Football: Super Cup trip great opportunity

Neil Mackenzie.
Neil Mackenzie.
Nerves will need to be overcome if an Otago youth side is to topple some formidable opponents at a global tournament in Northern Ireland next month.

The under-17 squad is preparing to take on sides from Brazil, the United States and Scotland in the annual Super Cup tournament (formerly the Milk Cup) from July 24-29.

It will be the 13th time an Otago side has attended the competition, which was established in 1983.

This year's squad will take on Californian side the South Coast Strikers, Osasco FC from Sao Paulo in Brazil and Scottish club Hibernian FC, home of the Scottish Cup champion.

From there, the sides will be split into playoff groups, which will play for five trophies in the premier section.

Football Otago Youth Development Trust director of coaching Neil Mackenzie said the tournament was a development opportunity for players, coaches and referees, and the young side was preparing for an overwhelming experience.

"The players are excited, and a bit nervous,'' he said.

The side first went to the tournament in 2003 and last year made the Globe final for teams ranked fifth to eighth after round-robin play.

While the tour was focused on development, the side did not go to make up the numbers, Mackenzie said.

"We always want to be competitive. That doesn't necessarily mean to win.

"Each year we try and do a bit better than what we did the last year, which is difficult, because of the quality of teams.''

The squad will assemble for a week-long training camp at Ellis Park in Dunedin before departing for the tournament.

It will play a warm-up game against the University premier men's team as part of that camp.

The squad will then head to Manchester for a week, where it will play Burnley FC under-17 and visit Old Trafford, Etihad Stadium and the National Football Museum.

It is also hoping to confirm a game against the Manchester City under-17 side while in the city, Mackenzie said.

"The main focus of the trip is to educate young players about what's required to get to the top in your respective sport, and excite their imaginations.

"The Dunedin players have been coming in three mornings a week before school to work on core strength and agility at the Kaikorai Valley College gym, and we send dietary information to them, as well.

"It's about developing players for the national youth league competition and, hopefully, producing enough players over time who will continue on playing in the national league and beyond.''

Many Milk Cup alumni had gone on to play for the All Whites or professionally overseas, Mackenzie said.

It will be the third time the side has visited Manchester before the tournament.

The side has two UK-based players with local connections, who would meet the side in Manchester.


Otago 2016
Super Cup squad

Stewart Catto, Jack Kelly, Kieran Stephenson, Max Johnston, Todd Wilson (Green Island), Tim Coates, Garth Maxwell (Mosgiel), Rian Norton, Oliver Dowling (Queenstown Rovers), Niko Cockerell, Shae Moore (Roslyn-Wakari), Jacob Pritchard (Old Boys, Invercargill), John Woodall (Pleasant Point), Joel Theissen-Papp (Dunedin Technical), Ashley Wealthall, Connor Phelan (UK).

Coach: Andy Duncan


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