Well, it’s the first day of our wonderful opportunity to travel to Chile for the week, to participate in a football tournament created in collaboration with the Falkland Islands. I feel very privileged to be able to travel and support the team throughout the week as the school representative. I will try my best during the week to record as much as possible so that you can share in this fantastic opportunity.
We were given a great send off by family and friends as we departed a sunny and windy Stanley at 10.30 in the morning on Saturday the 15th November 2015. Everyone was very excited as we made our way to MPA for our flight to Punta Arenas to take part in the ‘Unifying Continents at the South of the World Cup’. After what seemed like an age checking in and getting through the x-ray machines we waited excitedly for the plane. Ioan provided entertainment on the laptop with terrifying film clips of Nitro Circus as we watched men jumping off skyscrapers. We wondered if the boys were trying to eat their bodyweight in crisps and sweets purchased from the airport shop. Poor Jordan put an end to it when he opened his Pringles tube upside down and they ended up on the floor. “When do we get on the plane?” We made it up until only 2 hours to departure from MPA before it was asked! Match Attacks, Match of the Day magazines and ipads kept boredom at bay.
However, our journey has actually been several years in the making. The three men responsible for the trip being possible are Cleggs Ross, Wayne Clement and Michael Betts. Between them they have been coaching football for the boys for 7 years. They have given up their time at weekends to coach the boys, some of them since they were 6 years old. They have all participated in overseas trips to represent the Falklands in the Small Island Games. Wayne and Cleggs have represented the Falklands at Punta Arenas in 1997, Isle of Man in 2001, Shetland in 2005, Arland, an island in Sweden in 2009, the Isle of Wight in 2011 and Bermuda in 2013. Michael joined them in Shetland, Isle of Wight and Bermuda.
They have spoken about organising a trip for over 3 years and in May this year they began to put their ideas into action. Michael Betts made a connection with Milenko Buljan, who is from Punta Arenas and has 3 sons aged 12, 9 and 7. As soon as the possibility for the tournament was realised through the link with Milenko, the 3 coaches sprang into action. They searched for support and got money and discounts from many places:
A huge thank you to the 3 coaches and all of the people who have either sponsored, or donated money to the team. A fantastic local effort.
We had a bumpy flight as it was so windy. The boys behaved brilliantly during the flight and at times kept the adults entertained (and maybe distracted) when we hit some turbulence with their loud ooooohhhhhs and eeeeekkks! We were slightly delayed in our arrival and we didn’t manage to get to the hotel until 7.30pm. It was a bit of a rush as we were due at the opening ceremony by 8pm. We left our bags at the hotel and headed straight off to the German School for the opening ceremony and the first two games of the tournament.
We spent the time checking out the competition – far too tall for our liking! The opening ceremony itself was great. All 8 teams were marched into the hall and led to their positions. Two captains were chosen to bring in the cups – we were very proud of Jordon, who was one of them. We were then treated to some traditional dancing before the second of the two games got underway.
It’s now approaching 9.50pm and the last game is just about to conclude. We will then be heading back to the hotel for some well earned food and sleep! We have the morning to ourselves before our first games tomorrow which we are all looking forward to. Have a read tomorrow to see how we get on! The boys have made us all proud today with their excellent behaviour. It’s also worth a mention that they are certainly impressing the local ladies too! Our boys, much to their great surprise, have spent a lot of the evening being mobbed by the local girls. Smiles all round! I know we are in for a fabulous and fun week.
Today was our last full day in Punta Arenas. It was another early start as our first stop today was to the British School. The boys were still very sleepy during breakfast but they didn’t get too much chance to dwell on it as we were met early by Rodrigo, who is the rugby coach at the British School. He walked us the short distance from our hotel to the school and its various sites. We were met by the head teacher who gave us a tour of the whole facilities which concluded with a drumming performance by some girls who were having a music lesson. It has been fantastic to have an insight to such different schools.
We then boarded a bus to travel to their training ground which is just beside the German School that we now feel we know well. Rodrigo had brought along a class of boys of the same age and he put them through some training which culminated in a game. The boys were slighted daunted by the thought of it before we went, but they threw themselves into and really enjoyed it.
We then returned once more to the hotel. We all had a change of clothes and retrieved what was left of our spending money. We then split up into several groups to go and shop, or in Malachi and Adam’s case – to go ice-skating again. You won’t be surprised to learn that more boots were bought! Just the one pair, which I was surprised to hear. The focus for the shopping today was more on clothes and presents for siblings. Some the boys really struggled with the huge choices before them!
We are nearly at the end of a super week away. The boys have played some great football and have shown even greater spirit when playing against the opposition on their home ground. They have been given lots of brilliant opportunities, all of which they have embraced and enjoyed. They have travelled to Chile carrying the name of the Falkland Islands with them and everyone can be very proud of them. I would hope that we have managed to make several new links here with the schools and the sponsors of the tournament to enable another visit. Maybe we could even hope to host some visitors from Punta Arenas too.
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