abingdon Prep who were selected for the Prep Schools’ Lions, the regional representative football teams, head to Gothenburg to compete at the Gothia World Youth Cup. Mikey, Tom, Finn and James for the Under 11s, Jasper, Jo, Samson and Quinn for the Under 12s.

The Prep Schools’ teams, which involve players from ten years old upwards, were selected following competitive trials last November.

With 1,731 teams from 78 countries the Gothia World Youth Cup is the world’s biggest youth event and is larger than the Commonwealth Games.  

56,000 people, including many parents, family and supporters of the players, were in a full Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg as the players paraded in behind the England flag during the Opening Ceremony, carried by the lead actor for the BBC series Jamie Johnson (as they were filming an episode at the Gothia Cup). To see teams from all over the world parading alongside the APS boys in their Prep Schools’ Lions kit, is a moment the boys, and parents, will remember for a long time.

The football itself was fast and furious against teams which in many cases are professional academies and feeders for some of Europe’s top senior sides. The standard was very high but our teams performed well under some excellent coaching. The staff included an experienced coach and physiotherapist with every team. Outside of matches the players attended workshops covering a wide range of topics such as nutrition, hydration and sleep.

All the APS Under 11s played on the same side, playing seven highly competitive matches in all. They finished their first group unbeaten against sides from Sweden, Dubai and Portugal. The latter was an interesting opening education on how the referee is viewed in some countries – with plenty of rolling around from the opposition in pursuit of free kicks. Then, having won that division, games against Germany, Peru (with the loudest supporters, even more so than our normally reserved parents!) Georgia and finally the USA.

For the boys who were lucky enough to be selected, this really was an experience to remember.  It’s not often that you have the chance to pit yourself against some of the best young players in the world, and to experience some tough football and very different styles of play (hopefully some of which will not be repeated on the APS pitches next season!)  They will all undoubtedly have returned to England better for the experience.

For the parents who went it was equally exciting. Quality football played in the right spirit and a thoroughly enjoyable week.

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