The Under-15s flew to Singapore last week to take part in the biggest youth tournament in Asia, the JSSL Professional Academies Singapore International 7’s.
It was the inaugural year for Professional Academies to be involved, and thanks to Fulham’s Academy Recruitment Manager Dan Rice, the Whites were invited to participate in the tournament.
The 7-a-side competition was Under-16 level, but with our boys taking their GCSEs the younger age group below were readily available to step in.
“The tournament was a fantastic experience,” commented Academy Director Huw Jennings.
“I think what was a really good insight for us was to see how our boys managed different challenges such as jet lag, heat humidity, playing different formats for games, and totally different types of opponents.”
“It was a fascinating insight into the way in which young players can handle themselves in that situation.”
Also on the trip was Under 13s-15s Head Coach Dan Thomas. “Overall it was a great experience on the pitch, but also off the pitch,” he said.
“Because of the heat and humidity we had to play more tactically to how we would in England, the boys had to recognise when to slow the game down, how to manage the tempo of the game and save energy. It was a great learning experience for them in that respect.”
There were six teams involved and the others to be invited were JSSL FC, Bangkok United, Penang FA, Sporting Lisbon and Perth Glory.
The Young Whites nearly topped the group, but in their final group game having led 3-0 against Sporting, three quick-fire late goals from the Portuguese team meant the match finished with a draw and Fulham finished third.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t hold onto the win,” Thomas said. “However, it was fantastic performance and a great confidence boost to a lot of our young players.”
You can watch the highlights below:
Fulham went on to beat Bangkok United in the Quarter-Finals, and as a result were put to the test against Sporting Lisbon once more in the Semis. The match finished 0-0 and went on to extra time.
“With the heat being what it was we had to take a different approach, we had to play a lot more counter attack football because it was difficult to press when the offside rule was not in so other teams could play long,” Thomas stated.
“The boys had to adapt and play counter attack football and drop into a block. So that was a good learning experience for them. We had a good semi-final against Sporting Lisbon.
“They did a better job of defending against us so the game ended 0-0. It went to extra time, but in this tournament it went to 3 v 3, rather than the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
“3 v 3 on the same sized pitch, then after a minute if there wasn’t a goal it went to 2 v 2, and then 1 v 1 after another minute if no goal. It was a really interesting experience for the boys not having a penalty shootout but having to play golden goal to get to the final on a big pitch.”
Sporting went on to win in Extra-Time. Jennings noted; “We had a group of boys all of which were younger than the eventual winners, Sporting Clube de Portugal, and I think for us to compete in those conditions the boys should be commended.”
You can watch the highlights from the Semi-Final here:
“We have already been invited back and I think as an experience for the players it is invaluable." Jennings said.
"Unquestionably it is terrific for our boys to tested in that environment and we would be delighted to go again.
“It's important to comment on the work of the organisers JSSL, who effectively run football in Singapore. They fully funded our trip and we’ve enjoyed a very good connection with them, they were a very good organisation to work alongside and we would be delighted to go again.”