A Harrow Hong Kong contingent embraced a cultural and footballing adventure to Spain and rubbed shoulders with global sporting superstars over the recent Easter break.
The School’s Football Development Tour saw pupils put through their paces on the pitch in world class coaching and training environments, watch some of the world’s best professionals play, and experience some of the country’s magnificent cities and historical sites during their packed 10-day itinerary.
After orientation and a family meal on arrival in Madrid, the pupils donned their Harrow Hong Kong kit the next morning and made an impressive start to their footballing drills during their Real Madrid Academy sessions, conducted by the club’s coaches.
A real highlight was a meeting of Real Madrid and Wales international star Gareth Bale, who, to the group’s delight, took time to sign boots and pose for photos.
A guided tour of Madrid’s charming city square followed, allowing the pupils to immerse themselves in the culture and history of the Spanish capital. But the pupils were equally as excited to see all of the fantastic facilities and different components of a world class training academy, including the recovery rooms, warm up areas, gyms, and the renowned academy stadium ‘La Castilla’, before also seeing the club’s famous Bernabeu stadium home.
The Madrid leg of the tour was rounded off with matches against Club Atletico Torres, in which the Harrow U11 and U13 Boys emerged victorious with 3-0 and 6-0 wins respectively, while the U13 Girls were edged out 4-2 in a thrilling, evenly matched contest.
Stage two of the tour saw the group wing their way to Barcelona, with Mr. Zoeller springing a surprise of tickets to the UEFA Champions League quarter-final match between Barcelona and Roma and the chance to see some of the world’s biggest footballing names (Messi, Suarez, Pique) in action at Camp Nou.
Mr. Hancock surmised: “The atmosphere surreal was surreal, the game a joy to watch and such a learning experience on how to play football the ‘right’ way. To top off the night we got to see 5 goals in a 4-1 victory for Barcelona!
“The coach back was a very quiet affair, with all involved falling asleep, dreaming of the day that we, ourselves, will one day grace the famous Camp Nou pitch and create some magic moments!”
Salou Futbol Training followed, and matches against the local opposition was another highlight of the tour. The U13 Boys were delighted with their winning performance, having beaten a strong Spanish side, playing football the ‘Spanish’ way.
A day of intensive fitness sessions was followed up with a fun mini-golf tournament before another trip to Camp Nou for Barcelona’s league match against Leganés.
One final Salou Futbol training session with Catalan Federation coaches took place ahead of a behind the scenes tour of Camp Nou and a taste of Barcelona’s culture and cuisine, with the pupils scoring the local tapas dishes an impressive 21 out of 10!
Some final night tour awards provided an opportunity for pupils to reflect on all they had learned during the intensive expert coaches, with prizes handed out for the player’s player, manager’s player, most improved, top goalscorer and best character.
‘Amazing’, ‘awesome”, ‘Fascinating’, ‘Incredible’ and ‘once in a lifetime’ were just some of the terms used by the pupils to describe their experiences, with tour leader and Harrow Hong Kong’s Head of Football, Mr. Matthias Zoeller, adding:
“The Spain Football Development Tour was designed to provide pupils a chance to enjoy world class training facilities and coaching, play foreign opposition and watch live matches involving some of the best passing teams in the world. They also embraced the difference in culture and managed to learn some important Spanish phrases and vocabulary and sampled Spanish cuisine.
“It was fantastic to witness our pupils develop their skills so much individually and collectively in their teams throughout the trip. This could not have been possible without the help of all the staff including Mr. Lam, Mr. Hancock, Mr. Fox and Ms. Coady.”You can read a full account of the group’s adventures on their tour blog by clicking here.