Last weekend The New Saints FC Academy travelled to Spain to participate in the 4th edition of the Jamon Cup, writes Jason Brindley.
The Jamon Cup, played in Calamocha, Spain, is contested by the biggest teams in one of the greatest footballing nations. It was our second invite to attend, following last season’s success, and as a football club that is still growing, we are honoured to be able to play and rub shoulders with some of the most prestigious youth academies in world football.
This year the tournament promised to be bigger and better than ever and that was certainly the case for our 2007 born. The team were drawn in the same group as Spanish giants Athletic Club De Bilbao and FC Barcelona. Both were massive games and a great experience for our youngsters, but coming up against Barcelona was obviously something special.
Not every day you get to face the legendary @FCBarcelona @FCBmasia Academy, what an amazing experience for our @tnsfc youngsters, here they are entering the field #opportunity pic.twitter.com/uyqIkuvzbT
— TNS Academy (@TnsAcademy) June 2, 2018
The 10 team squad included a mix of our U10 and U11 players, with Tom, Evan, Nikolas, Will, Harrison, Joe, Max, Jakub, Ronnie and Patrick all making the trip to Spain. The players and staff travelled overnight on Friday, before catching an early morning flight from Luton to Madrid. After landing in Madrid, it was a four hour journey to Calamocha. It was a long day for our players, but their excitement kept them going throughout the day.
After arriving in Calamocha, the boys checked into their hotel before taking a stroll to visit the football ground. Following that, there was the opening presentation in the town hall, with all competing teams being presented to the crowd with their club anthem playing. Our boys walked out to ‘Dancing in the streets of TNS’. It was a fantastic moment and you could see the boys were very proud.
Onto Saturday and back to business with the football coming thick and fast. Our group was an extremely difficult one, with teams including the two aforementioned La Liga heavyweights but also Athletic Segre, C.D Madrid Sesena and E.F.B Catalunyaud.
Despite coming up against such a high level of opposition, the boys remained true to our playing style throughout and kept to our principles, which we are very proud of.
Saturday was a long day but it finished on a massive high when our boys came up against Barcelona. Barcelona have one of the most prestigious and successful academies ever, with players being housed and developed at La Masia, a stone’s throw away from the Camp Nou, their first team stadium. As a football academy, you aspire to be successful in terms of player development and no one does this better than Barcalona. Their youth players are fully submerged in the club.
Our players really stood up to the test and put in one of their best performances. The boys put their bodies on the line and fully committed to each other, something you could definitely see. We were narrowly defeated, but we were extremely proud of the boys and their work levels were through the roof.
As well as the football, the boys were making lots of friends. It was great to see the players speaking the ‘Global Language’ of football and integrating with everyone. It’s funny how young players can communicate with the use of a football, to someone who doesn’t speak the same language. It’s an amazing thing.
— TNS Academy (@TnsAcademy) June 2, 2018
On Sunday the boys completed their group fixtures before progressing through to the knockout stage. In the draw, our Young Saints had another Spanish La Liga team to face, Elche C.F. The tournament is fantastic and to face three teams from the top league of Spain was brilliant.
Following our final game, the boys supported the other games and cheered on the final. It was a Madrid derby too, with Real facing Atletico, with the latter emerging victorious in a great game. Finishing the day, we had the closing ceremony, before making our way back to Madrid to stay the night and fly back home the next day.
Overall, the experience was a truly once in a lifetime one for these players. Playing against the best opposition in world football is every young person’s dream. We are extremely proud of the way the players conducted themselves, both on and off the field. At the club we drive into players the importance of our ‘TNS Identity’ and ‘TNS Culture’ and the players really showed that throughout. They also progressed socially too and that’s important at this stage of their development.
We are honoured to have been invited once more to compete in the Jamon Cup. Thanks to the staffing team of Kieran, Danny, Ash and Dan for looking after the boys throughout and also Jaume, our Spanish amigo, a great coach and friend who travelled to join the group.
Safe journey home for our @tnsfc Academy from the @jamoncup, they have had the experience of a lifetime and have been brilliant, making lots of friends along the way @FCBmasia @Atleti @madrid @valenciacf @lafabricacrm #opportunity pic.twitter.com/5jthNflg9d
— TNS Academy (@TnsAcademy) June 3, 2018
For more information about our academy, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.