Earlier in February, our senior team and their coaches travelled to Benin for the J2A U’17 tournament in Cotonou. The team and their coaches travelled by bus to from Ghana, through Togo and finally into Benin. It was an extremely long journey of over nine hours each way due to border crossing delays but after the long journey and a good night’s rest the boys were ready for their first day of matches.
The boys won both of their group stage matches on the first day which put them in a good standing for the final group stage match the following day – the United Through Sport team won the match with ease which sent them straight into the semi-final later that day. The semi-final posed more of a challenge for our boys as they were unable to reach more than 1-1 at full time; after extra time and no change to the score they began a penalty shoot-out. The match finished on 5-4 to United Through Sport after the penalty shoot-out, securing a place in Sunday’s final at Benin’s national stadium.
The boys were extremely focused in preparation for the final and relished the sense of occasion that playing at the National stadium brought with it. The game started off well and the United Through Sport team had some fantastic opportunities but unfortunately it just wasn’t their day. The opposition team, Kozaf, took the lead at the end of the first half; our boys gave it everything but luck just wasn’t on their side on the day – they ended the match defeated 1-0 but the Burkina Faso side. Although the boys didn’t win, they had some incredible support and comments from spectators, fellow teams and coaches. They did everybody proud with their performance and effort throughout the tournament and left Benin with their heads still held high.
On arrival back at the academy house, they were treated to a hero’s welcome from the rest of the academy boys – with singing, dancing, chants, hugs, handshakes and prayers of thanks. Spirits were extremely high and everyone was incredibly proud of them and their achievements.