Osmani Trust’s Football in the Community Project (FITC), which aims to provide access and participation to football for young people and adults have returned back from a historic international football tour. The project funded through the Football Foundation took a squad of 18 players aged under 16 to participate in biggest world youth football tournament, the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden.
This was to be the second time the FITC project has taken the Elite Youth team to this internationally renowned competition, previously taking an under 13 aged team back in 2009. Many of the players that participated this year carried over their experience from the first time they had entered the tournament previously and for many others it was a completely new experience. The squad was made up of players from the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Islington that had finished runners up the East London & Essex League season. To add to the players excitement Sporting Equals also sponsored the team by providing a brand new kit.
The team trained hard in London and on the eve of the match players started to feel the nerves of playing in the Gothia Cup and with the expectation of doing better than they had done in 2009. The team were in a tough group with teams from Sweden, Germany and India, it was going to be a testing few games for the players as we had 4 games in three days. Our first game set the standards for the rest of the tournament; we narrowly lost the game 1-0 in the last minute of the match to Koping FF from Sweden. Later that evening the players had their second match, this time it was verses TSV Krefeld-Bockum of Germany, this was always going to be a tough match due to historic reasons between German and English teams and did not fail to disappoint. The game was tightly battled in all parts of the pitch with both teams holding strong in defence so as not to concede. In the second half things got a little more intense with some very heated exchanges and tough tackles with decisions started to go against Elite Youth, two of Elite Youth’s management were sent to the stands and had a player sent off- all very controversial decisions. However, rather than dampen the mood this added to the spirit of the team and Elite Youth pushed on for a winner, this came from a corner two minutes from time to leave the German team gutted with victory going to the English once again.
The next two league matches were also tough games against an Indian team Kenckre who we lost 2-1 again conceding in the last minute, the last group game was against another Swedish team Burseryds IF, with huge local support but the players again showed character to win 1-0 and finish third in the group missing out on second spot by one point, this meant we qualified for the ‘B Cup’ stage.
The first B Cup match was against Ljungby IF from Sweden, this was to be yet another memorable match as we were losing 1-0 with five minutes to go, it took a smashing goal from Mohammed Sarwar to take the match to penalties. Now the nerves of the players were really clear to see but like all penalty shoot outs there is always a hero. This time the hero was our goal keeper, the penalties went into sudden death and with the keeper making five saves he decided to end the match by scoring the final penalty to win the match 10-9 on penalties, what jubilation was to follow for the players and staff alike.
On Thursday we had to travel across Gothenburg for our next match against Aryan Sports Academy from India, at this point many players had picked up slight injuries and fatigue was beginning to set in as the hot and humid temperature started to rise. However, the players took control from the kick off and played some outstanding football to win the match 5-0. The next game was the quarter final against Palmetto Football Club from USA; the team had to travel back across Gothenburg for this match. The match proved very tough physically for the players but they still battled their way through the match. The game was nicely posed at 1-1 mid way through the first half when a player from the USA team was sent off for a professional foul off the ball; despite being a man down Palmetto FC took the lead just before half time. Elite Youth came out in the second half and mounted attack after attack but to no avail due to some great saves and stern defending. Time was running out and players started to really feel the pain of seven games in four days and with that the 2011 Gothia Cup dream came to an end.
Haris Zaman, team Captain for Elite Youth said, “This was a great tour both on and off the pitch. We played very well in the games and reached so far which was amazing; we met people from around the world and made new friends. I would replay this whole trip over and over again if possible!”
Imadul Islam, Chair of Osmani Trust said “We at Osmani Trust want to give local young people the best opportunities; this tour was aimed at providing young people with a footballing experience but also at the same time a platform to develop personal skills. The team has done exceptional well in progressing to the quarter final, the players and staff deserve great credit.”
Abdal Ahmed, Football Development Manager said “The boys have done fantastic, not only on the pitch but also the way they conducted themselves off the pitch. The FITC project will continue to provide exciting opportunities in the future.”
Osmani Trust is now preparing its many youth and adults teams for the start of the new football season, if you would like to get involved or would like more information please contact Abdal Ahmed on 020 7247 8080.