A team of young players from Exeter City Football Club’s Academy have returned from a successful tour in Spain.
The under-13 and 14 players were the first English teams to compete in the Madrid Cup, which included squads from Atletico Madrid, PSG, FC Porto, Getafe CF, Real Valladolid and other clubs from top European Leagues.
The huge tournament hosts more than 10,000 young people playing from U8-U16 across over 30 venues around Madrid. Head coach, Ben Whatmore said it had been an exciting and challenging experience for the players.
He added: "Across both teams, the boys were extremely competitive throughout, showing a clear representation of what it is to be an Exeter City Academy player and the standards, behaviours and football attached to the Exeter City name.
"This was exemplified through the boys’ performances, winning seven out of 12 games across the six days. With the U13’s being knocked out in the round of 16 and the U14’s falling just short in the quarter final.”
However, the football only played a small part in the experience this tour provided the teams, who got to play against Spanish, Mexican and French opposition; all providing different styles of football and challenges, with most competing against players nearly a whole year older than them.
Off the pitch, the players had an opportunity to learn about different cultures through their interactions with other teams and players. They travelled by train into Madrid city centre and also had the chance to walk around the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium (home of Atletico Madrid) and onto the pitch for the tournament ceremony.
Ben added: "The groups had a leadership team, tasked with making sure the players stuck to their curfews for when to go to bed and when to be up, which was an excellent learning tool for the players. They also had to take ownership over their kit by learning how to wash and dry it and ensure it was clean to play in. This all provided important life lessons for these players, whilst displaying the Academy’s commitment to not only developing talented young footballers but nurturing the players into well-rounded young men.
"Throughout the tournament, the players displayed incredible personality, determination and character; rising to all challenges and learning to adapt and overcome each challenge in every minute of every game they played. Importantly, across the six days these players personified what we expect of Exeter City footballers at all times, and they have represented themselves, their families and our Academy and club extremely well. We are proud of them all."