Friday the 12th of July, 14 young soccer players and their two coaches Gareth and Malunga were welcomed at Landvetter Airport in Gothenburg. The team from Project Playground had been invited to participate in Gothia Cup, the world’s largest youth soccer tournament. What a chance! Most of the team members had never been outside Western Cape before – let alone been in an airplane, flying. They were nervous.
The team, Project Playground FC, was awaited by many and a Swedish supporter group took care of the practicalities. A bit shy but with high excitement, the boys started with a training camp in Dalsjöfors. Enjoying the Swedish nature and training with professional soccer players from IF Elfsborg, the weekend ended with a soccer game against Dalsjöfors youth team. New friends found already! Project Playground FC could not be more ready for the first day of Gothia Cup.
After a very welcoming and generous kick-off event at our partner Jetshop’s office, Project Playground FC had the honor of representing South Africa at the grand opening ceremony of Gothia, marching in with their flag before over 50 000 spectators. The pride was immeasurable! Project Playground FC was mixed in age between 12-16 years and played in the league of Boys 15. They really proved their technical skills, they were fantastic – and so were their supporters blowing their vuvuzelas. The team made it to the B-playoffs, won another game, but was then eliminated. However, the adventures did not stop.
Liseberg amusement park was a true highlight of the trip, all the boys agreed. They had never seen anything like it before and ran around, just as children should in such a place, for five hours without stop. Tired but happy, Project Playground FC returned to the Gothenburg school that was their home for the week. After days of discovering minigolf, watching a professional soccer game, swimming in the sea, finding friends from Sweden, Uganda, Australia and many other countries, the boys were filled with impressions that could last for a lifetime.
Heading to Turkey! The sight of the huge city of Istanbul, so different from Sweden and Gothenburg, was astonishing. Project Playground FC spent one day at the Besiktas soccer academy Uskumrukoy Spor Tesisleri, trained with the director and played a fun and joyful soccer game against the local Turkish kids and youth. Language barriers? Not a problem in soccer. A visit at the museum and arena of the Besiktas sports club, located in the Asian part of Istanbul, fascinated the boys – so many stories and trophies…
Monday the 22nd of July it was time for Project Playground’s young soccer talents and their two coaches to return to South Africa, Cape Town and Langa. After little more than a week of sunny weather, unbeatable support, new friends from all over the world and memories to cherish for life, Project Playground FC was more than happy. This was truly a lifetime experience, increasing both their self-esteem, self-confidence and their cultural knowledge. Moreover, the boys were great ambassadors of Project Playground, our message of friendship and fair play, and South Africa. We already look forward to greet Project Playground FC again at Gothia Cup 2014.
On behalf of the soccer team and the entire organization of Project Playground, we send our deepest gratitude to all our sponsors, the support group, and everyone else involved that made this adventure possible and so amazing.
Click here for more pictures: http://www.project-playground.org/2704/gothia-cup-2013-soccer-memories-lasting-forever/