Salisbury FC Youth’s annual 6-a-side tournament saw 109 teams, ranging from Under 7 to Under 14, from all over the south descend upon the Ray Mac Stadium recently.
For many young players this will have been their first experience of playing in a proper football stadium.
Nearly 1,000 players over the course of the weekend were cheered on by their coaches and families in the stands, making this an occasion the children will remember for a very long time. With the high quality of football on display, the audience never had a dull moment – watching 700 goals in over 350 games.
The mini soccer teams also experienced entering the pitch from the player’s tunnel, down the steps onto the pitch, with their team being announced over the tannoy. The 7 to 9-year-olds behaved just like little professionals – and some did milk it a little!
It was the Under 7’s and 12’s that kicked the weekend off and it was the youngest group of them all that set the bar extremely high for the rest to follow. The final of the Under 7’s between Salisbury FC and Boscombe Polonia FAB7 was the game of the weekend for many.
In the 12-minute final, at 2-2 with possibly a minute or two to go, Newbury for the Whites thought he had got the winner with a left footed free kick into the far corner, but very quickly, after a deliberate lob of the goalkeeper from the inside of his own half, a FAB player sailed the ball into the roof of the net to make it level.
Golden goal followed, but Newbury was to have the last word with another glorious set piece from all of 20 metres (that’s a long way when you’re seven).
Again, top corner and joy for the Whites and heartbreak for the FAB players, but it had every adult in the ground captivated, it was such a great game.
In the U12 section on Saturday morning, a very good Clarendon side were very unlucky to lose 1-0 in the final to Holt United. Saturday was concluded with the U9’s and U13’s.
A very hot Ray Mac again witnessed some top entertainment on the pitch over the afternoon and the finals were no exception.
Millbrook Hurricanes beat BRS Whites in the U9’s and Trowbridge Wanderers Tigers became the second Trowbridge side to win at the Ray Mac in three weeks when they overcame Littleton Juniors 3-1 to lift the trophy.
By the time the ground was cleared, tidied and restocked for the following day and the volunteers could head home to get some rest it was near 8pm. They were back at the ground at 7am on Sunday to do it all again.
By 8:15am over 200 cars had been parked and by 9.00am, the familiar 5-4-3-2-1 countdown to kick off from compere Chris Dunn-Veale resounded around the Ray Mac and we were off with the U8’s and U11’s.
More fantastic football was witnessed by hundreds in the stands and terraces. It was AFC Stoneham Jaguars and a very good Poole Town that made the U8’s final which the Jaguars eventually won 1-0. In a very tight U11’s final, Ringwood Town overcame AFC Totton 1-0 to be the 2023 champions.
200-plus cars out and 200-plus cars in during a crazy hour for the car park team heralded the last session of the weekend on Sunday afternoon. This time it was U10’s and U14’s taking centre stage.
The Under 10’s was a very tight affair all afternoon and it was Bournemouth Sports and fellow Dorset side Dorset RTC that battled out the final, with Sports taking the bragging rights back down south with a 1-0 win.
The last final of the day saw the second home side, Salisbury FC U14’s, have the chance to emulate the Under 7’s feat from the opening final of the weekend. In their way, an FC Calne side that made it through the group stage and semi-final winning all seven matches without conceding a single goal.
A competitive match saw the Whites eventually winning 1-0 to conclude the weekend with the second trophy for the host club.
Michaela Winter, secretary, Salisbury FC Youth, said: “Overall, the tournament was a massive success from the off with places selling out in a matter of days and with the positive feedback the club has received since the tournament we can’t wait until next year when we will be spreading the tournament over two weekends to include girls teams from multiple age groups.”
“Salisbury Youth FC would like to say a massive thank you to everyone that made this very special weekend happen. Starting with Salisbury FC for the use of their facilities; to the Salisbury FC Supporters Club who helped to raise money; to our tournament sponsors ‘Salisbury Cathedral School’ and ‘Rysie’s patios’; to pitch markers, car parkers, enthusiastic announcers, from referees to coaches and committee members and parents.
“Finally, a very special thank you to all the teams that played with endless exuberance, who were managed impeccably and supported superbly. Without you all there would be no tournament. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year.”