Four Sarnia Football Club members skilled at crossing soccer balls on the pitch will soon be crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
The girls will compete at the Gothia Cup, the world’s largest youth soccer tournament, starting July 14 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
All are members of the Sarnia FC under-12 team and will be playing for a select team from Coerver Academy in Michigan.
“Going to the Gothia Cup in Sweden is a great opportunity because we’ll be seeing the style of play going on around the world,” said center-midfielder Miriam Wamulwa.
“Countries in Europe take soccer very seriously.”
The annual tournament features 1,700 teams from 80 nations.
“I’m looking forward to actually playing one of the Sweden teams because they’re known to be really good,” said Grace Howell, who plays left wingback.
Tayla Maddock, a center midfielder, said she’s keen to see the competition and “what other people are like.”
Goaltender Paige McKinlay said a highlight will be encountering players from other nations “and learning about the different things they do.”
All the girls said they’re both nervous and excited about the opportunity. They tried out for and made the Coerver team last August and attended four-hour training sessions every other Saturday from October to April.
Housed in Brighton, Michigan, Coerver is a soccer academy that teaches ball skills, playing at high speeds, passing, and drills against other players.
“That’s what Coerver is based on, technical skills, developing your skills and playing at a high tempo,” said Tayla’s father, Gavin Maddock.
It’s the first year the Academy has sent a girls’ team.
“So it’s a good honour,” he said.
The girls have four training sessions this month followed by a four-day camp in July to prepare for the Gothia Cup.
Competing in the U-12 division, they will need to adjust to playing with seven players a side in the tournament, instead of the nine they’re familiar with.
Fewer players on smaller fields should create some high-tempo, high-scoring games, Gavin Maddock said.
“The style of play and the competitiveness of the Europeans — you can’t compare to here,” he said.
“I think it will be a good learning experience for the girls to see competition at a high level and improve their game.”