After two successful tours to Sweden and Paris with largely the same students and staff, the decision was made to introduce a younger side to going on tour, along with a boys’ football team for the first time in eight years. The two sides selected had both achieved success at county level in the previous academic year and, combined with our knowledge of the Paris tournament by returning for a second year, we were confident of strong performances.
With a larger number of students attending, there was an increased need to raise funds and students worked hard in the week leading up to Christmas, bag packing at local supermarkets as well as hosting football tournaments. We were also generously backed up by sponsorship from Norwich Airport.
In bright sunshine early on Wednesday 5 April 2017, the thirty one students and staff met at school to await our coach and partner school, Thomas Cowley School from Lincolnshire. After the initial disappointment of losing out on the back seats the two schools quickly bonded around a central theme of music and notably Ed Sheeran as we travelled towards Dover. Missing our first ferry opportunity did put us back slightly on time and hitting traffic in France meant a late arrival at the Davey Crockett Ranch but our students responded well and quickly unpacked and prepared for an early start the following morning.
Day two was overcast but pleasant conditions for football. The U15 boys were dropped off at Quincy-Voissens FC whilst the U13 girls headed to the main venue at CS Meaux. Both teams made strong starts to their competitions with the girls winning and drawing two of their four matches and the boys winning two out of three. They also had the opportunity to take stock of their competition and enjoy the festival atmosphere between matches. In order to maximise time at Walt Disney Studios, the teams had brought clothes with them to quickly change and drive straight to the parks. After four hours of sampling rides such as Crush Coaster, Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster the group met up to switch over to Disneyland for a further hour before heading back to the Ranch. A surprise double birthday party followed for two members of the U13 girls side before students headed back to their cabins to finally get some rest.
On day three of the tour, the U13 girls had some unexpected time away from football. Due to two teams dropping out of the competition they played an extra game the day before to ensure that they could maximise their time the following day. They spent the first part cheering on the U15 boys as they romped to two further wins before heading back to the ranch to enjoy some time in the swimming pool and pick up some free Wi-Fi! Once the boys arrived we quickly put together some lunch before heading back to Disneyland for a long stint going late into the evening. With some glorious weather students enjoyed all of the rides, often in big groups and took in the parades as well as plenty of team photos and selfies.
As the final morning of football broke there was a sense of determination about our two sides as they boarded the coach. Both teams knew that they had a chance going into their respective semi-finals but would have to overcome French opposition that they had failed to beat during the group stage to leave as winners. The U15 boys started strongly with a 2-0 win over the host team whilst the U13 girls left it very, very late to secure a 2-1 win over US Roissy. As the temperature rose to around 20 degrees the boys set out to frustrate their opposition and hit them on the counter attack having been caught open too frequently during their first encounter. This tactic proved to be a master stroke as they continually broke forward on the break and took their chances well to win 3-0. A few miles down the road the U13 girls took the lead twice against French academy side FFA 77 but were guilty of losing concentration to be twice pegged back. With penalties looming it was a piece of individual brilliance that sealed the victory to spark wild celebrations on the pitch at the final whistle.
The U15 boys arrived at the main venue with their trophy just after the U13 girls had been awarded theirs to spark further joint celebration in the glorious Easter sunshine. After a very quick turnaround at the Ranch the group returned for a final stint at Walt Disney Studios and an awards dinner at Planet Hollywood.
Many underestimated just how much fun they would have on the tour but none will forget the memories and experiences for many years to come.
Thorpe St Andrew School and Sixth Form, Laundry Lane, Norwich, Norfolk, NR7 0XS
Main Office - 01603 497711
Student Absence Line - 01603 497722
The Yare Education Trust is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales with company number 10301555. The registered office is at Thorpe St Andrew School and Sixth Form, Laundry Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, Norfolk, NR7 0XS