Author: Michael Ahari
ON A windy Friday afternoon, I headed off to the Royal High School to soak up the atmosphere of the climax to the highly coveted Play2Learn World Cup finale.
There was certainly an international flavour to this World Cup Football Camp this week as boys & girls from Spain, Romania, England, Ireland & of course Scotland representing top local teams such as Lochend, Edinburgh City, Tynecastle, Hutchison Vale, Boroughmuir Thistle, North Merchiston, Hibs Girls and further afield from Devron Boys near Banff! The teams of Scotland, Italy, Spain and Brazil paraded their nation with flags and posters; and some even kitted themselves out in homemade strips, face painting and hair dye to brighten up what would otherwise have been a rather dull afternoon weather-wise!
As soon as I arrived I could feel the excitement of the kids, but to their and the coaches credit they were very well behaved and organised in getting all their bags to the gym for their first activity of the afternoon, Dodge Ball (A lunchtime favourite).
With lots of points up for grabs, the teams made their greatest efforts, chanting songs and encouraging each other. But it was the home nation, Scotland, who took the early points and the momentum going into the finale of round robin matches.
Using the passing, dribbling and shooting drills they had learned throughout the week and with numerous awards yet to be decided, the teams took to the field as Scotland took on Italy and Brazil faced Spain.
With the games split into two age-groups, youth and senior, the players were able to express themselves well, get plenty touches of the ball, and most importantly, enjoy playing. There were some great performances all round, and these were picked up on by the coaches, as they selected an M.V.P. (Most Valuable Player) from each game to whom they awarded bonus points.
Brazil looked to continue on from where they left off in the morning, having been leading all day, and were the winners of the round. The youth and senior teams won 4-2 and 2-0 respectively, whilst ScotlandÔÇÖs seniors won 1-0 against Italy, and their youth teams shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw.
In the second round of games, Scotland went against form, defeating Brazil 3-0 although the Brazilian youths managed a win over the Scottish youth team. Italy did the double, beating both SpainÔÇÖs teams.
The final round of matches were worthy of triple points, and so all teams prepared to make a final big effort to try and take the crown as champions of the World Cup. Again, the attitude the players took towards the games, win or lose, was exemplary and they could hold their heads high no matter what the final result.
However, there had to be a winner, and all would be decided as Brazil and Italy squared off. Scotland put the 3-1 loss of their professional counterparts behind them and defeated Spain 2-1. Meanwhile on the other pitch Italy stole the victory from Brazil with a last minute winner.
As the matches ended and the players went off for their warm down, the coaches tallied up the scores, and noted down the winners of the M.V.P. Most Valuable Player and M.I.P. Most Improved Player awards for each age group.
These awards were to be handed out by two of ShaneÔÇÖs former players, Jonathan Brown (Ex Hearts) and Paul Watson (Ex Ipswich) who now play for Livingston F.C. in the Scottish first division. And although only a few players could win the awards, every player was a winner as they each received a player evaluation sheet, informing them of their good attributes, and what they could improve on, giving them something to work towards in the future and encouraging them to keep playing and working hard.
But back to the results, and a close 4th was Scotland, trailing to 3rd place Spain by the smallest of margins. Both teams made a great effort in the afternoon and showed great spirit by never giving up. After a silence, drum role, and a nervous wait, Brazil were crowned the winners, just ahead of Italy. There were scenes of jubilation as the Brazil players collected their medals and trophy, which summed up a brilliant week for all the players and coaches, and brought everything to a close.
Lastly, Jonathan and Paul met with all the players, signing shirts and evaluation sheets and posing for photographs to end the camp on a high note and inspire all the keen players to continue working hard and improve their game.
Having been a couple of times myself in the past, I could fully relate to the enjoyment the kids took from the camp, which builds up confidence in players ability and allows them to enjoy playing with other players who they learn to get on with and work together to improve.
Finally I spoke to Shane, who told me a bit about how the Play2Learn coaches engage with the players, and make the camp a fun environment for every player to be in.
ÔÇťShane, what areas do you work on throughout the week?ÔÇŁ
ÔÇťWe work on technical skills such as passing, dribbling, shooting, control and tackling. We also try to make players think about making the right decision and develop their tactical awareness. The ability to work as a team is another important factor, and we make sure all players learn about this at our camps.ÔÇŁ
ÔÇťAnd how do you try to make it exciting for the kids?ÔÇŁ
ÔÇťThe environment at all Play2Learn camps is fun and supportive, and we try to encourage the kids as much as possible. Players take part in conditioned games, demonstrate skills and techniques, and take part in mini Champions League or World Cup events.ÔÇŁ
ÔÇťWhat would you say to players coming along to a Play2Learn camp?ÔÇŁ
ÔÇťCome to a Play2Learn camp prepared to develop your footballing skills in a fun environment, socialise with your friends and team mates and play without fear of making mistakes.ÔÇŁ
To conclude; if youÔÇÖre looking for a week full of fun, games and enthusiasm get yourself along to a Play2Learn camp. The coaches are friendly, and do their best to improve players all round game, as well as teaching players to be responsible for themselves, and help each other in order for them to get the most out of the week. To anyone thinking about attending one of these camps ÔÇô go for it, itÔÇÖs most certainly worth it!