Archive for December 30th, 2014
Promises Deliver Hope For The Football Future

There was a lot of hugging at the 19th International Under 12’s tournament in Playa de Las Americas. Each game of the three day football feast ended with warm handshakes and embraces between the young rivals. What there wasn’t a lot of was back chatting the officials, questioning every call, and theatrical rolling in agony. Full of hope and excitement the 14 teams delivered sublime skills and thrilling action at CD Marino’s stadium in Playa de Las Americas.

There was a major upgrade this year to La Liga Promises de Arona, the new name under the guidance of the LFP (Spain’s FA) and they widened their scope. As well as the top clubs in Spain sending players, the Aspire Academy of Qatar, and Kashiwa Reysol of Japan added an unknown element. There were also some returning guests like Juventus, Paris St Germain, Borrusia Dortmund, and Chelsea. The stage was more commercial, the shortened pitch had the digital advertising surround boards, and at one end a giant screen carried game details, and between the action some of the best video shots of the delights that Arona holidays have to offer – great promotion for Tenerife.

But it was still the football that attracted ever increasing crowds to see the short sharp games, the group stages were 12 minutes each way. The new boys of Qatar and Japan were by no means overawed, Japan in particular impressed with their one touch fast tactics. Juventus were again a little negative for my liking and Chelsea went out early with two losses. Barcelona didn’t make much impact and Real Madrid, with Theo Zidane (tournament top scorer) following in the old mans boot steps, had to fight back from a shaky couple of opening games.

Atletico were winners and runners up in the last two tournaments I saw and looked strong again with lots of skill up front and a couple of little battlers winning the ball off much bigger opponents. There were some striking differences in size, a year is a long time for fast growing lads so those at the earliest qualifying end of the age limit were noticeable. Last year Spain coach Vicente del Bosque (above middle with Arona mayor and sports councillor) came to present the trophies at the final, he was so impressed that he was back to watch all three days from pitch side and was clearly lapping up the action. There wasn’t five minutes passed without the coach being asked to pose for a photo, he never failed to agree and was a real gent, even when the entire Japan squad lined up one by one for pics.

By semi final time the competition was getting tough, many of the young lads wont have been used to 30 degrees of Tenerife sun, the pressure of expectancy, and the large television audience watching via several channels. The coaches were probably a bit uncomfortable at being wired up for sound and having cameras constantly in their faces but everyone performed with grace and good manners rarely seen in the big leagues. Atletico Madrid had a tense semi with Juventus and were grateful to their tiny goalie Miguel to keep it goal less so they could score a late winner. The other tie was even tighter with penalties needed to separate Real Madrid and Valencia, it came down to a Real spot kick pinging away off the post before Valencia grabbed the winner.

Onto the evening final with well over 6,000 fans packing in, all the games were free to watch, most people expected Atletico to build on their hot form against a patchy Valencia but you can never predict football. Valencia had done their homework and soaked up early pressure before Ferran grabbed an opener on the break. Mario equalized with a typically cheeky goal but Ferhat sent Valencia into the break 1-2 ahead by scoring after a superb save from Miguel. Atletico again pinned down Valencia at the start of the second half but they caught them with a strong break and another goal from Turkish player Ferhat. There was no way back from 1-3 down and the final whistle brought a joyous explosion of celebration from Valencia but they were quick to go and console their opposition before lifting the trophy.

It was another wonderful tournament, hopefully these players wont get too distracted by the trappings of fame as they move towards senior football. The new more glossy format worked well and I know a lot of local people watched it on the various channels as well as those who packed the stadium. More of the same please next year but it would be nice to have a side representing Tenerife in the competition.