We Are Now Accepting 2012 Tour Resumes!

SuperClubs is now accepting resumes from America’s best boys and girl’s soccer players ages 12 to 17 to join the 2012 SuperClubs National Team. This team will travel to England & Scotland this summer to play the top youth professional teams such as Liverpool, Blackburn, Tottenham Spurs, Celtic, Rangers, Fulham and many other clubs. If you know any players worthy of such an honor please email Pat at pozburn@planetkc.com.

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SuperClubs National Team Promotional Video

This video will be used by Pat and the team over the next year to help promote the tour to next year’s players. Please share it with others who might want to participate in the tour in the future.

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Ipswich Town

We had quite a haul to get to Ipswich Town. It’s Monday and the coaches left around 2:30 p.m., hit some traffic on the road and off the road at the truck stop where we all lined up to get snacks, waters, Gatorade and the latest copy of FourFourTwo. The matches were set for the u12s, u13s and u14s at 6 p.m. and we arrived at 6:10. The boys left the coach to be met by a world class training facility that makes Wigan’s fantastic ground look minor league.

Ipswich had a huge modern indoor facility with about 8-10, golf course fairway-like, manicured outdoor fields. It was quite a ways Northeast of London and Kingston, which is basically in the Southwest suburbs. So we all had a lot of dashboard time to think through the last week and a half. The trip is winding down. We have one match tomorrow in the middle of the day at Reading and then we are free to be tourists for a whole day. Some of the older boys will go on to face Fulham, the home of Clint “Deuce” Dempsey, and the girls finish with Colchester, which is near Ipswich.

The Ipswich boys were waiting for us and all three teams were a bit coach-lagged. I watched my son on the u12s. They quickly went down 0-2, and after checking the Facebook group, I learned the u14s were down by the same. In both games, the boys came back and earned a tie. The u13s had their hands full and weren’t able to claw their way back.

I picked up a booklet at Ipswich about their academy. They are clearly a team that is building with a very strong foundation. As I said, the facility was by far the nicest and most modern we visited and their hospitality was fantastic. The parents had several out buildings with clean restrooms waiting and they even had some coffee or tea for us. The weather turned a bit colder while we were out on the pitch. The refs for the game were from a local referee school and their supervisor was on hand to give out instructions during the game and even let the ref know when made an error. Some of our parents helped out with that as well–a very tough habit for us American’s to break.

One thing that we ran into time and time again was that with the bigger clubs, we weren’t allowed to video tape or take photos of the games. I especially wish we could have for this game. I am a bit of an amateur photographer and the evening sky and light would have been perfect for pictures, or should I say, picture perfect. It’s my understanding that the photo restrictions are to protect the children and also perhaps to hide the grounds from the competition. This complex was sublime–my favorite professional training facility of the tour.

Their u12s were quick, really quick. They handled the ball individually quite well and always seemed to be able to get it just a touch away from our boys. A credit to our boys as they scored a couple of ugly hustle goals to level the match. It wasn’t pretty, but impressive nonetheless because Ipswich was about as professional and impressive as it got for us. They are in the Championship, which is the second level of professional football in England. By the looks of it, they will clearly move up in the future.

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U17 Boys

This is a rare shot of the u17 Boys team on the trip. They delighted the other groups last night with their sense of humor at the annual Black Pudding Skit Competition. They had two young men who introduced each of the players and told us all a little bit about them. The u12s judged the competition and there was no way these boys were eating black pudding last night. Great work u17 boys.

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U16s

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A Few Shots in London

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Community Shield Match

When you have free time on the tour schedule, the kids have the chance to stay on campus with friends–playing soccer tennis, wall ball and other games with a soccer ball and parking lot lines and brick walls. On Sunday, two sets of parents and three very lucky boys, joined me on a trip to the Community Shield Match at Wembley Stadium.

The Community Shield is one of the last preseason matches prior to the start of the regular season. We paid a hefty pound for the tickets through an online broker, but we all thought this was one of those things you just bight the bullet and do.

The Event

The Shield, also known as the Charity Shield, is a competition that is held at Wembley Stadium between the winner of last year’s league champions (the best overall record and the winner of the previous year’s FA Cup. This year the showdown was between bitter, cross-city rivals Manchester United, (Champions) and Manchester City (FA Cup Winners). The two met three times last year with the most recent meeting being an FA Cup semifinal win for City.

In football, when teams play each other from the same city it is called a “derby” (pronounced darby). This was a Manchester Derby. If your team wins, your team gets a giant silver platter, but most of all, bragging rights, which City currently held because they won the last game.

Like it or not, ManU has done a great job marketing to American parents and kids. Everyone knows Wayne Rooney. I can’t even begin to spell their forward’s name without four to five Google attempts. I just know it starts with two consonants.

