DACA FA Athens trip

On Saturday 21st September the Darwen Aldridge Football Academy departed from Manchester Airport to the sunnier climate of Athens for an intense pre-season football tour. The students stayed in Kiffisia, an affluent suburb to the north of the city. On arrival we held a briefing at St Catherine’s School where we met Stuart Smith (Head Teacher) and James Soumalis (Head of PE) where the outline of the pre-season programme was shared. The students were in fine spirits on the first day with the introduction of the ‘MINE’ game, where everyone…including Mr. Sayle having to do several repetitions of press ups.
After a long day travelling we want to get started right away and so hit the field at St Catherine’s for a two-hour training session where the attitude and determination of the students was exceptional. Following the training session we had a team meal at a local Taverna where the boys sampled the local delicacies.
We met early for team breakfast, where the usual late suspects like Robert Wong and Jake Wright suffered more press ups. We then had a light recovery session firstly on the pitch and then in the pool. In the evening we travelled to FC Haladri for our first competitive fixture. The stadium was impressive with approximately 100 spectators watching this highly competitive game. We found ourselves behind after ten minutes as Lewis Todd’s misplaced clearance fell to the Haladri striker who neatly found the net past the hapless Macauley Scott. The team responded well and soon began to take control of the game with Christian Holt becoming a constant thorn in the side of the Haladri defence. Just before half time we scored our first goal on Greek soil when menace Holt dispatched a 30 yard free kick into the top corner to the delight of the players and staff alike. The second half started positively, but on an enormous pitch the heat took its toll. The game became stretched and either team could have gone on to win it. In the end it was DACA who got the winner, when Harry Starkie broke the offside trap to make his way to goal and finish neatly with his left foot. Haladri almost got an equalizer in the last minute but we hung on and got the win that we deserved.

We celebrated the win with a team meal at Pizza Hut. The next day, with a few plasters and bandages we had a day’s recovery on the beach at Marathon. After the much needed recovery day the boys were desperate to get back to the training pitch and we held a double session, a fitness and pool session in the morning and a ball work session in the evening. This led us to Thursday where we spent the morning sight-seeing in the city, visiting the Acropolis and having a team lunch ahead of the Athens tournament later that afternoon. We travelled with the St Catherine’s team to the stadium where we were scheduled to play 3 other teams. The first game saw us narrowly edge out St Catherine’s with arguably the goal of the tournament. This started with Brad Thomas bringing the ball out of defence before feeding Robert Wong before swiftly overlapping him. Rob then threaded the ball between the full back and centre half where Thomas delivered an exquisite left footed cross. Dylan Jackson Cooney leaped highest to head the ball beyond the despairing keeper. We moved on to game two where we met Campion School. We started in this game where we left off and dominated this game. Jackson Cooney shot to the top of the goal scoring charts with another very well taken goal and took us to the final against the unbeaten American opposition. This game was feisty and competitive from the first whistle with the DACA team keeping their calm and composure to concentrate on the free flowing football that they are capable of. The opposition were extremely lucky not to be down to ten men after a horrendous tackle on Thomas that he was lucky to escape without serious injury. The atmosphere soon made its way to the spectators who seem to adopt DACA as their team in this final. Holt sent the fans into raptures when he once again dispatched a now trademark free kick into the top corner. The players, subs and St Catherine’s players celebrated this with a sing song on the team coach back to Kiffisia.
We concluded a fantastic week with more training sessions, fancy dress and a day at the beach. I know that they boys enjoyed the week and hold the memories for a long time. We hope to continue working with St Catherine’s and early plans are in place to take next year’s football academy back to Kiffisia next year.