Visiting Portugal and England was an eye-opening experience for the under-15 Penticton Pinnacles boys soccer team.
It started with training at the Sporting Clube de Portugal facility that produced Portuguese legend Luis Figo and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Pinnacles coach Paulo Araujo described the two-week adventure as fabulous. While staying at the academy, the players trained for five days, twice a day for four hours total.
Brett Depner, a Pinnacles defender, said he was able to improve his skills from what the Portuguese coaches taught and said he learned so much.
“They would come up to us and help one-on-one if we weren’t getting it right,” said Depner. “They would help us in all parts of our game.”
Noah Eaton, another Pinnacle, said it was the best experience of his life. Visiting the pro stadiums and going to the games is his best memory because there is nothing like that here. Eaton also said training at the Sporting Club “was intense.”
“We learned how serious soccer is in that country,” he added.
Araujo said it showed the players what kind of training they need to do if they want to be a footballer in Europe.
“It was just amazing,” he said. “The boys were very attentive to what the coaches were saying. They really bought into the idea of what they were trying to teach. We even had the coaches of Sporting come up to us and say they were very impressed with the attitude and work commitment of these boys. Their skill level is good, their understanding of the game is good, they just need to play higher competition to get to the level they see in Portugal.”
In England, the Pinnacles displayed their skills in the Keele International Soccer Cup.
After opening the championship with a 5-1 loss to Norway, the Pinnacles won four and tied one on their way to winning the B Division Plate finals against England’s Stockport Vikings, 2-1. Araujo never imagined his team winning.
“I was confident that we would go there and compete,” he said. “I didn’t think we would go there and actually come home with four wins and a tie. The best game I think that really turned it around was when we beat Barton Rovers 1-0.”
Araujo felt they were the toughest competition.
“People said there is no way Penticton can win,” he continued. “In my opinion, we dominated the game. A 1-0 score doesn’t say how well they played.”
In their other games, the Pinnacles defeated Trinidad-Tobago’s Clint Marcello FC 4-0 and tied Hem Heath FC of England, 2-2. Penticton also defeated Maryland’s Soccer Association of Columbia 4-3 in penalty kicks to advance to the championship.
It wasn’t just high caliber soccer the Pinnacles enjoyed. They soaked in the Portuguese and British culture.
Will Eaton, Noah’s father, was impressed with the opportunity given to the players thanks to various fundraising efforts that helped pay for the trip arranged through Araujo. Eaton said it was an “awakening for the boys,” to see first hand how intense and professional the soccer environment is, as well as the rich, cultural component.
“Seeing the boys and their enthusiasm at the Keele International Cup, winning the gold plate, winning that meant a lot to them,” said Will, who cherished the time with his son. “It was a once in a lifetime trip.”