When we went to buy tickets, you could choose United or City because the tickets were distributed to the clubs and then sold to the supporters of the club. That’s how the brokers then got chunks of them. We bought our tickets on the United side of the stadium. On the way in, I saw a T-shirt on the way in that sums up the way City fans feel about United’s marketing. It had two toy footballers: one in red and one in baby blue. Under the blue one, “Local.” Under the red one, “Tourist.” The shirt had a point if we were the sample.

Getting There

Seven out of eight of us had never been to Wembley and the one who had was 12. Because we are Americans from Kansas and Florida, we also had little experience with public transportation, and our initial plan to come back to Kingston University was disrupted because our keeper was knocked out of the game and needed medical attention. This meant our original transportation back to campus was out of the picture. We called a cab, went back to campus, gathered what we needed and took the same taxis to a local train station to catch a train to Wembley. Public transport was straight forward. We simply got passed the turnstiles and followed the sea of Manchester United and Manchester City jerseys.

Being a student of world football (soccer freak), I was well aware of the potentially dangerous waters we were heading into. I knew that the stadium would be split down the middle with an ocean light blue on one side and sea of red on the other. I made sure to secure tickets on the United side, but I didn’t do my homework in terms of which side of Wembley Park we should come in on.

As we left the train station walking in the see of people, it became painfully obvious, that this party of eight, decked out in Manchester United red bought from Old Trafford a few days before, didn’t choose the right train station. We passed a pub. “This is a MAN CITY establishment for the match,” was laser printed on copy paper and taped to every window facing the street. And another, and another. I was kind of surprised as we walked by Boots or Wilkinsons that it didn’t have a sign on it saying, “For the match, this is a MAN CITY convenience store.”

As we walked the bridge up to the stadium, we instinctively assembled into formation: parents in a pentagon with a point leading and kids in the middle clueless of the young men in combat boots, tight and puffy, grey and black polyester jackets, 1/8 inch long hair, thick accents and open containers. We had no idea what they were saying, but it wasn’t, “This game is going to be just lovely,” or “You all look just brilliant in those shiny new United shirts.”

We walked up to Wembley. We looked at out tickets. Looked at the stadium. Standing at the M entrance and needing to be in D, our formation veered directly away from the sky blue to the red in the East.

Once in the stadium, directly within the ocean of red, we made our way to our seats, which were on the upper part of the stadium. The view was amazing. The atmosphere electric. Even though the game was fairly meaningless from a standings perspective, the tension was immense.

We did our best to fit in–getting up only at halftime and at various times to cheer. City went up 2-0 before the half, and they sang incomprehensibly, but in unison. It was quite powerful to hear 30,000 or so people singing in full voice in a nearly enclosed stadium.

At half, I thought, “Well, at least I was here to experience all of this.” I hoped for a turnaround, but really wasn’t that affected because I was numb from taking it all in. My son wanted a scarf so we went to try and get a commemorative scarf from the event. Everyone we went to before the game had sold out. One of the stewards told us to try section 507. We were in 517.

Before the game, around 510 or so, there was no real way to pass. The United supporters were singing in the concourse and had blocked up the whole area. At half, there were holes to pass, but those same supporters–muscled up, tattooed up, boozed up, and generally unhappy–were doing their best to walk around like they were at a Guy Ritchie casting call for Snatch 2, or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Again. “Don’t make eye contact son. We are going in.” No scarfs to be found. And after running the gauntlet of glares from the men from the rugged Northwest, we bought a souvenir lapel pin and went directly back to the seats.

United We Chant

We tried our best to understand all the chants, and even tried our hand at “United–clap–clap–clap.” Towards the end of the match, United leveled the game with a nice goal on a free kick and one amazing goal set up by a set of short quick passes, which were Barcelona-esque. The announced attendance of 68,000 when the stadium seats more than 80 or 90,000 brought out our favorite sarcastic chant,

“The city is yours,
the city is yours,
20,000 seats empty,
are you ‘really’ sure.”
[They really didn’t say “really.”]

Although the United side didn’t have an empty seat, the City side had significant pockets of empty seats in the upper deck.

The Grand Finale

With four minutes of extra time announced, I was sure we were heading directly to penalties bringing back the terrible memories of the Women’s World Cup. City sent everyone forward to try and snatch a victory. United couldn’t seem to get the ball. A cross went in, but fell to Rooney who was defending like everyone in red and simply “booted” it. Nani took off flying from his own end, and somehow he got passed the last defender with the ball in City’s end with only the keeper to beat. In extra time, Nani slid passed the keeper one on one and slotted the ball home with ease.

The United side erupted. Hugs, high fives and songs all around. City’s blue sea of supporters flooded the exits in masse. City’s players received their runner up medals and then the silverware went to United.

We didn’t pick the right path, but we got our destination spot on.

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