2015 will be the 15th year Adelaide City has competed in the Southern Hemisphere’s largest youth football tournament, the Kanga Cup. During that time the club has taken some 450 young players to the event. And on each occasion those participants have lived an experience that has developed them as players, and as people.
Every winter, two teams travel from our Unley Rd junior base to chilly Canberra for a jam-packed week of football. It doesn’t always feel cold though, the sun can shine and the wins can come. Over the years, City’s teams have acquitted themselves well, with a none too shabby haul of trophies. It is the experience however of being there; living and playing with teammates, meeting other teams, readying for matches, refuelling the body, mentally preparing – a constant schedule and routine requiring discipline and commitment – which provides all the young players with something very special to take away.
Held annually each July in Canberra, the weeklong event proudly champions the mission of “Uniting the Youth of the World through Football”. 2015 will see the tournament enter its 25th year of operation, with over 275 teams of 4200 participants from Australia and overseas descending upon the nation’s Capital.
This year, the Adelaide City travelling group, which flies out on the 4th of July and returns on the 11th, will comprise of an U12 and U14 team, ably coached by Dion Krantis and Scott Daykin respectively. It will be led by experienced Kanga coordinator Rob Del Checcolo. The five tour veteran knows what it takes to manage the near 40 strong travelling squad. “Feeding, transporting, and ensuring the well being of all players and staff is a flat out job for the week.” he says. “Most nights we don’t get to bed till the early hours of the morning, and it can be stressful, but in the end it’s such a rewarding experience.”
He explains further, “Adelaide City Football Club believes the Kanga Cup is an ideal tournament to introduce our selected team to develop not only as players but as people as well. Participation in this tournament is an important development tool. It is a carefully planned exercise, in conjunction with the other development initiatives, to expose our players to the best there is to offer. Our expectations for the week are that the boys gel and play to the best of their ability, which will give them the best chance to progress as far as possible in the Kanga Cup.”
Over the years there have been great examples of the tenacity and spirit of our young players. The 2013 U14 team being one example. Del Checcolo takes up the story;
“At the start of the year we struggled to put this team together in this age group as several players had moved on. They were seen as a team that would probably find it difficult throughout the year. From the start of pre-season training, the coaching group worked hard on teaching the playing structure and getting the team to gel.
Before we knew it, July came around and the team was off to Canberra for the Kanga Cup. They won their first game against the Canberra Football Skillaroos 5-0. In the second we came up against a strong side from Victoria, Point Cook Jets. This was a tough game with both sides having scoring opportunities. ACFC managed to hold on to a 2 – 1 win. Comments coming from the opposition saying, “we’ll see you in the final”! Third game saw City victorious against Fairfield Patrician Brothers from NSW 3-0.
Game four, which was the second game for the day, was against one of the local ACT teams, Belconnen United. The boys struggled in this match, with a bit of fatigue setting in. This wasn’t helped with one of the boys going down with a knee injury. With Nil all score line at half time, the boys dug deep to fight out a 1 – 0 win. After a tough day at the office and we knew Thursday was going to be a big day, as we needed to win the first game to top our group and then back it up with the semi final in the afternoon, we took the boys to the AIS pool for a recovery session.
Game five was against the Northbridge Academy side from NSW. The boys started well, being 2 -0 up at half time. Then the boys hit the wall! Northbridge came back hard in the second half, getting 2 goals on the board.
The rest of the game was an arm wrestle till with 5 minutes to go, we hit the back of the net! Final score ACFC 3 – Northbridge Academy 2. The job wasn’t done yet, with the team having to back it up in the Semi Final against another very good representative side, JSA Tasmania. The boys all clicked and played out of their skins, like a well oiled machine! Final score ACFC 5 – JSA Tasmania 0.
After the game the coaches from the Tasmanian side came over and wanted to know what Academy we were with. When we told them we weren’t an Academy, we were Adelaide City Football Club, they were blown away! They told us that they would be bringing their team to watch the final as they wanted their boys to see how we played from the sidelines.
That night back at the hotel, the boys were focused. At dinner, the U12 side were a bit down as they had lost their Semi final, so to cheer them up a bit, the U12 officials bought them some cakes for a treat. They also offered the cakes to the U14’s but one player got up and said, no we don’t want any, we’ll have cake when we win the final!
Friday, Grand Final day and our opponents, you guessed it, Point Cook Jets. Our boys were calm and focused, and the Point Cook players and officials were looking quietly confident, after our first meeting, which they believed they should have won. There was a big crowd watching with quite a few of the teams there to watch the Grand Final. The Referee blew the whistle to start the game and the boys switched on as they did in the Semi. The Point Cook team didn’t know what hit them. The boys hit the back of the Point Cook net 3 times in the first 20 minutes and then finishing them off in the second half, with another 3. Final score ACFC 6 – Point Cook Jets 0.
At the end of the game both the U12 and U14 teams united along with some other players from teams that we had played during the week, who learned our club song during the game, and sung it like they never have before. The Coaches from JSA Tasmania again came over to complement the team on how they played and said that they told their players that they need to strive to play the same way. The U14 team came away from that tournament better players and better young men, and went on to take out the U14 FFSA Cup at Hindmarsh Stadium, later that year. The U12 team that just missed out that year and looked up to this U14 side that week, are this year’s U14 team that will be travelling to the Kanga Cup.”
Over the years, Adelaide City has developed a special relationship with South Korea’s Singok. For nearly as long as City, the well drilled team from Asia has been bringing an U12 team to our nations Capital. A force to be reckoned with, the team has only missed out on the grand final once, and in many of those tournament deciders, the two clubs have met – Singok holding a decisive win/loss advantage. One of the great features to have developed from this is the end of game jersey swap, a memento held with pride by players from both clubs. This practise has become tradition, having occurred even if the two teams don’t meet in the final!
Thankyou Terry White Chemists and the sponsors of our 2015 Kanga Cup tour.
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