Experiencing real football
The Cord (Wilfrid Laurier University)
WATERLOO, Ont. (CUP) — The Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks women’s soccer team spent their reading week doing something a bit less traditional.
While other students flocked to tropical destinations or ski chalets, the Hawks were playing and training in Bolton, England, soaking up a culture dominated by soccer –or, of course, football as the locals prefer to call it.
Over the week, the team trained at English Premier League club Bolton Wanderers FC's Academy facility, played an exhibition against an English squad and took in a pair of professional games, absorbing the legendary crowd atmosphere associated with European soccer games.
“It was amazing to see the difference in culture compared to here,” Laurier team captain Sadie Anderson said. “The passion they have for the game was unbelievable.”
The team spent every morning training at Bolton’s Academy facility and, although it’s meant for players who are high school aged and younger, it was clear the club spared no expense.
“We were training at Bolton’s Academy fields and they had an absolutely amazing facility,” Anderson said. “They had about 15 fields and they were probably the nicest fields I’ve ever played on.”
In addition to training at a world-class facility, the Hawks also got a taste of live game action in England. The team played an exhibition match against the under-18 squad of Queen’s Park Rangers FC, a team from just outside of London, and won handily against their European opponents.
“The plan was to play two games and train the whole time, but our first game was cancelled because the fields were all flooded so we only got to play one,” Anderson explained.
“[Queen's Park Rangers] weren’t their senior women’s team, but we took what we could get and it was still a great experience.”
Perhaps the Hawks’ greatest exposure to England’s passion for soccer was at the two professional games the team took in.
The team watched Manchester City play Greek side Aris in a Europa Cup qualifier and an FA Premier League game between league-leading Manchester United and last-place Wigan Athletic.
According to Anderson, the support the fans give their clubs more than lives up to the hype.
“It was amazing to see the culture compared to here,” she said. “The stadium was filled and everyone was cheering the entire game. [Soccer] is literally everywhere, it’s in everything they do.
“Even a team like Wigan has amazing support. They never give up. The passion they have is just amazing.”