There were no jumpers for goals, and no doggy droppings in sight, and the young players had loads of class and skill, apart from that it reminded me of my youth as a fairly hopeless but keen park footballer. The best antidote to too much Christmas is the annual Arona 7’s tournament for some of the best under 12 teams in Europe. This year the three day binge of footie was better than ever topped off with a cracking final that saw Espanyol beat Real Madrid 3-2.
At the moment senior football is pretty depressing with dodgy chairman who can’t tell their Arsenal from their elbow, overpaid players with huge egos, and corporate idiots trying to transform it from a game into a product. It really is a breath of fresh air to see the young players producing good flowing football, ok I know it’s a smaller pitch and short games, 12 minutes a half in the groups and up to 20 a half in the final, but the love of the game is untarnished.
I went down all three days to cover nearly all the games, all matches were free but my press pass meant I could go down at pitch level, trip over camera cables, try to pose the teams for group shots, and generally be a pest. It was all shown on Canal Plus and a couple of other cable stations, I was impressed to see the two roving female interviewers competing to see who could look the most ravishing. I’d call it a very nice draw – extra time back at my place? No, oh well worth a thought. It was strange to see knee high players getting a camera and microphone shoved in their face at the end of the games but they all took it in their stride.
Chelsea were the English entrant, I met the coaching staff, nice bunch and very helpful, and got some background info. Sadly they lost all three group games but they did have Real Madrid and Espanyol, the two best sides, in their group. The organization of the tournament was spot on with all games starting on time, unthinkable for Tenerife, and they did everything possible to look after the teams, Chelsea were able to join the other teams that fell at the group stage in an informal competition in the smaller stadium next door.
There were plenty of ex old pros coaching and making guest appearances. Our local police are very macho and stern but I saw one of them approach an ex player, Canizares I think, and pose with him for a phone photo that his beat partner took, for a moment he was like a star struck kid, football does that to grown men. Another nice extra was a penalty shoot out each day where the young players got a chance to take pot shots at Esteban, the Almeria goalie who had popped along.
Back to the pitch, the crowds were good throughout, even for the 9.30 am games, but by the final there was 7,500 packed in, a large amount were there to support Real Madrid – don’t start me on that one. I wanted Espanyol, their football had been classy but not showy, and they had several quality players like their busy number nine Reda, a very English style striker. Espanyol built a quick 2-0 lead with goals from Reda and Alejandro, it could have been more against a jittery Madrid keeper but they survived the rest of the first 20 minutes.
At half time I loitered by the Espanyol bench, their coach Carles Martinez was going frantic doing little diagrams on a mini chalk board but then took off Reda and Alejandro, their other best player, that gave Madrid hope and they pulled a quick goal back. Luckily there is a roll on roll off rule for subs in this event so back came the dynamic duo and Nicolas nipped in with a third goal. Madrid showed great spirit and pulled one back with three minutes left to ensure a squeaky bum finish. A match to please everyone, it was great to see Espanyol celebrate with their trophies and uplifting to see the way the other teams and coaches congratulated them. Thanks to all for some top class entertainment.