International football in Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament 2008 diary
By Matthew Walters
Follow the 2008 Shrewsbury international Soccer Tournament with Matthew Walters. Come back every day through the week to read his latest diary.
Sunday 10 August
At a time when pessimistic talk of the credit crunch and a potential recession dominate the headlines, it has been quite challenging at times to remember that 2008 has been a tremendous year for sportsmen and sports fans. Even now we sit centre-circle watching in amazement at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, with – as I write – Great Britain claiming a gold medal in the women's cycling competition. Sporting optimism, it seems, will simply never fade.
My one fundamental proviso, throughout the course of the series of articles I've produced for readers and for BBC Shropshire, was to attempt to capture the variety, diversity and multiplicity of the 2008 Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament - a naturally vain attempt, because it would take more than one man, his laptop and a few hundred words to do justice to an event that is at the very forefront of promoting social and cultural inclusion through a shared passion for sport.
Nowhere is the social and political leverage of football more apparent than at an event where players, parents, politicians and entrepreneurs are mesmerised by what the potential superstars of tomorrow have learnt to do with a round-ball.
It has once again been a privilege to be a spectator at the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament. The standard of football played throughout the course of the week has never been higher, the speed never as fast, the technique never as polished.
It truly is marvelous to be able to report among the list of winners at this year's event so many British teams claiming silverware. They've measured themselves against some of the very best sides international youth football has had to offer. They've not only won, but have learnt immensely important lessons about how to handle different cultures, how to perform when the pressure is upon you, and how to play fairly.
Competitors and spectators together
Englishmen and Welshmen have rubbed shoulders with Argentines, Estonians, Mexicans and Romanians. Referees have mixed with seasoned professionals and developing youngsters. As I've stressed in my reports throughout the course of the week, the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament has been fundamentally an educational experience - one where all those involved learn culturally, socially and in a sporting sense.
The 2008 tournament
So here begins a round-up of the 2008 Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament, an event whose 140 teams from across five continents provided the most exhilarating sporting spectacle over five days of intense competition.
In the 1989/90 Shrewsbury and Atcham Cup, Ellesmere Rangers emerged as winners in a group which also featured Hereford, Short Football, and Discoveries (of South Carolina). Ellesmere had a second reason to celebrate, their own K Renshaw winning the top goalscorer award for his age group.
In the 1991/92 Mitre International Cup, Port Vale beat Sutton Coldfield 3-0 to win an event that had also featured Ulster Schools and Estonians SC Real Tallinn. The 1991/92 Creative Digital Trophy was won by Mexicans Cruz Azul, who beat Swansea City in the competition's final in a thrilling 5-4 win. Bangor City's D Smith won top goalscorer of the age category, with James Beeston of Port Vale winning Player of the Age Group.
Swansea City, who won two competitions in the 2007 tournament, won the 1993/94 Sportsjam Cup, beating Wolverhampton Schools 4-3 on penalties in the final. Earlier in the day, they had defeated Ludlow Town 5-0 in the semi-final.
The 1993/94 Drovers Travel Trophy was won by Oldham Athletic, who beat Mexicans Club Necaxa 2-1. The Player of the Age Group Award was won by M Dalla Costa of Argentine Club Jorge Griffa, with the Fair Play Award handed to Cardiff City.
The 1995/96 Darwin Centre Cup goes home with Blackpool FC, who defeated Plymouth Elite 1-0 in the semi-final before beating Swansea in the final. The 1995/96 Pride Hill Centre Trophy was won by Barnsley FC, who beat Wolverhampton 6-1. The age category's top goalscorer was L Boucher of Willenhall Juniors, with the Player of the Age Group Award won by K Kauber of SC Real Tallinn. The Fair Play Award was earned by Tobermore.
The 1996 SLI Security Cup is in the hands of Bangor City.
The 1997 Wrexham and Shropshire Railway Cup is in Barnsley FC's possession, after the Yorkshire outfit defeated Blackpool FC 4-2 in the final. The 1997 Trophy Room Award was won by Bishops Castle, who beat Wolverhampton 3-0 in the event’s final. Top goalscorer was Barnsley’s M Holgate, with T Roberts of Cemaes Bay winning the Player of the Age Group Award. Bangor City won the Fair Play Award.
Clubs for Young People won the competition's two main girls' events: the 1994/95 Tanat Valley Coaches Cup and the 1996/97 Sabrina Cup. Aberystwyth won the Fair Play Award in the former age category, and Madeley Sports the latter.
More than just football
There's so much more to this event that happens off the pitch, away from sporting competition. I hope in the course of my week's reports that I've been able to draw upon this. Off-the-pitch activities have also been taking place, everything from a professional referee's visit to a host of skills workshops.
