THERE was a great sense of anticipation and excitement at Port Elizabeth Airport yesterday (July 11) as a group of 106 Northern Areas Football Association junior players, officials and parents set off for a dream tour of Europe.
The group will visit Holland, Madrid and Germany on a trip aimed at giving young soccer players the chance to visit foreign countries and experience different football cultures.
Tour operator Valentine Brink said the tour was funded by parents who had sacrificed and worked tirelessly towards raising funds.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these children and the trip is also aimed at teaching them life skills, [a chance] they may never receive again,” Brink said.
“The tour also seeks to expose many of the young players, some of whom have not been beyond Nelson Mandela Bay, to world-renowned sights and venues like the Bernabeu Stadium [home to Real Madrid FC] and the Amsterdam Arena [home to Ajax Amsterdam FC].”
Brink said the teams travelling to Europe comprised 74 youngsters in various divisions, ranging from under-12 to u-18, coaches and 10 parents. They would play friendlies against Procamp and Spvgg Football Club and attend coaching sessions with other clubs.
One of the parents, Debbi September, said it was her first trip overseas.
“It’s a lifetime opportunity for my son to travel abroad and a chance like this might never come again in his life. As a parent, I have decided to travel along with him because I have to guide him all the time and I’m always going to support him on what he does best,” she said.
Player Janovane September, 11, was bursting with excitement.
“I’m a striker for the u-12 team and I’m hoping to be exposed to the foreign football and learn more about their soccer style. When I grow up, I want to be an international soccer star.”
McKyle Singh, 15, said he hoped the tour would create opportunities for him to play professional football.
“My parents are going to miss me, but they understand that I’m doing this to boost my soccer career. My aim for the trip is to just play good soccer and beat those guys.”
U-14 team coach Gerhard Luck said the most important thing about the tour was to develop life skills for the players.
“We do have talented youngsters, but some of them have to learn life skills. We will also receive coaching techniques, training and become familiar with Dutch-style mechanisms.”
The group returns to South Africa on July 24.