Professionals | 11/11/2019

A trip to remember

FC under-14s head to England

1. FC Köln’s youth academy made the trip to England recently, to get a taste of what could lie ahead in the future. Trips to Tottenham and Liverpool followed, with wins as well.

Night time. Floodlights. The players stand opposition one another. The whistle goes to signal the beginning of 1. FC Köln’s game against Liverpool. FC don’t hold back and give as good as they get against a strong Liverpool side. There’s no Salah, no Mané, no Hector and no Horn. There aren’t 50,000 fans cheering the teams on, more like 50. The game is played away from the glitz and the glamour, not so the Champions League winner against Bundesliga side. It’s an under-14 fixture.

In the middle of the first half, FC countered from a Liverpool corner and Samuele Carella didn’t stop running before slotting home from 16 yards to make it 1:0. After that, both teams went blow for blow at a high level of football. Both teams played football as it should be, and the action continued into the second half. Despite the chances at either end, it ended with a 1:0 win for FC. A superb footballing start for a trip that had already begun two days before.

In the second week of the holidays, 1. FC Köln’s under-14s made their way onto the bus at Geißbockheim with 20 players and seven coaches. Along side head coach, Evangelos Nessos were assistants, Lacho Dimov and and Marvin Debeur and physio, Inga Seidel. From Calais, the team headed onto Dover and then made the trip up north to Liverpool.

The players checked into the hostel and enjoyed a breakfast fit for athletes – not the full English that some were hoping for. The conditions in Liverpool couldn’t have been better. “The pitches were like a carpet. When you just take into account the number of pitches, there is a lot of work to be done for us to catch up,” said Nessos. “The welcome and the academies in England are incredible.”

The FC Hymne in Anfield

It was everything at Liverpool that was of particular interest to the FC talents. With the stadium tour in Anfield, the youth academy players were welcomed by a tour guide who could have been their grandad. He told them of the Liverpool songs, including a rather special one about Bobby Firmino. In exchange, the FC youngsters responded in kind with a song of their own in the huddle. A special experience for them, which included the chance to take the seat of Jürgen Klopp at the press conference. “When the people in the town knew we were from Germany, they came to us and thanked us for him. It’s crazy how popular he is here,” said delegation leader, Markus Halfmann.

A day after the 1:0 win, FC made the trip to the Black Country to take on Wolves. Despite the quick turnaround, Nessos’ charges were deserved 2:0 winners thanks to goals from Abdul Malik Yilmaz and Peniel Djopa Ketchadji. “We have many different characters in the team, but they all just want to play football,” said the former FC player. “Even when the travel was sometimes tough and the boys had to be up early, they always gave 100% from the get-go.”

The team didn’t just gather new experience on the pitch, but off it as well. “We gave the boys topics for talks that were related to the journey. That could have been the coin throw in Rotterdam, the disasters at Hillsborough and Heysel, something about our opponents and the cities their from. They’ve learned to speak in front of a group,” said Halfmann. Nessos added: “Naturally, our players should learn about football. But it’s about showing a new country and making new impressions. The trip has brought the whole team closer together.

Three wins in four days

Part of that was also down to the successful games. The third friendly in four days came against Tottenham. “We wanted to play with possession, be technically solid and play towards goal. For us, the way we play is more important than the result,” said Nessos. “But you could also see that the boys absolutely wanted to win the final game of the trip. For that, they got plenty of comments from those responsible at the host clubs. A big thank you must go to Gerald Prell, who gave us the contacts to the Premier League academies and made so much possible.”

The FC talents were able to look around the ultra-modern academy that Spurs possess. However, it was the youngsters who had managed to be an advert for FC during the week. In an end-to-end game, FC came out 5:2 winners over Tottenham. Before the boys went home, they were able to watch West Ham’s game against Sheffield United. Then, it was time to hit the road back to Köln. Captain, Leon Rosic said: “We knew that the journey would be something special. We can be proud of our three wins. We enjoyed every single second of the trip and we’ll never forget it.”

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PL. Team Pt.
16 Fortuna Düsseldorf 12
17 SC Paderborn 07 8
18 1. FC Köln 8

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