Playing at Shrewsbury Sports Village
2008 Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament
By Matthew Walters
Matthew Walters previews the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament as youth football clubs from across the world compete at the Sports Village.
Football clubs from Argentina, Mexico, Romania, Estonia, America and much closer to home will all be competing at the Shrewsbury Sports Village in the 2008 Shrewsbury Soccer Tournament, Sunday 3 August to Saturday 9 August.
Featuring competitions for male and female footballers, the tournament will cater for players aged eight to 18, with local football clubs gaining the opportunity to compete against international opposition from four other continents.
An expected 140 teams will participate in the second Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament across 12 distinct competitions, culminating in a Friday finals day.
The tournament will officially start on Sunday 3 August, with the Sports Village on Sundorne Road opening to spectators from 4pm. At 6.10pm, two seven-a-side warm-up matches (from the 1997 age group) will take place on the competition pitch. Wolverhampton Schools FA will take on the West Bromwich Albion Development Centre, while Cemaes Bay face FC New York.
2007 opening ceremony
At 7pm, the tournament opening ceremony will begin, with Carl Griffiths - former Manchester City and Shrewsbury Town striker, and current Brentwood Town FC manager - the guest of honour. Deputy Mayor of Shrewsbury Alan Parkhurst JP, Mike Smith (former Wales manager, and the president of the tournament), and Grant Perry (Chairman of Soccer Destinations) will also be on-hand.
Following the opening ceremony, the first 11-a-side match of the tournament will start at 7.20pm, with Levadia of Estonia going head-to-head with Shrewsbury Juniors in the 1993/94 age category.
The event features a busy programme of non-competitive activities too, ideal for spectators, visitors and participants with the urge to get involved. Aside from the high-profile visits of ex-Premiership referee Dermot Gallagher and Caersws FC goalkeeper Andy Mulliner, each day of the festival will feature an exciting and innovative non-competitive activity.
Club Jorge Griffa of Argentina are making their tournamnet debut and are competing in the 1991 age category (this year's under-15s). Former members of the club include Gabriel Batistuta (eighth-highest all-time goalscorer in Italy's Serie A and the all-time highest goalscorer for the Argentine national team), Gabriel Heinze (formerly of Manchester United, now of Real Madrid), Lionel Messi (currently at Barcelona, and described by Diego Maradona himself as his "successor"), and Carlos Tevez (Manchester United).
From Mexico, 2007 winners Cruz Azul are welcomed back to the tournament, playing at the 1990/91 age level (this year's under-17s). This age group will also feature Club Necaxa, also from the Primera División de México. Both teams are expected to provide some sublime and slick Latin American flair, as well as an authentic international sporting and cultural experience.
Staying on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, this year's event will also feature several sides from North America, most notably FC New York.
From Europe, leading Estonian sides SC Real Tallinn and Levadia will be taking part. SC Real Tallinn have entered teams in the 1990/91 and the 1994/95 age category, with Levadia entering one side in the 1992/93 age group.
The Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament debuts of these two sides could not be more timely, given that many prominent domestic and European football clubs are increasingly turning their attention to player from the Baltic region. The pursuit, if leading national newspapers are to be believed, of Andrei Arshavin (currently of Zenit St Petersburg) by Barcelona, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur is evidence of this.
Romania's CSS1 Pajura also make their maiden appearance at the tournament in the 1992/93 age category. Fans of Euro 2008 will remember the success the Romanian national team enjoyed in the competition, managing to hold both France and Italy to draws.
Playing at Shrewsbury Sports Village
The Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament will also feature many leading British clubs. Barnsley FC and Oldham Athletic took part in 2007 and return for 2008. New names include Bristol Rovers, Blackpool FC, Port Vale, Stoke City Development Centre, West Bromwich Albion Development Centre and select teams from Wolverhampton Schools FA.
Ulster Schools, from the Republic of Ireland, return with teams in the 1990/91, 1992/93, and 1994/95 age categories. They can always be relied upon to showcase tough-tackling, high-tempo, and attractive football. Cardiff City will also once again feature, alongside fellow Welsh teams Bangor City and Newtown FC.
Continuing one of the cornerstones of last year's event, the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament will feature a popular programme of One-Day Festivals for the youngest teams. The competitions will span an entire day, with each participant taking home a memento of the day. Tuesday sees the 1999 age group make their one-day debut in the tournament, while the 2000 age group take part on Thursday 7 August .
The Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament will feature girls' competitions at two age levels, at 1996-1997 and 1994-1995 age categories.
Michael Owen, England’s fourth-highest scorer of all time and current Newcastle United, attended a previous highly-acclaimed Soccer Destinations tournament in Aberystwyth, setting a goalscoring record that remains to this day. Commenting on the 2008 Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament, he remarked: "Knowing those involved, I am certain that the new event will be of a very high quality and provide a special footballing and international cultural experience to the young people taking part."
Echoing Owen's sentiments, Paul Gardner - one of North America's leading soccer journalists - said: "My very best wishes to the tournament in Shrewsbury. I am sure it will match the high standards of the previous Soccer Destinations events that have welcomed so many American teams over the years."
The international tournament returns to Shrewsbury for a second year, growing in stature, size and confidence.
Aside from the football - in which more teams than ever before will put themselves to the test against international opposition - this year boasts an eclectic and exciting range of off-the-pitch activities.
Tournament organisers hope to emphasise the benefits of sporting participation beyond simply winning games. They plan to encourage the sporting and social development of players and spectators as they engage in one of Shrewsbury's foremost multicultural and international spectacles.
At a time when football around the world has never been bigger business, the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament is the perfect escape from the theatre of professional football... and a celebration of the beautiful game.
last updated: 31/07/2008 at 20:09