Football: Hopwood Hall College lose European Cup, but gain memories for life

Date published: 13 May 2019

Hopwood Hall College’s Football Academy travelled to the Netherlands at Easter to defend their title of Under 19 Easter Open Tournament champions and although the 2018/19 Hopwood team hugely impressed their coaches, they narrowly missed out on retaining the cup after losing to Wales’ Barry FC and fellow English team, Maidstone FC.

The 2017/18 champions took several new students to Eindhoven who had not competed last year, after many of last year’s winners completed their studies and progressed onto employment or university.

The defeats came after four successive wins in the group stages of the tournament. Hopwood Hall College beat South Africa’s Pietermaritzburg Schools FA twice; 1-0 and 2-0, Holland’s FC Oegsgeest 2-0 and Kent’s Pro Soccer Academy 2-0.

However, the cup became immaterial to the players as the experience proved to be one of the best of their lives. Outside of the tournament, the students also had a tour of Ajax’s Johan Cruijff Arena and visited other parts of Amsterdam together.

Level 3 Sports student, James Gregory, said: “Last year we played mostly with lads we already saw around our first team, but this year was a different mix and we really enjoyed it. Getting to meet new people was as big a part of the trip as the actual football.

“We’ve all really bonded, and the memories will stay with us forever. Obviously, we would have liked to retain the cup, but the experience and the memories mean more than that.”

The sentiments of camaraderie were echoed by Hopwood Hall College’s Football Academy Head Coach, Rob Johnson: “Whilst the aim of the game is to win, the aim of the trip is to develop these young adults. Some of them may have never left Greater Manchester, so to go abroad with your friends and compete in a European football tournament is an amazing experience.

“They played some great football, but they have also been supportive of each other, bonded, socialised with students they might not normally do and have really grown as adults. I’m prouder of that than I am their performances on the pitch, as good as those performances were.”

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