by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Beautiful sights and sceneries, unforgettable international soccer and yummy pasta and gelato. Those are the lasting memories two Maplebrook soccer teams carry with them from their recently concluded nine-day soccer journey to Italy.
Twenty eight embers of the U-14 and U-16 boys’ team and 11 parents and coaches took part on the trip. Between June 26 to July 6, the teams visited Rome, the town of San Gimignano, Montecatini, Florence, Rimini (where a tournament was held), Milan and Lake Como.
Playing in the Italy Cup Tournament from July 1 to 4 in Rimini, located on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, was the main focus of the trip for the local kickers.
The U-16 (playing at the U-17 age group) boys finished third out of 10 teams with a record of 4-1-1. They played teams from Germany, Italy, USA, Poland, Sweden, and Greece. They lost the semifinal game 2-0 to the tournament champion team from Greece. They beat Sweden in a shoot-out to win third place.
The U-14 boys (playing at the U-15 age group) did not make it to the playoff round. They finished 3-3 and in the middle of the pack out of 18 teams. They played teams from Italy, Demark, Slovakia and Belgium.
Maplebrook players Ian and Ryan DeBois had played in many tournaments but playing in the Italy Cup was a unique experience.
“In my opinion it was very different. There were many aspects of the teams and the fields that were new to us,” Ian said. “There was only one referee instead of three. Every team was physical and aggressive on the field but very nice and friendly off the field. Sportsmanship was a big part of representing the country and team you played for. The last major difference was the field quality was great. Every field we played on had well-kept and nice grass.”
Ryan said, “The teams from different countries didn’t seem to care how much they won by. A 1-0 win meant the same as a 10-0 win to them. The atmosphere of the tournament was very different because each team had a section of supporters chanting and screaming for their team. Before the game we traded off banners from our team’s clubs and I’ve never seen that before and I thought that was really cool.”
The teams from different countries played with different flairs and styles. Ian was most impressed by Greece.
“Greece had the best style of play,” he said. “They were very hard workers and knew exactly what to do when they had the ball or moving off the ball, not to mention they played very physical.”
Ryan liked Denmark. “They moved the ball really fast and they had nobody who was trying to be a hero and dribble the whole team,” he said. “They would just pass it with their defenders and wait for us to try to attack and find our weak spots.”
The teams also attended multiple training sessions with Italian soccer trainers and played a friendly game against a local Italian team.
“I personally learned more about the discipline they had when on the soccer field more then about the game,” Ian said. “At every game or practice the other team wasn’t goofing around. The coaches expected every kid to behave like a professional.”
“I learned that the coaches do not want to watch you dribble the ball,” Ryan said. “If you have had it for 5 seconds you are taking too long to find your pass. I also learned they have different techniques of shooting than I have used before.”
When they were not immersed in soccer, the Maplebrook contingent did a ton of sightseeing. Sites they visited include Vatican City, The Colosseum, The Roman Forum, Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of the Last Supper, San Siro Stadium in Milan, Lake Como and some beautiful Duomos (Cathedrals). They also spent time at the beach in Rimini and did a lot of shopping and eating including a lot of pasta and gelato.
“I learned any real meal in Italy has an appetizers and three more courses,” Ryan said.
“We got to learn about the culture of Italy and we got to see cool historic landmarks and we picked up some knowledge from that,” Ian said.
But soccer was the main reason for the trip and Ian and Ryan both brought home new appreciation for the ‘Beautiful Game.”
“The most memorable part was playing soccer, it was great to play against so many different countries and teams and see the different style of play for each team,” Ian said. “A close second was the gelato. That was phenomenal too.”
Ryan added, “The most memorable part of the trip was seeing the way people can change from hating you on the field to loving you off the field. It shows just how mature all of the players were. But also the style of soccer they play is something I will never forget.”