After one year of careful preparation and planning the U13 Boys Select group landed in Milan for their tour of Italy and to participate in the Montecatini Annual Tournament hosted by Margine Coperta, a well-known local club in the hart of Tuscany with strong ties to Atalanta AC. Credited for years for their ability to recognize young talent and helping them become known professionals, the club has been hosting a well run tournament for the U13 boys age group. The tournament is frequented by Serie A giants such as Roma, Juventus, Atalanta, Fiorentina, Inter Milan, as well as many other well known clubs throughout Italy. At the entrance of the facility, a poster with the ‘Best 11′ ever to participate in the tournament, reminds everyone on the importance of the event. Amongst the names there is a well-known local talent, Gianpaolo Pazzini. Pazzini was raised only a few miles from the facility. He started as a youth player at Margine moving on to Atalanta’s system where he emerged as a promising youngster, and currently is a player for AC Milan as well as an Italian international.
The Select team landed in Milan’s Malpenza Airport and was met by the Italian translator and the bus driver who became the trusted guides for the rest of the trip.
The boys settled into a temporary home in Como and spent the day touring one of the most scenic lakes in the world by boat, Lake Como. A delicious Italian dinner and some well-needed rest closed the first day.
Next was a four-way friendly tournament with a couple of local clubs. Both teams played in a “round robin” friendly event at the facility of a local club in Sarono. The Select first team got second place as they lost to Monza AC conceding an own goal, while the Select second team got third, surpassing Sarono.
A brief but warm ceremony at the clubhouse, with food and refreshments followed the tournament. The hosts were grateful and kind enough to display a fencing training by the house fencing team. A unique and interesting experience for most boys…
The day ended again with a delicious dinner and animated conversations…fitting for the local culture. The morning came “too fast” for a tired group, but the six-hour bus trip to Tuscany was well received as almost everyone took advantage of the relaxing road trip to rest and recuperate. The energy was instantly restored as the lively boys saw the entrance of the Italian Soccer Federation.
The group was immediately greeted by the director of the facility, Luciano Casini, who led the group to a tour of the facility. He then led the boys to the looker rooms. What followed next was a great training session with two of the coaching education instructors of the Italian FA, Vanni Sartini and Federico Laiso. Boys were introduced to some unique methods of learning and enjoyed the training activities and games.
The visit finished with a tour of the Italian National Team museum, where the country’s “calcio” history and many famous items are on display. A short bus trip from Florence to Montecatini followed.
The boys settled into the new hotel and then strolled around the small and peaceful Montecatini town, finding some pleasant surprises on the way to a well-known gelato shop where they indulged on the famous ice cream and the welcome treatment from local venders.
Dinner as usual, took almost 90 minutes including four courses and red wine for the adults.
Finally the most anticipated day arrived and the first matches were up next. The two teams were called Virginia Rush and Colorado Pikes Peak. Both teams drew hard groups and were about to play two Italian giants. “Prato” proved a tough opponent for the Colorado team as they dominated the match and scored 5 times to win the match. Disappointed but positive and hopeful the boys took the result well.
Next Virginia faced “Lucchese”. Unlike the Colorado group who had no prior time together the Virginia boys were primarily the same players that participated at the PDT event back in February. With almost everyone in the facility watching the match the boys surprised everyone by wining the match 3-1. A very disappointing Lucchese, tried to even dispute the validity of the substitutions, claiming foul play. Everything was quickly dismissed, and the result was confirmed from the referee and the tournament officials.
Many Italian players suddenly started to approach the boys and the interaction was ON. Can you say instant popularity?
Next were two tough matches…Colorado first faced Roma, a well-prepared team with many skillful and experienced players, showing a lot of confidence and insight on how to play with each other. Unfortunately the result was not one to be proud but the boys started to gel and the second half showed some promising intervals. A confident Roma closed the match with a 5-0 score in their favor but with the coaches being complimentary of the game the boys played as well as engaging in conversations where they showed interest on what the Rush is and how it works.
The Virginia boys were next against another world famous club, Juventus. The game was a balanced match, with the main difference being the efficiency to finish chances in front of goal. Juventus finished the only three chances they created while the Rush boys squandered numerous chances and only were able to finish twice. A surprised Juventus staff was quite complimentary of the style of play and the temperament of the team. The day ended up waiting anxiously the results from the other matches to find out how we would advance. The Colorado team already new their fate but the Virginia team had to await the Lucchese vs. Juventus result. Unfortunately Juventus was able to hold off Lucchese and got the result it needed to advance to the highest bracket and continue to challenge for the title. A 0-0 result meant that the Virginia team would compete in the next bracket and try to place as high as possible.
Day three finally brought some happiness to the Colorado boys who dominated a Corigliano team who was shocked by the determination and a clicking Rush team that suddenly found their chemistry and calm play.
Virginia was not that fortunate as they lost a heartbreaker against a very negative Livorno who played not to lose but effectively took advantage of one poor clearance, finishing a shot inside the box, winning the match 1-0. The Rush boys were in control of the game and created many chances but were not able to capitalize. The good news in the end was the rise on the popularity of the team and the boys became the talk of the tournament, with many asking when the next match would be so they would not miss it.
The rest of the tournament proved fairly easy for the Virginia team dominating the host club, Margine, 5-0 and Capezzano 3-0. While the Colorado team won their second match in a row against Pistoiesse and drew 0-0 to a North Sidney FC team (a satellite entity of AC Milan in Sidney).
Overall the two teams placed 13th and 21st. Virginia was chosen for the tournament Fair Play Award, presented by the mayor of the city of Massa e Cozzile in the Pistoia province. Anthony Bazan (TX Rush) was the second highest goal scorer of the tournament.
The trip came to a close with the boys heading back to their homes with memories and enough experience to impact their future development and desire to improve.
The Rush showed again the value of the Select program, certainly earning the right to be invited back to such a wonderful event.
We would like to extend our gratitude and thanks to the Tournament organizers and the town of Margine for their hospitality and warm welcome as well as to the Dream Team staff for another safe, flawless and well organized trip.