IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

‘Europa League’-style test for academy players

Footballers take on challenge from visiting Maltese ‘nursery’ team

17 January, 2019 — By Steve Barnett

Pro Touch SA alongside players from Zebbug Rangers FC Under-17s, before their friendly match at Chase Lodge in Barnet

A TEAM of talented young footballers from across Camden, Islington and Westminster lined up for a fixture with “a Europa League feel” to it on Sunday.

Players from Pro Touch SA would be ­forgiven for raising an eyebrow or two when they were told they would be taking on ­Zebbug Rangers FC at Chase Lodge in Barnet.

But any doubts over the quality that the Under-17s youth academy from the Maltese first division professional club were bringing with them quickly diminished, however. The “nursery” team, as they are known in Malta, ran out 2-1 winners following “a competitive and entertaining match”.

The southern European side made the most of their weekend visit to the capital. Not only did they play a series of friendlies against local teams, but they also got the chance to go to Wembley on Sunday to watch Manchester United beat Tottenham 1-0 in the Premier League, while on Saturday they visited The Den to see Blackburn Rovers beat Millwall 2-0 in the Championship.

Over the years Pro Touch have built up a strong network with a host of professional and semi-professional clubs from across Europe. This year they will host teams from Croatia and Macedonia, while they will also be sending some of their youth teams in the opposite direction.

The academy’s project manager, Mus Turay, said: “These kinds of fixtures can be a real benefit to our players. It gives them the chance to experience international football, and test their abilities and skills against the unknown.

“They also get the chance to go to countries that they otherwise wouldn’t think about visiting – some places, dare I say, they have never even heard of. That’s great because it gives them the opportunity to see how football is viewed outside the UK, and to experience other cultures and mindsets. It brings people together through their love of the game.”

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