The England Colleges men's and women's teams recently spent a week in Italy competing against international youth teams from across Europe. As well as playing competitively, it was also a cultural and personal experience for many of the players. Below is a series of blogs from players detailing their experience of going on tour and what it means to play for England Colleges.
Fred Chapman, BCA College and Maidenhead United youth goalkeeper
My time on tour in Italy was a fantastic experience for me to develop my skills as a player against some really tough opponents from Moldova, Italy and Wales.
We may not have got the best results but, as a recently formed team, I feel we fared well against strong and well drilled teams.
For myself, being involved at such a high standard of football has helped me improve my game even more.
The coaches and other staff were so helpful throughout the tour, giving us advise on attributes we can improve on whilst also praising the skills we performed well.
The whole experience of going to the Caput Mundi Roma tour is something that I will remember for the rest of my life and I would highly recommend it to any aspiring footballers out there.
I’m proud to have represented England and Maidenhead United.
Maisy Collis, SGS College and Bristol City WFC
When I first got the news that I had been selected to go to Italy, I was excited and ready for the challenge. They gave me a new opportunity to play in a different country, meet new people and have the chance to play against international opponents.
I enjoyed every minute of it and learnt so much from the experience. I learnt lots about myself and what I am capable of and have felt myself improve as a person and a player, thanks to being around such supportive teammates and members of staff.
We all rose to the challenges of playing top class opposition and had a successful tournament. I had never been to Italy before, so it was amazing to experience a new culture and to play against opponents with a different style of play. I really enjoyed it and have brought what I have learnt back to England.
I have made lots of memories and great friends from the trip and it was an experience I won’t forget. It exceeded all my expectations, and I am sure players in the future will have an equally good experience.
Matt Wood, Exeter College and Elmore FC
To be selected to play for your country at any level, is a dream come true for any footballer. Therefore, when I was chosen to be in the ECFA squad out of 100s of college boys who trialled, it came as a huge surprise to me.
Playing opposition from around Europe, with different backgrounds and who speak a different language is definitely a unique experience.
The highlight of the tour was the first game against Italy. I enjoyed the challenge, it was a great setting and a new experience for me to sing the national anthem before the match.
It was my first time in Rome, and to see the Coliseum and visit the Olympic stadium (including Roma and Lazio’s changing rooms) with some great photos of the squad will definitely be a memory I won’t forget.
One thing I especially learnt from the tour is the nutritional side of football - hydration, sleep, eating the right foods and at the right time and recovery after matches. This all made me realise the small margins that might be the difference between success and failure.
What I would say to students on why they should be involved in the ECFA programme, is that it opens up so many opportunities and experiences that no college or club team could offer. Playing at an international standard is a very rare occasion that shouldn’t be missed.
Grace Ayre, Tyne Metropolitan College and Durham WFC/Durham Cestria
I was thrilled to be part of the ECFA squad for the second year running.
I took part in the Italy tournament last year when we lifted the trophy and I was unsure if we could top that this year.
Although we didn’t win I enjoyed the tour equally as much and felt I gained more experience and learned a lot from playing different teams at a higher level.
The highlight of the tour was being chosen as captain, which was a great honour. Leading out the team was a feeling I will never forget.
Taking on the role of captain gave me a sense of responsibility. The coaches put a lot of trust in me and I wanted to repay this both off and on the pitch.
The leadership role at such a high level has taught me a lot and given me a great experience to take forward.
The ECFA programme has given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have got anywhere else. The quality of the coaching staff has definitely made me a better player and I will be forever grateful.