A pair of Williams Lake soccer players, Scott Cramer and Justin Hansen, recently returned from a European tour with the Vancouver-based European Football School (EFS).
Head coach Saibo Talic, along with assistant coach Brian Hansen of Williams Lake and three other coaches, led the trip, which consisted of nine games against division one and division two teams in six different countries, spanning 2,200 kilometres of travel.
The EFS teams consisted of 28 players from B.C. in three age groups, making two teams — a combined under-15/under-16 team, as well as an under-16/under-17 squad — with four coaches.
“We had a really good group of guys,” Talic said. “Those boys [Hansen and Cramer] played excellent. Scott, he played one game with the older team and he did very well. Justin, I started him on the younger team, but I moved him up with the older boys and he got lots of playing time. He was outstanding.”
Activities began late March in Frankfurt, Germany, with the EFS teams watching a second division match between FSV Frankfurt and Fortuna Dusseldorf.
“The passion for soccer in Europe was quickly evident as the boys witnessed 30 police officers dressed in riot gear having to enter the stands of the home team to quell unruly behaviour,” Brian said.
The following day the U15/U16 and U16/U17 teams played against local club FC Langen, with the younger team stealing a 3-0 victory from the home side, while the older club lost, 1-0.
“These were good, fast-paced, competitive games,” Brian said. “A high level of sportsmanship was displayed by both teams.”
Next, the teams were off to Salzburg, Austria, for more training and games. Along the way, the group stopped in at the Bayern Munich Stadium for a full tour, as well as seeing the FC Bayern Munich training facility.
“The games in Austria against FC Anif Austria were probably the most intense,” Brian said. “The younger boys, again, fought a tough game which resulted in a 2-2 tie. The older team then played an older team from FC Anif, which consisted of players up to 20 years in age … the Austrian team did not expect the level of effort from the younger EFS boys.”
The end result was 1-1 tie.
Following this, the boys travelled to Rovinj, Croatia, for two games, before heading back to Ljubliana, Slovenia, for another game which the U15/U16 team dominated for a win.
After a stop in Italy to watch a pro game between AC Milan and Chievo, plus some sightseeing, the teams were off to Zurich, Switzerland, to play two strong clubs — FC Grasshopper and FC Regansdorf.
The U15/16 EFS boys, again, won in a close game, while the U16/U17 squad lost a tight 2-1 match.
“Management by coach Talic made the difference and the B.C. boys began to dominate the game,” Brian said. “Unfortunately a last-minute goal by Regansdorf meant the 2-1 loss, but the EFS players were all satisfied they had put everything into it, and were unlucky to not have gotten a couple more goals.”
Justin, Scott and Brian, meanwhile, were given high praise by Talic following the trip. Talic said over the past 10 years he’s been hosting his EFS summer soccer camps in Williams Lake, he’s taken more players from the lakecity on tournaments than any other small city in the province.
“I really like those players from Williams Lake,” he said. “And I’m going to take some girls, hopefully next year, at the under-17 level, to go with me next year to Europe from the Williams Lake Youth Soccer Association. Brian, he did a great job of coaching,” Talic said. “I’m really pleased to know him and Williams Lake has a great coach for soccer, and it’s great for a community to have a person like him.”