Louvre Fund has stepped in to sponsor Guernsey’s Under-15 football team, helping them to achieve their dream of playing in the 2014 Gothia Cup. The World Youth Cup is an annual football tournament held in Sweden and this year a squad of 20 young players from Guernsey has been entered.
The Guernsey Football Association’s under-15 Star Trophy squad will travel to Gothenburg on 11th July, ready to play their first match on 14th July.
‘This is an incredible platform for Guernsey’s youth football,’ comments Kevin Gilligan, Managing Director of Louvre Fund, the team’s sponsor. ‘The boys will have an unforgettable experience, they will learn so much from playing against international sides and major club teams and they’ll come back and share that experience with their peers here in Guernsey – it’s quite unique.’
The Gothia Cup is the world’s largest and most international youth football tournament. Each year, around 1,600 teams from 80 nations take part. They will play approximately 4,500 games, with 500 referees on 110 fields. Teams come from all over the world, from Argentina to Uganda, and the opening ceremony sees over 50,000 players, coaches, officials and supporters gather in the Ullevi Stadium.
Guernsey has participated in five tournaments and was last represented in 1994. This year’s participation has only been made possible by the dedication of Chris Du Feu and Jacques Isabelle, the team coach. They have been working on the project since November 2013 and as well as securing Louvre Fund as a key sponsor they have organised a number of fundraising events including a five-a-side football tournament, car washes, quiz nights and cake sales. Plus players have sought individual sponsorship, which has meant their goal is now in sight. Travel and accommodation arrangements have been secured and the team is almost ready.
‘I simply cannot wait for the football,’ says Jacques Isabelle. ‘The fundraising events and sponsorship arrangements have been a huge task and have taken up a lot of time and effort from players, parents and coaches. Now we know that we are going it has all paid off. This is a huge tournament that will not only improve the boys as footballers but as young adults. They will learn about different nationalities, cultures and religions using football as the common denominator. I’ve had experience of tournament football, winning the Haarlem Cup in Holland, and you just can’t beat it. It’s similar to World Cup fever!’
Chris Du Feu, who participated in the Gothia Cup as an under-19 player, says: ‘The Gothia Cup is like nothing else, but it is not the football that provides me with my most vivid memories, it is the additional experiences that the tournament offers that will stay with the players. To have the opportunity to represent Guernsey in the opening ceremony before a crowd of over 50,000 people is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and certainly one that the players will never forget. I think what I recall most fondly is having the opportunity to stay in a school building with like-minded young people from all corners of the globe. We spent time with people from Argentina, USA, Norway and I even became pen pals with the captain of the Mauritius national team for some years. It is no understatement to say that this will be a life-changing experience for our students.’
The team’s new kit is a classic Guernsey strip, green with a single white vertical stripe with the Guernsey badge and Louvre logo. ‘Louvre has no fewer than eight top Guernsey sportsmen working with us, including Guernsey FC players Tom Creed and Tom De La Mare, so sport is an important part of our culture,’ comments Kevin Gilligan. ‘We hope that our sponsorship will help to inspire the next generation of footballers coming up through the ranks. The experience of the tournament will take them to the next level and is something they’ll never forget.’
The team has stepped up training to two sessions a week and Jacques believes they are in good shape to face their opponents: ‘We know the standards will be high but the boys have been preparing as a group since October. They have had a tour to the UK playing against some very good district sides and had their schoolboy Muratti against Jersey. Right now it’s about conditioning them so that they are able to compete in every game we play without signs of fatigue.’