On Monday, FC New York under-13 Ladies were treated to a special, tailored coaching session with Andy Baker of Shropshire Girls' Centre of Excellence. The girls, who compete in the Long Island Junior Football League back at home in the United States, played for nearly two hours at the Shrewsbury Sports Village's arena pitch, taking part in skills, passing and shooting drills.
The same afternoon saw Martin Wood, Shrewsbury's very own town crier, visit the tournament to deliver a rousing performance in his own inimitable style. Arriving just after 2pm, Martin announced his entrance to the tournament in his booming, bruising manner before visiting a few of the Shrewsbury Sport Village's changing rooms to give competing teams inspirational pre-match speeches.
Monday also saw the first of the much-loved and well-attended one-day festivals, the event catering for the 1999 age group. In a competition based around matches of 15 minutes, entertaining and competitive football was played throughout the morning and into the early hours of the afternoon.
The spectacle saw Welshpool Town, Wrexham Centre of Development, Swansea City Centre of Development and Tranmere Rovers A and B teams participate. Also competing were Stoke City Centre of Development A and B teams, Bishop's Castle, Montgomery and Shropshire Villa. Swansea Jacks and Newtown Whitestars completed the competition's line-up. All participants were equally rewarded, taking home a token of their participation.
Wednesday saw the inaugural Sixes and Sevens event take place at the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament, with six- and seven-year-olds given the opportunity to participate in specially designed games and skill drills.
Overseen by members of the Soccer Destinations team and coaching staff, participants were given the opportunity to attempt several skill challenges in the Skills Arena before aiming to hit the right spot with some target practice.
Later in the day, the Sixes and Sevens Event was concluded with a gruelling penalty shootout and a final skills challenge.
Most memorably, Dermot Gallagher - former Premiership referee and FIFA-listed official - attended the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament on Wednesday. He oversaw and mentored a handful of the referees before taking charge of the Club Jorge Griffa versus Oldham Athletic match on the Competition Pitch. He arrived just after 10am, meeting the tournament's referee co-ordinator and was given the opportunity to see the refereeing set-up.
Andy Mulliner, record appearance holder at The New Saints with 226 appearances, provided several goalkeeping coaching sessions on the same afternoon as he passed on skills and technique advice to the next generation of goalkeepers.
The current Caersws goalkeeper, who began his career as a Port Vale trainee, returns to the tournament today to oversee more goalkeeping workshops. He guided his tutees in catching, diving-at-feet and shot-stopping exercises.
The 2000 festival took place on Wednesday at the 2008 Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament, with flamboyant, fast-paced football played throughout the morning and into the afternoon.
Fifteen-minute games of one-way football were played by numerous sides from across the United Kingdom, with the start and end of matches marked by the cacophonous sound of an air horn.
Welshpool Town, Wrexham Centre of Development A and B teams, West Bromwich Albion Centre of Excellence A and B teams, and Bishop's Castle all competed. Montgomery, Port Vale, Waterloo Rovers, Shropshire Villa and Wednesfield also took part. Stoke City Centre of Development A and B teams, and Swansea A, B, C and D teams completed the competition's line-up. Friday saw the 1999 festival take place.
We've reached the end of another year of the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament, with the event demonstrating its strength and depth by providing a truly thrilling sporting spectacle for the town of Shrewsbury and the wider county.
We've seen the highest attendance over the course of the week in the history of the tournament, and we've seen more teams than ever competing - 140 in total, from across five continents. The organisers' aim for next year's event is to continue to promote the mantra since the tournament's inception: to provide local teams with the opportunity to play against opposition they wouldn't do ordinarily in a league season.
They will hope to widen participation from local Shropshire teams, British teams and international club sides to make sure the 2009 Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament is as successful as the 2008 event has been.
Pablo Picasso once said that action is the foundational key to all success. That view could not be more appropriate in view of the success of the Shrewsbury International Soccer Tournament. It has been the energy, the enthusiasm, and the determination to succeed that has given the tournament its momentum.
The fact that the 2,500+ participants and 10,000+ visitors have been involved is what makes this tournament so special. The organisers have created and shaped the future of football.
It's been a whole host of fun writing these reports. I'd also like to thank BBC Radio Shropshire too, both for the coverage, and for their enthusiasm.
Finally, however, I'd like to thank you, the readers. A tournament - an event - is nothing without its enthusiasts and its participants. Without you all, all efforts would be meaningless. It's you that provides the spark that sets the tournament alight, and ultimately it's you that holds the future of football in your hands.
Thanks for reading.
last updated: 12/08/2008 at 13:25