On Friday, 8 year 4 and 5 children went to the Gallagher Stadium, home of Maidstone United, to play in a primary school mini World Cup tournament. Excitement was high as we boarded the coach. We arrived early and had a chance to warm up, get used to the 3G surface and practice taking corners and penalties (just in case!)
These things never run on time and a few school were a little late in arriving, but to pass the time, balls were kicked, obligatory team photos in the goal were taken and Mrs Knight must have been asked 20 times if lunch could be eaten! By 10am, the draw was made, with our captain for the day, Lennon, pulling a name out of the bucket. With it being the World Cup, each school was assigned a team; we were Argentina - a lot to live up to!
The first match in our group saw us face Iceland (Allington) - even in a random draw we end up playing each other! The game started well, with both teams having a fairly equal amount of possession, but Iceland more chances. Callum, Argentina’s goalie, made some fantastic saves and there was a lot of reaction from the stands (7 schools watching and waiting for the next set of group matches). Then Iceland scored, but they weren’t ahead long, as Jack equalised! The game continued with end to end action, Callum continuing to make some superb saves, but wasn’t expecting a deflection off one of his own players. Katie was substituted for Mary towards the end of the game and her energy was good to see, closing down the ball and putting pressure on the opposition. A few more goals crept into the back of our net before the whistle was blow. An unfortunate 5-1 defeat wasn’t a fair reflection of the game. Lennon was Mrs Knight’s player of the match for this game for his relentless running and determination all over the pitch.
Our second game against Belgium (Archbishop Courtenay) began with a nervy few minutes where we kept scuffing the ball. We came close a couple of time, but their keeper made some decent saves, keeping the score level. Their number 10 player seemed to grow in confidence and began taking more shots, but through our defensive teamwork, he was unable to find the back of the net. A 0-0 draw was the end result. Archie was Mrs Knight’s player of the match for this game due to his reliability of getting back to help defend for his team (although he insists he’s a striker...)
Our last game was against a red and white team...We have no idea which school or country they represented, but knew this wasn’t going to be an easy match from watching them play the rest of our group. They were quite a strong, physical team and fouled our players a few times. The pace of the game was quite high and they found the back of our goal several times during the course of the match. We tried shooting for goal from kick off, but the power behind the kick found the face of an opposition player, who, thankfully, got to his feet and was fine. Jack was Mrs Knight’s player of the match for this game for his consistency and dependability towards his team mates.
All in all, it was a tough morning, but the resilience and determination shown by our young team was amazing! In the majority of cases, they were playing against year 6 teams with more experience of the game and playing with one another, but the children did not let that get to them. This was shown by the way they jubilantly returned to school, receiving a heroes welcome when they entered the lunch hall, proudly displaying their medals.
Yes, after our final defeat, the disappointment looked akin to that of Liverpool losing the Champions League Final a few weeks ago, but that’s because of the passion they feel towards the game and they gave everything they could.
A big thank you to Mike and team of Maidstone academy boys for organising and running the tournament and providing us with additional water throughout the morning too. A special mention in particular to the ref of our first game who gave the team a little pep talk afterwards: “I was where you were, years ago, own goals do happen - you just need to score more in the opposite net and you will be ok. Don’t panic in your game, take your time.”
This team is just beginning to work together, with them getting more footballing opportunities as they approach their last years at Senacre. In their first competitive outing as a team, this could be a sign of a promising next season. Watch this space!
Mrs Knight’s player of the tournament: Callum, for some amazing saves in every match and continuing to remain positive to the end.