How many of us have dreamt of playing on the pitch at a Premier League stadium? Better still, winning silverware at a Premier League stadium? For nine FBB schools participants, these incredible dreams came true last week, as they were rewarded for their hard work and good behaviour this year with the chance to play in the Evening Standard’s London United 5-a-side tournament at the Emirates stadium.
Coached by Tom Perez & Bruk Abdu, two FBB coaches who recently completed their FA Level 2 qualifications thanks to funding from the London United campaign, the team was made up of under-13s from two FBB Schools in Croydon – Archbishop Lanfranc and Quest Academy. The tournament featured 7 other youth teams from charity’s involved in the programme, most of them under-14s that were more physically developed than our players. Nevertheless, the team put in a battling performance and came close to scoring in a 1-0 defeat to eventual champions in their first match. Despite also narrowly losing their other group games, they had one last chance for silverware – if they could win their last 2 games they would get their hands on the London United plate!
With their coaches motivating them from the sidelines, the boys put in two tremendous performances, winning 1-0 both times and showing immense maturity and composure, particularly in a gripping final match. At the final whistle, the FBB coaching team (which doubled in size as further coaches snuck down from the stands to the turf) ran onto the Emirates pitch to celebrate with the players, dancing and singing the traditional “campeones” tune. The boys were elated – it was a truly once in a lifetime experience. To top things all off, they were presented with their prize by Arsenal Legend Robert Pires (see full photo album on Facebook)!
All in all it was a fantastic day – the youngsters had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, showing great resilience and determination. Most importantly they had done it as a team, accepting and understanding that a squad of 9 meant that the 5 players on the pitch would be rotated throughout the tournament. Despite only having met each other a week before the tournament for a 1 hour training session, the boys from the two schools had joined together and become friends and teammates under the FBB banner, truly demonstrating the values of inclusiveness and teamwork that we hold so highly as an organisation.
Personal account from #FBBSchools player James, who scored the winning goal in the final:
“The feeling of playing on the Emirates was great and I’m very fortunate to have played there. At the age of 13 and to have won at the Emirates stadium was amazing. Scoring and winning us the plate was a great feeling but I don’t think I deserve the credit I think that Densel our Goalkeeper deserves it because if it wasn’t for him we would have lost but he kept us in the tournament with his saves. He injured himself but he kept going and he did it for the team. After losing the first few games I felt angry and annoyed but when we got into the semi-final of the plate I was so happy and determined to win it! I saved us from losing by blocking their striker’s shot when the keeper was on the floor. Playing with the Quest boys was good because it shows that we can work with anyone which is a good sign. We’re all quality players but we need to collaborate with other players to make us better. The only way you will become a good player is if you listen to your coaches and that’s the reason I scored.”
WATCH: See the reaction of FBB Coaches below as James pulls off a goal-saving block in the final