Volkswagen Magazine

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» A bit like us. «

Every two years, the best under-13 football teams compete in the Volkswagen Junior World Masters. It’s the first time the FC Salgui boys made it to the finals, and it was an unforgettable experience.

Text Veronica Frenzel
Photo Gunnar Knechtel

» Every day I imagine what it would be like to be a professional footballer. «

Adrian Andrés, defender and captain

The light blue armband with the big “C” for captain has lost its stretch after just a day on the pitch. Adrian Andrés is constantly fiddling with the piece of fabric. Adrian, 12, is the captain of the D Youth team of FC Salgui from the Spanish city of Valencia. And right now he’s very nervous. His team is about to compete in the decisive qualifying round of the Volkswagen Junior Masters 2014, a type of club and school world championship for under-13s in which every team represents their own country. Twenty-three teams from all continents have travelled to Rome, where this year’s event is being hosted. For the Spaniards – 15 boys in bright red jerseys, most of whom are still pretty childlike and wiry – this game is the qualifier for the quarter-finals.

Adrian, 12, is one of the team’s best players.

Centre back Adrian was just cheering on the other 14 boys – “Somos los mejores y vamos a ganar! We’re the best, we’re gonna win!” After jumping up and down for several minutes, he’s now sitting on the wooden bench of the changing rooms between his friends David Nguema, central midfielder, and Sami Bousba, right winger. Breathing heavily, he looks at the coach, who is giving the final instructions: “Push forward aggressively, we don’t have much time. Don’t give up, even if we go a goal down”, and he continues to play with his armband.

 

The previous matches, which were each made up of two 10-minute halves, didn’t go too badly for the boys. They won 1-0 against the Queensland’s Buderim Wanderers from Australia and lost 0-1 against FC Basel from Switzerland. The match against the footballers from the United Arab Emirates ended in a draw. Their final opponent in the qualifying round is now the San Diego SoCal United Soccer Team from the United States. Adrian is wary of the Americans, who are bigger and stronger than the Spaniards.

 

Adrian, David, Sami and company are determined to do well in Rome. Their biggest dream is to become professional footballers. For the first time ever, they are competing against foreign teams. The tournament is a type of dress rehearsal for them before entering the dramatic world of professional football.

The tournament

The Volkswagen Junior World Masters is an international tournament for club and school footballers who are under 13, and has been held since 2006 as an unofficial D Youth world championship. Every two years – the same years as the grown-up World Cup and European Championships – the winners of national competitions in currently 23 countries qualify to enter the finals. Previous matches were held in Wolfsburg, Salzburg, Madrid and Warsaw. At this year’s Junior World Masters final in Rome, FC Basel won 4-3 against Besiktas Istanbul after a penalty shoot-out. The next Volkswagen Junior World Masters will take place in 2016.

“Give your all and make sure you have fun on the pitch. Don’t forget: if we win, we win together. If we lose, we lose together,” the coach tells them. Then he pats Adrian on the shoulder: “And now go and get your team fired up.” Adrian jumps up and shouts in a high-pitched voice. “Who are we?” “El Salgui,” the others cry. “Who are we?” “A team!” they cheer, almost as one voice. And then the 15 boys excitedly begin their warm-up.

 

Outside, the sun is beaming down from a clear blue sky and the temperature on this early summer Saturday is almost 30 degrees on the pitch in Rome. The Spaniards are racing across the grass, dribbling and shooting at the goal. The sheep grazing behind the pitch, between cypress and pine trees, barely notice the boys.

 

They are not only excited. They are also tired. The night before, Adrian and the others barely slept a wink. So much happened during the day! They visited an amusement park with more than 400 boys from all over the world and rode the roller coaster.

The opening ceremony lasted untill about 10 at night. Together with the other team captains, Adrian ran on stage with the Spanish flag on his back, and they drew lots for the groups. Afterwards, he and the others hung out in his hotel room and talked about playing strategies, the other teams and the tall Americans. They sang victory songs and danced on the beds until the coach sent them to bed. After that, Adrian lay awake in bed for a long time. The coach is now clapping his hands, shouting “Vamos!” The Spaniards are battling and driving the Americans out of their half of the pitch whilst the strikers are aiming for the US goal. Just before the referee blows the whistle, an American fights his way with the ball towards the Spanish goal. Adrian runs after him.

 

The trainer shouts from the sidelines, “Run, Adri, run!” His parents on the small stands are blowing their vuvuzelas like crazy. Adrian runs. But the American is faster and runs past him, on his own towards the Spanish goal, shoots – and scores. Less than a minute later, the Americans score another goal. This time, David Nguema runs for his life, but in the end fails to stop the attacking opponent from scoring.

