Last weekend the four of us set off for Singapore for Joshua’s third international football tournament and what is likely to be our last ‘Asian hop’ before we board our flight to London with one way tickets in 6 weeks time and our Hong Kong story comes to an end.
This tournament was an experiment for Asia Pacific Soccer Schools. They had never entered any teams in the JSSL Singapore 7’s before. (http://jssl-singapore7s.com/home/) The Head Coach decided to enter an Under 9’s team and an Under 15’s team this year and if it proved successful, next year he will enter a full contingent across all age groups.
Josh and his Under 9’s team mates are a confident bunch. And why shouldn’t they be? Having dominated the Hong Kong Junior Football League all season by winning the majority of the tournaments plus walking away as Cup winners their last two international tournaments in Bangkok, they are amazing and have every right to be confident and proud of themselves.
Not even the greatest footballing nation can win the World Cup three times in a row. We could tell before we even arrived that this tournament was in a different league to anything else they had ever played in. It was called ‘Asia’s Youth World Cup’ for heavens sake! Talk about pressure! Everything, from the organisation, the set up, the size of the trophies at stake, the official programme, the website with a pre-tournament excitement build-up video that would put any World Cup advert to shame, the real-time score & league table updates on the website, this was definitely a biggie.
The weather was a major factor. Relentless sunshine, 30 degree heat and 100% humidity presented the kind of conditions that any National team would (and do!) protest about. But the boys did not complain once. They poured with sweat, drank gallons of water and battled their way through the first group stages winning 3 very tight games and drawing one to finish top of their group. Job done on day one, they had qualified for the knock out stages the next day and were playing for the Cup which only the first and second teams in each group earned the right to play for.
Fortunately for me (and Eden), our hotel room gave us views of the football pitches and the Singapore skyline that were simply breathtaking and luckily meant that I could watch Joshua’s matches from our room in air conditioned comfort, literally from my bed! What a bonus! Of course we went pitch-side when it mattered, but not for too long!
Day two and the knock-out stages began. There were 2 Cup groups. Four teams in each group. The top two went through to the Cup semis. The 3rd and 4th places went home.
The boys lost their first game. This was their first international defeat over 3 tournaments so they had nothing to be ashamed of but the 1-0 defeat to a goal scored with literally the last kick of the game hit them hard. They were frustrated, angry and generally gutted. This was a really tough group and they had a struggle ahead. They drew their next two matches and this wasn’t enough to qualify for the semis. They finished third in the group and the tournament was over for them. These boys aren’t used to defeat but they wiped away the sweat and the tears quickly, collected their ‘player’ medals, posed for official and parental photos and that was that.
Joshua has just one more tournament to play with his APSS squad and that isn’t a small one either! The International Soccer Sevens are being held in Hong Kong on 24th & 25th May and Joshua is part of the youth competition that is always run along side the adult competition. Qualifying stages are this weekend and the whole thing is being filmed by Now TV! My son is in this?! Are you kidding me?! Opportunities like this do not come along very often. Joshua doesn’t realise how lucky he is to have had the incredible training and footballing opportunities that he has had access to here in Hong Kong and it is one of THE biggest things that we will miss when we are back home. It will all seem so surreal and a very long way away when we are back to watching him on a cold & rainy Sunday morning but nothing can ever take away the memories, photos, and stacks of winners medals that Joshua will be coming home with – if they don’t sink the ship on the way!