FC Edmonton U-17 Academy is in Northern Ireland to partake in the Super Cup for the second year in a row.
Last year the U-17 team went overseas and showcased their talent. The team were tied for fourth in the standings, but missed out on a place in the semi-finals because of one goal. They were eliminated from the final-four stage due to goal differential. Their performance was impressive considering they were the youngest team with nine players playing up an age group.
This year, the academy head back with a fresh group of players with only four players returning from the previous trip. The U-17’s will play three games against the likes of Hull City, Newcastle United, and a county team from Northern Ireland called Londonderry. Londonderry is a side that consists of the best players from the Northern Ireland region.
The team will be coached by Paul Kelly and Darren Woloshen, who have been apart of the FC Edmonton club for many years. Kelly and FC Edmonton Head Coach Jeff Paulus have been with the academy program since day one and they’ve seen many players come through the system
It’s a great opportunity for many of these players to test themselves against the best competition possible. The trip allows them to be engrossed in a professional environment for 12-days, which allows them to get a feel of what it’s like to be a full-professional
“I think what it does, it teaches them how to act as professionals, how to be focused, how to be prepared for training, how to recover after training, to rest, how to eat better in between games,” Academy Coach Paul Kelly said.
“I think what It really does for them, is it really helps them develop the culture of the game and how it is in Europe. The European environment, to match their abilities of teams of that calibre.”
The academy players put a lot of their time and effort into making this trip possible. They spent a lot of time fundraising thanks to the help of one of the parents. The players made jewelry to sell at United Cycle, had a pancake breakfast at an FC Edmonton match, did bottle drives and sold a ton of chocolates to make it happen. They reached their goal, ensuring every player made the trip.
“It feels amazing, we feel like we definitely deserve to go,” Nico Van Dolder said. “With our soccer we knew we already deserve to go with our talent but the fact we had to make it happen ourselves so we could actually get there, it just feels amazing.”
For some of the players, like Luke Withers and Van Dolder, its their second time attending this trip. Having been there before, the pair of them are hoping to be good leaders and guide some of the newer players.
“I think my leadership skills, I can play apart in people who haven’t gone, to help lead the way,” Withers said. “I know how to manage my game load, playing so many games in a few days. I’ve experience the competition already so I’m looking forward to having another shot and doing better than last year.”
Last year, the likes of Prince Amanda and Marcus Velado-Tsegaye travelled for this tournament. All three players showed very well in the tournament and are now signed to professional contracts with the FC Edmonton’s first team. For the academy players to see a real-life success story will only fuel their motivation to do their best.
“it’s 100 percent motivation, knowing that we can go there, try our hardest and there is proof that it can get us to higher places like the first team, it just fuels us even more,” Van Dolder said.
The message to the players going for the first time is simple: Leave it all on the field and leave with no regrets.
“If you go there and don’t try your best, then what’s the point of even going,” Van Dolder concluded “There are so many good teams and you get to test yourselves against them. It’s a great chance to measure ourselves versus some top young professionals.”