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A team of football-mad youngsters have returned from a once in a lifetime trip to Japan where they represented Oxford City FC at two major international football tournaments.
Players from Hoops’ U12s Junior Premier League squad travelled over 6,000 miles from home to participate in the Copa Toreros, one of the world’s biggest international youth football tournaments, and the Tokyo Nations Cup.
Both competitions attracted some of football’s most iconic clubs including LA Galaxy, Sporting Lisbon and the Nepal U12s national team.
Hoops finished 18th in the Copa Toreros, held in the shadows of Mount Fuji, before advancing to the Quarter Finals of the Tokyo Nations Cup where they were beaten by eventual winners Yokahama Marinos and placed fifth.
The nine-day tour concluded with a special fixture between coaches of travelling teams and a selection of local influencers. Led by City’s Director of Football Justin Merritt, the coaches squad won when netting a last-minute winner.
Jordan Piper, Head of Youth at Oxford City FC, said: “This was a fantastic opportunity to broaden the operational footprint of our Youth and Junior squads and we remain very grateful for the invite.
“We were thrilled to advance to the knockout stages of both competitions and excitement in the camp to be lining up with some of the world’s most famous teams was tangible.
“Our players, their parents and everyone who made this trip possible deserve great credit for providing an experience which will live in their memories forever. We landed in Heathrow with renewed enthusiasm for the rest of this season and looking ahead to the 2023-24 campaign.”
The opportunity to play on the world stage was made possible by the long-standing contact in Japan of the club’s youth delivery partner Ignite Sport. Oxfordshire businesses Santec, Axford Engineering Services and Sweet Edibles generously provided financial support to cover players’ travel and accommodation costs.
Hoops’ trip was made even more special when Liverpool and England full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold recorded a special video message wishing the squad good luck.
Players also spent their free time exploring the sights and sounds of Tokyo by visiting the city's vibrant centre, trying fortune telling and taking in the surroundings of Mount Fuji. They also sampled local foods and built connections with likeminded Japanese players from opposing teams with travelling City coaches Rocky Whiting and Matt Phillips.
“It was a real eye-opening trip for not only ourselves, but all our players too,” said Jordan. “The culture and surroundings players experienced were like nothing they had witnessed before, and they represented the Oxford City FC badge in the most professional manner.
“We made many great memories and new connections with our Japanese counterparts whose hospitality and warm welcome helped everyone enjoy the experience.
“We truly believe football is about much more than the progression and achievements we witness on the pitch. We want to help young people build new connections and confidence and create lasting memories which can positively impact their personal development.
“We’d like to thank Santec, Axford Engineering Services and Sweet Edibles for their support in making this trip happen and hope to return to Japan very soon.”
Further information about Oxford City FC’s Junior and Youth football provisions is available by clicking here. The club operates male and female teams from U6s upwards and is based at the RAW Charging Stadium in Marston.