SAU International ToursApr 20, 2017
SA UNITED INTERNATIONAL TOURS
We are proud to offer our players further opportunities to travel and play abroad while learning about new and exciting cultures. Partnerships with Roanoke Star Soccer Club, FCN, a professional Super Liga team in Denmark, RIASA (Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy) XL Tours, and Travel and Play allows us to offer fantastic and once in a lifetime tours to our players.
Interview with Executive Director, Jay Sparrow, on our International Tours.
1. How did the opportunity to travel to Denmark and Sweden on a yearly basis come about?
Several years ago we made the decision to offer our players the opportunity to experience international soccer through traveling abroad. The opportunity was to be afforded to all players in the club at the U15 age group for both boys and girls. After researching multiple companies and through our relationship with Roanoke Star out of Virginia, we came across a company called Travel and Play, an international soccer travel company. After discussing the many tournaments around the world we decided to start entering our teams into the Youth World Cup, the Gothia Cup in Sweden. It has proven to be one of the best decisions the club has ever made as we now travel to Denmark and Sweden annually and have built some fantastic relationships and friendships with those involved in soccer around the globe.
2. Having the chance to stay for a week at a pro-club must be any young soccer players dream. Being immersed in this professional environment must be a major learning tool for our players. What benefits have you seen from the week spent with FCN?
As part of the trip we travel to Copenhagen, Denmark where we spend a few nights staying at the hotel built into the FCN stadium (a professional club in the Danish Super Liga). This is truly a remarkable experience for the players as they get to train and play on the first team pitch and take part in sessions run by the FCN professional coaching staff. Our players and coaches also get to meet the FCN players (when they are not traveling for games) and meet and discuss the club and its philosophies with the technical staff.
3. The Gothia Cup is the largest youth sporting event in the world. It is documented that in 2016, 1761 teams from 80 nations participated which creates a unique cultural experience. What are your best memories of the Gothia Cup? How does it feel to compete, in what is basically the youth World Cup, and how would you describe the level of play that you have encountered these past two years?
The experience is simply amazing and life changing. Our players are immersed into a global culture for the duration of the trip, interacting with youth from all over the world. The level of play is very competitive, but to be honest, the soccer aspect of the tour is only part of the experience. Playing against, and at times supporting different teams with different backgrounds, is eye opening and can be quite humbling. The SA United coaching staff are tasked with the job of leading our players throug this experience, and as such we limit cell phone usage and other technology. This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of our players and we want them to fully appreciate and enjoy the experience.
4. Is this trip just about playing soccer or are the players and families given an opportunity to explore the local cities and culture?
We are in Denmark for about 4 days and in Sweden for another 9 days. We have purposely worked with our travel company to ensure that our itinerary includes lots of site seeing and cultural activities. We not only explore the two major cities of Copenhagen and Gothenburg, we also get the chance to visit smaller towns on the journey from Denmark to Sweden, as we stop off to play games vs some local youth teams as part of our warm up for the Gothia Cup.
5. In closing, how does our Denmark/Sweden trip compare to other international tours you have been a part off?
One of the main differences I have noticed is the value for money. The duration of this trip is longer than the average international trip, yet comparable in price. We also get to play an average of 7-8 games, where as most tours include an average of 3-4 games. The staff at Travel and Play, and our host in Denmark and Sweden (Sven Erik Jensen) are extremely helpful and really help make the trip a turn key operation for our players, coaches and families.
Above: Training on the FCN stadium field
Above: Gothia Cup opening cermonies in Gothenburg, Sweden
Above: Our 98 Girls after a Gothia Cup quarter final game in 2015.