Foxes FC started its participation in international youth football – the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden – in the summer of 2017.
In the summer of 2018, Foxes FC took a U12 team to compete in their first Gothia Cup, proudly playing in the final round of 32 finalists, from an initial outset of 164 competing teams. This world-class experience was fantastic for players, coaches and parents alike, exposing our players to the dynamic, international world of football where many nations meet for the love of sport, and leaving them with indelible and inspirational memories for years to come. The Gothia Cup has become an annual fixture on the Foxes FC calendar as we take more teams every year to experience this unique event.
In 2018, there were 1731 teams from 78 nations.
Here is an account of our adventure with the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden with our U12 team and our coaches – Helder Soares and Josh Lalelgne.
We finally touched down in Gothenburg after an unanticipated delayed flight of 7 hours at the airport. Due to the delayed flight, our first game was re-scheduled by the Gothia Cup organisers from a 10am to a 5pm kick-off. This enabled us to get in some much needed sleep and rest before our opening match.
We arrived at our school accommodation at 6am in the morning with the boys weary, tired but excited to have finally arrived. Coincidentally we were in time for the serving of a Swedish breakfast. It was a quick dash to the dining room for some breakfast, and then back to the room for sleep.
There was a scheduled 2.30pm wake-up, followed by a late lunch and shower to freshen up, before hopping on the bus to make our way towards the opening match venue at Grimbo. As our game had been re-scheduled for an evening kick-off due to the delay, our game was streamed live to the wide world, enabling parents to watch the game from the comfort of their home. We arrived at the grounds in good spirit, considering the disruption in our journey and preparations beforehand.
Adrenalin was high, and the boys were excited but nervous for their first game. We were playing a local Swedish team called Ingaro IF. We started the game well, but found ourselves one nil down against the run of play.
However, chances kept appearing, and we got our equaliser as Raul beat the keeper to a long ball to slot the ball past him for Foxes to equalise 1-1. Half-time came and the message from the coaching team was to continue playing our game as our chances would come.
The second half, Foxes FC dominated, but chance after chance went amiss before finally Adrian struck goal as he poked home from close range. 2-1 to the Foxes!
No further goals were to come but Foxes FC ran out victoriously in their first match of the tournament. The coaching team were immensely proud of the boys effort considering the impact of the severe flight delay.
With the opening ceremony scheduled to begin at 8pm, there was a quick rush back to our accommodation for a quick change before heading off to the nearby Ullevi stadium, which was conveniently 5 mins away.
The opening ceremony kicked off with dance routines and with a young girl kicking a ball in the posts and singing ‘A Million Dreams’, symbolising hope, inspiration and vision for the youth to attain what they have set their minds upon.
There was a choreographed procession of flag bearers, dancing and intertwining, representing the coming of the nations in unity, peace, harmony and play.
Selected football teams from each nation paraded on the pitch in costumed dress, and paraded their flags on the pitch. It finished off with an impressive display of fireworks and music entertainment.
It was spectacular to see the meeting of nations through football, and a taster into the world of international football for Foxes FC.
It was an early wake-up, quick change into our kits and breakfast before we made our way to the pitch across the other side of the city.
Today, we were playing Hisingsbacka FC on their home pitch. On the arrival to the facility, we played on an astroturf pitch with stands for spectators to accommodate them, in the middle of idyllic woodlands and green spaces.
The game was challenging due to the fact that the team was 18 months older than us, therefore further physically developed and their boys were significantly larger than ours. This was a physical battle with a number of players incurring injuries during the game. We played the match and unfortunately lost 4-0. The boys were also feeling the the impact of the delayed flight and having to stay up all night adversely affected them.
We stayed to watch the next game and study our opponents for the following day’s match – Oppsal IF.
After lunch at the school, we headed to the Heden centre, (known as The Big Meeting Place) which was a short walk from our accommodation, to relax.
The Heden centre is the central hub for the Gothia Cup, it is the tournament’s headquarters, right in the heart of Gothenburg city centre. There were 6 artificial grass fields, football games and challenges, grandstands, merchandise, sportswear, sponsors and food stalls. The international, dynamic vibes were tangible. There was the Coca Cola Skills Arena where you can try out their challenges (best precision, fastest reaction etc), Volkswagon football dart with prizes and many other activities.
We also met up with parents of Foxes FC who had flown out to watch and support their children, and enjoyed local cuisine of Swedish meatballs at a restaurant in the evening. The atmosphere was pleasant, with a summer breeze and sunshine and Swedish employees were welcoming as they were excited to entertain international guests.
Our match was in the mid-afternoon, allowing the boys to enjoy a well deserved lie-in after a hectic arrival. We made our way to play Oppsal IF – a Norwegian team. Having watched them play the day before, it was clear why this team had already dominated the group, with very strong technically gifted players, and most of them had a demonstrably larger physique than our boys (6 feet plus!) and up to a year older. It was evident that we were in for a tough match, so we created a game plan of a defensive strategy. Oppsal were an impressive outfit and the game finished 4-0 to Oppsal, but the boys performed admirably and stuck to their tasks, and it could have fared much worse if we had not formulated a defensive strategy.
