By Shay Thom | Posted: Thursday August 10, 2017
The 15th of July saw Oscar Black and I (Shay Thom) set off on the journey of a lifetime to play in the SuperCup, a tournament in Northern Ireland for Under 17 teams worldwide.
Oscar and I went with an Otago based team named FOYDAT. This contained a mixture of players from Dunedin, Central Otago, South Canterbury and Auckland.
After almost six months of training, we finally arrived at Dunedin Airport to start our journey to England. We said our goodbyes to family and friends and then were hit with the reality that twenty five hours of flying time awaited us.
Once arriving in England, adjusting to the eleven hour time difference was a struggle for us both at the start, with late night games of cards the only thing to stimulate our fatigued brains. However after a few days, with the time difference no longer affecting us, we started to venture out into the city. The days in England were spent exploring what Manchester and surrounding areas had to offer; with trips to Old Trafford, Manchester City’s training facility, Anfield and Villa Park, along with multiple shopping trips.
However, the highlight for both of us, getting to see a pre-season game between Huddersfield Town and Bury FC. Our time in England was concluded by two warm up games against premier league and championship opposition in the form of Burnley and Birmingham Under 17 teams. These two games opened our eyes to the level we would have to play at to achieve great things at the Northern Ireland Supercup.
With our five days in England complete, we hopped on a plane to head to Northern Ireland. Upon arrival it was straight to watch Manchester United Under 19 vs Northern Ireland Under 19. This again showed the quality opposition we would face in what is the the hardest Under 17 tournament worldwide.
In our first three games of the SuperCup, we faced Club America (Mexico), Club Londonderry (Northern Ireland) and Strikers (USA). We picked up the massive scalp of Club Londonderry while suffering narrow defeats to Strikers and Club America who went on to be runners up in the tournament. This placed us in the vase division and meant that on day four, we would be competing in a semifinal against Bayern! In a close game against Bayern, we suffered a 2-1 loss. The final day we bounced back to beat Vendee, a French team 3-2 to finish in a respectable 11th place, the second highest place the FOYDAT team has ever finished in the tournament. The team also managed another milestone, being the first team to score in every game.
Looking back on the experience now, it was a tournament of learning for both of us. We both found the tournament extremely hard, with the level of competition being like no other we've ever experienced in Dunedin. At the same time, it was a really fun experience and was great to see what procedures and process the professional athletes in England do to get them to that next level. The most pleasing thing we took away from this experience was that our hard work really paid off. We were put in many tough situations over there and we battled hard and showed a lot of resilience and perseverance as a group. All the morning sessions at 7am and the time and effort we put toward this team and trip was ultimately the difference between coming home with two wins instead of none at all.
Oscar and I both feel like we will take the learnings from our time away and apply them to both our schooling and footballing careers for many years to come. For both of us, it has been a life changing experience we will never forget.