In Canada they represent Portugal, in Portugal they’ll be representing Canada.
The London Portuguese Fury Under-11 team will be heading overseas to participate in the 20th Annual 2013 Mudialito come March 17.
With 47 countries participating and more than 1,800 players participating, the international tourney is billed as the largest seven-on-seven soccer competition in the world.
As of right now, the London squad is the only team from Canada in their age group.
“They’re excited, very nervous and very proud,” said Phil Abrantes, the Fury’s team manager. “We’ve had many team talks and they know it’s going to be a big deal that they’ll be representing not only London, not only Ontario, but also Canada.”
While the London squad might be more used to playing Forest City and area teams, they’ll be expanding their horizon by taking on clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, St. Peterburg Zenit and Liverpool.
The experience of hitting the field with internationally renowned soccer systems might be one of education.
“I think they're going to learn that soccer is a game played all over the world and it’s a game that’s played differently all over the world,” Abrantes said. “They’ll learn that a team in Russia plays completely different than a team from Spain and a team from Portugal will play completely different than England.”
While trying to win a local tournament might be enough pressure for 10- and 11-year-olds, the chance to claim gold at an international competition could be tougher than solving a Scooby Doo mystery.
“I’m really nervous,” said Fury player Roque, practicing with his team up to three times a week. “We have some really good teams in our group like a Russian team and a Spanish team and they should be really hard.”
The Fury could very well learn more off the field than they will on though, picking up a new style of the game along with a dose of history with the tournament being played in Vila Real Santo Antonio, Portugal and Ayamonte, Spain.
The London club is stacked with players with long Portuguese family histories and for most of the 12 players attending the tournament, it’s their first time visiting the homeland.
“A lot of them we’re talking third or fourth generation Portuguese, so they have the Portuguese blood and it was their great grandparents who immigrated to Canada,” Abrantes said. “That’s going to be a huge benefit, not only playing soccer but the educational part of actually visiting where all their ancestors lived.”
As anyone can imagine, sending 12 kids and three coaches to the Latin countries costs a pretty penny and the Fury have all but boarded their flight after surpassing their money goal of $32,000 after the team’s Carnaval themed gala Saturday (Feb. 2).
Funds have poured in since the team found out they were accepted into the tournament last March through other fundraising events and local sponsors like Pine Tree Homes Inc. and RMC Flooring.
It’s not just the local Portuguese community kicking funds over to the Fury, but also people from the province and country the club will be representing in the Mudialito tournament.
“The Portuguese community has stood behind us 100 percent. Everybody else in the east London area has stood behind us 100 percent,” Abrantes said. “We can’t say enough.”