Pre-match jitters: competing against the US for a place in the quarter-finals.
Fiercely determined: Adrian and the others plan to do really well in the tournament.

» Back home, we are stars in a way – nobody has ever played in a tournament like this. Except us. «

Victor Quesada, goalkeeper

Family support: most of the footballers have their parents cheering them on from the sidelines.
Mega match: the Spaniards give the tall Americans a run for their money.

As the referee blows the whistle, Adrian and David remain lying on the pitch, crying. “Hola,” shouts an Italian player in their direction – his team is next up on the pitch – and, grinning broadly, he points at the boys’ hairstyles that are spiked with gel and shaved at the sides and then at his own, which closely resembles theirs. “Bello! Nice!”
Adrian grins. He remembers that afternoon in December when they won against Madrid and qualified for the tournament in Rome. Overcome with happiness, they swore to change their hairstyles before their trip. Most of them chose a cut like their idols – shaved at the sides, long and spiky in the middle. Adrian thinks of the anticipation that he always felt when he thought of Rome, the match, the trip with his team. He was more motivated than ever with his training – he practised three times a week, sometimes even four.

Adrian wipes the tears from his cheeks with the back of his hands, smiles at the Italian and gives him a high five. Then he and David run towards their fellow players. “Let’s go to our parents”, shouts Victor Quesada, the substitute goalkeeper, and everyone runs towards the sidelines where their parents are now standing. Just a few metres from them, they slip and slide towards them on their knees. “Now for Africa!” cries Joaquín Serra, attacking midfielder. And he dances with Sami, just as a few little Namibian players showed them on their first evening – hopping with his right sole on his left sole and his left on his right.

The life of a footballer: Shortly before the end of the game, Adrian tries in vain to prevent the US player from scoring a goal. The Salgui team in a group photo.

The coach chose Adrian as captain because he is one of his best players and is a favourite with his teammates. A few weeks ago, a talent scout from UD Levante approached him after training. He asked him if he would like to play in a big team. “Of course!” replied Adrian, without hesitation. Since then, every day he imagines what it would be like to be a professional footballer, leading the life of Messi, Ronaldo or Özil. Then he imagines spending every day on the pitch and travelling around the world. Adrian and the others play for Colegio Salgui football club. The state school is located in a working class part of Valencia. The club doesn’t have much money, but it does have very good coaches and players. In the D Youth national league of Valencia, Adrian’s team ranks among the top five, their competitors are the junior teams of the big clubs FC Valencia and UD Levante. In Spain’s nationwide qualification stage for the Volkswagen Junior World Masters 2014, FC Salgui beat 69 other Spanish teams, and the boys impressively won their last game against a school team from Madrid 3-0. The big clubs regularly send their scouts to the FC Salgui training sessions. Some players join the professional clubs as early as age 13.

Juan’s mother consoles him following the defeat against the USA.

» Push forward aggressively. Don’t give up even if we go a goal down! «

Jesús Montero, D Youth coach of FC Salgui

The next evening, Adrian and the others are staring as if hypnotised as they sit in the stands at Rome Olympic Stadium. The junior footballers were lucky enough to play their own final at this glorious venue and now they are watching the climax of the league game between AS Roma and Juventus Turin. The Valencia boys are in the middle of roaring crowds of Roma fans. In the distance they see the Juve seats, surrounded by stewards in yellow vests.


On the bus journey home, Adrian was so exhausted he fell asleep. After the match against the USA the previous day, the Spaniards cheered on the teams at the finals. During the final they were yelling for FC Basel against Besiktas Istanbul during the penalty shoot-out. Then came Gangnam style dancing at the awards ceremony with the Korean victors, the football dance with the Namibians, and non-stop singing of an Arabian football song with the players from Saudi Arabia. And afterwards, they barely slept a wink. And today they prayed with the Pope on St Peter’s Square, visited the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

In the mood for celebration: the FC Salgui boys after the awards ceremony in Rome.

But now in the Olympic Stadium, Adrian is wide awake. He shouts at every pass, as loud as he did on the first day, but perhaps a little bit more hoarse. He can’t pick a team because he feels that both teams are equally good. Joaquín, the boy next to him, explains that the biggest thing for him about his trip to Rome was competing against kids of the same age from all over the world. “Later on, we have to make sure we say goodbye to all the players,” he says. David, who is just a few seats away, nods vigorously. And Victor smiles brightly and explains: “Back home we are stars in a way – nobody has ever played in a tournament like this. Except us”. A little later, Juventus scores a decisive goal in the last minute. Adrian looks at the others and smiles. “A bit like us”.

Viva España: Joaquín painted his face with the national colours for the final.

» Later on, we have to make sure we say goodbye to all the players! «

Joaquín Serra, midfielder, on the final evening of the tournament