Meet the junior masters of Wembley
“My son woke me up at 5am this morning, jumping round and saying: ‘is it time to go to Wembley yet?’” laughs Negus Morgan, the father of Birmingham-based Phoenix United player Menilek. “But you can’t blame him for being excited. This is like a mini FA Cup Final.”
Negus isn’t wrong. On a chilly November morning, we’re at the Powerleague five-a-side pitches at Wembley for the second annual Indesit National Mini Soccer Cup. Overlooked by the glorious arch and Bobby Moore’s statue, teams from all over the UK are fighting it out to be crowned the best U8 and U10 teams in the country.
Getting this far is a prize in itself: 140 teams started the competition, being whittled down to ten U8 and 12 U10 sides respectively. The teams in the final all received a tour of Wembley Stadium – taking a look at the stands, the dressing rooms and the pitch where their football heroes were playing a few days earlier. They were also given some superb kit courtesy of PUMA. There was a buffet for players, family and friends, and goodie bags to be won.
“It’s hard to put into words how great this tournament, and this experience, is for the kids,” says Beverley Logan, whose son Daniel plays for Wigan side Allstars. “They’re all smiling their heads off and it’s a huge achievement for them to get here. The standard is very good.”
FourFourTwo witnesses some frankly unbelievable skills and goals as the action unfolds
That is soon evident. FourFourTwo witnesses some frankly unbelievable skills and goals as the action unfolds – and it is such a well-organised, respectful affair that sportsmanship is always in evidence. New friendships are forged between players from opposite ends of the country.
Everyone is desperate to get their name on the Indesit National Mini Soccer Cup, though, and after some thrilling group games, we end up with two mouthwatering finals.
In the U8s, London’s Focus Football take on Hebburn Town Juniors from North Shields. With some slick pass-and-move play and ruthless finishing Focus, the event’s stand-out side, storm into a five-goal lead. Hebburn get one back, but Focus prevail 6-1. “We’re delighted,” says Sean Daly, director of Focus Football. “This cup is great for British football, because the no pass-back rule means you have to keep the ball, look forward and support your team-mate.”
In the U10s, Manchester’s Lisbon Juniors face West Bromwich’s Academy De Skillz. After a 3-3 draw, the match goes to penalties, with Lisbon just edging it, a sweet result after losing in the final last year. Their players enjoy a lap of the pitch, while their defeated opponents console each other.
Glory, heartache, penalties: in the shadows of Wembley, the Indesit National Mini Soccer Cup has produced drama that they’d be proud of on that big field next door…
For more information on the 2015 tournament or more tournaments, visit www.indesit.co.uk/minisoccer