Soccer team experiences real ‘football’
Laurier’s women’s soccer team took a bit of a less traditional reading week trip. While other students flocked to tropical destinations or ski chalets, the Hawks were in Bolton, England, playing, training and soaking in a culture dominated by soccer, or of course as the locals prefer to call it, football.
Over the week, the team trained at English Premiere League club, Bolton Wanderers FC’s Academy facility, played an exhibition against an English squad and took in a pair of professional games, absorbing the legendary crowd atmosphere that comes along with European soccer games.
“It was amazing to see the difference in culture compared to here,” said Laurier team captain Sadie Anderson. “The passion they have for the game was unbelievable.”
The team spent every morning training at Bolton’s Academy facility and although it is meant for players who are high school age and younger, it was clear the club spared no expense.
“We were training at Bolton’s Academy fields and they had an absolutely amazing facility,” said Anderson. “They had about 15 fields and they were probably the nicest fields I’ve ever played on.”
In addition to training at a world class facility the Hawks also got a taste of live game action in England. The team played an exhibition match against the under-18 squad of Queen’s Park Rangers FC, a team from just outside of London and won handily against their European opponents.
“The plan was to play two games and train the whole time but our first game was cancelled because the fields were all flooded so we only got to play one,” said Anderson. “[Queen’s Park Rangers] were an under-18 team, so they weren’t their senior women’s team but we took what we could get and it was still a great experience.”
But where the soccer Hawks were most exposed to the passion for soccer England is known for was at the two professional games the took in. The team watched Manchester City play Greek club Aris in a Europa Cup qualifier and an F.A. Premier League game between league-leading Manchester United and last-place Wigan Athletic.
According to Anderson, the support the fans give their clubs more than lives up to the hype.
“It was amazing just to see the culture compared to here,” she said. “The stadium was filled and everyone was cheering the entire game. [Soccer] is literally everywhere, it’s in everything they do…. Evan a team like Wigan has amazing support. They never give up, the passion they have is just amazing.”