It was certainly a challenge for our boys. It was also great exposure for them to be against teams of boys who were much larger than them as this is the reality in competition. There maybe disadvantage from the outset, but this will sharpen the boys’ awareness of the high bar in competitive football, so they can build the skills, determination and think of tactical strategies required to meet these.
Afterwards, we had downtime with the players and we headed to the Heden Centre, the central sports entertainment hub, with dinner and a stroll around the city centre, enjoying the local culture.
As we finished third in our group, we progressed into the B Cup Play-offs. This was a knockout stage comprising of 32 teams. Our first match was against Prep School lions, a team comprising of elite players selected from the top independent schools in England.
We started the game strongly in the first 10 minutes, passing the ball around nicely and controlling the match, however the game quickly turned into the opposition’s favour with a series of mistakes that led to the Prep School Lions racing into a 2-0 lead against the run of play. The boys were taken back by the situation and struggled to respond proactively and we soon lost momentum as the game went away from the team.
The final score finished 5-0 to the Prep School Lions with everyone bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the game. The players and coaching team were frustrated as we felt it was a game that we lost ourselves through mistakes rather than the opposition outplaying us, although Prep School Lions had played well. We were now out of the tournament, so the focus on enjoying the remaining few days.
That afternoon we spent a couple of hours playing parents vs kids matches, which was good fun and in the evening we went for dinner as a team. Afterwards, we went to a local park and had a debrief on how the matches had went. The coaching team felt it was important to have an honest chat with the boys, and for the boys to express their feelings of how they felt their game had gone and the improvements they need to make as a team going forwards.
During the evening, we arranged a friendly match against another team: Elite Soccer for the next day. We felt that it was important that the boys had the experience of another game against a team that we wouldn’t usually play against.
We arranged to play the team at the Kviberg Park which is a multi-sports venue with over 30 football pitches. The game itself was a really good with two evenly matched teams playing some great football. We won the game with a last minute goal culminating in 2-1. The goal was scored from a set piece (a free kick) with Tim gliding into the backpost to score a header. The boys were jubilant and it was a great way to finish their last match of the week on a high.
Later that afternoon, we watched the semi-finals match of the U17 competition between ASEC (Ivory Coast) and Right to Dream (Ghana) in the main Heden Stadium. The match was an entertaining game with some fantastic football being played with skilful and quick players on show from both sides. There were 5,000 people watching the game with a great crowd atmosphere as Right to Dream won 3-0.
Our boys really enjoyed watching the game and learning from players of high ability. Some of the players we were watching will go on to become professional footballers and represent their country.
Later that afternoon, we headed to the Gamla Ullevi stadium where we would watch the finals of the U13 between IF Brommapojkarna (Sweden) and Dallas Texans Soccer Club (USA) which IF Brommapojkarna won 2-1. This was a good game for the boys to watch to see the level of the teams that had reached the final in their age group. There were around 5,000 spectators in the audience, providing a truly unforgettable experience.
We had a planned trip to the Liseberg Amusement Park for the team. This was an exhilarating way to finish the week and have some fun, particularly on the Balder – a steep and fast wooden rollercoaster – not recommended for the faint-hearted and immediately after lunch!
The adventure had come to an end and it was time to go home.
The boys truly had an amazing time, and were exposed to the city of Gothenburg, one of Europe’s premier events’ cities, which is well equipped with multisports complexes and world-class facilities: Scandinavium arena, Heden Center, Gamla Ullevi, Nya Ullevi as well as others.
For us, it is important that the boys have challenges to help them grow, reflect with a debrief on how they play and how to up their game, and have a realistic picture of the competitive international landscape in football. The Gothia Cup provides these opportunities. Players who have won the Gothia Cup have gone on to participate in World Cup Championships, demonstrating the importance of Gothia Cup as a pathway to greater international opportunities.
They encountered international teams from Africa, America, Europe and Asia and were exposed to high calibre players around their age. These are lifelong memories and experiences they can take forward to elevate their football playing skills, aspire to higher goals, and also develop into global citizens.
Facts and statistics
SKF is a leading bearing and seal manufacturing company and the main sponsor for Gothia Cup. SFK also sponsors teams from all over the world who without this aid, would not be able to have the opportunity to attend.
Xabi Alonso (Spain), Adebayor (Togo), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Ze Roberto (Brazil), José Montiel (Paraguay), Kim Källström (Sweden) and Teddy Lucic (Sweden) won the Gothia Cup and represented their countries at the World Cup 2006
Figures for 2018
- 1,731 teams from 78 nations participated
- The average age is 15.5 years
- There were 21, 641 spectators during the finals in 2018
- No. of playing fields: 101
- No. of games: 4,424