Skill on the soccer field led to a once-in-a lifetime experience for four Shuswap Youth Soccer Association players.
Roxanne Van Rooyen, Emily Williams, Hannah Tarzwell and Lina Fankhauser were among the players selected by the European Football School for their U14/15 and U15/16 teams, which went on a European tour in April.
Van Rooyen, Tarzwell and Williams played on the U15/16 team while Fankhauser played for the U14/15 team.
The teams were composed of players from West and North Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond, Coquitlam, Squamish, Mt. Currie, Kamloops, Williams Lake and Salmon Arm.
While in Europe from April 14 to 26 ,the teams played nine matches against elite European clubs.
Van Rooyen said the level of competition they faced against the European teams was very high compared to what they faced in the B.C.
“Everything was more precise and more crisp, like the passing and everything,” Tarzwell added.
“The best team in our league doesn’t even compare to their league,” Van Rooyen said.
The Shuswap players agreed there was a lot to learn form their European opponents and admired their dedication to the sport.
“We heard they practised four times a week and we practise two. So it’s like you get what you put into it,” Fankhauser said.
“They just take it way more seriously and you can tell they’re really dedicated to the sport,” Van Rooyen added.
The Salmon Arm players also noticed their opponents played with more aggression than they were accustomed to.
The touring teams played against German clubs SV Glaeserzell, FC Frankfurt, Egalsbach and FC Saarbrucken, and FC Grasshopper in Switzerland, while they were in Europe.
The Shuswap girls began practising with their European Football School teammates and head coach Saibo Talic two months before the tour began. They travelled to the Lower Mainland to practise with the team five times.
The Shuswap girls described Talic as a very good coach who is intense and in the moment, and puts a lot of pressure on his players.
With players from as far away as Williams Lake on the team, Van Rooyen said it was difficult to get the whole team in one place at the same time.
The team’s tour took them to Frankfurt and Saarbrucken in Germany as well as Strasbourg in France and Zurich, Switzerland.
“I liked seeing all the old buildings that were there, like the historical things,” Fankhauser said.
“I liked the one place where we walked across a bridge to Germany while we were staying in France,” Van Rooyen said.
Tarzwell said seeing the cathedral in Strasbourg was a highlight of the trip.