The 55 players and eight staff from the Sydney FC Academy have returned home having been lucky enough to travel to Holland as part of a football tour where they played against and learnt from some of the best youth programs in the country.
They arrived at their first training base in Rheden, a little town outside Arnhem and trained on their pitches for four days before commencing matches against Nijmegen in their first group of matches.
The players and staff attended the professional match FC Utrecht vs Groningen, as well as Ajax vs Fortuna at the Amsterdam Arena.
Watching a side like Ajax, who recently defeated powerhouses Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, was a fantastic experience for all involved and seeing the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Dusan Tadic up close would have been a great moment for many of the lads.
Six of the boys, Jeremiah Davids, Harry Rushton, Greg John, Chris Niblock, Phil Gigliotti, Stevan Stanic-Floody, were lucky enough to become ball boys for the Ajax game which was a moment they will cherish.
“What an unbelievable experience for young Australian lads at that age to be given that opportunity,” said Kelly Cross, Sydney FC's Technical Director - Youth.
“It’s something our whole club should be proud of and I’m delighted the whole tour party was able to be at the Amsterdam Arena to watch the game and be a part of the moment.”
The first two days of matches were against NEC Nijmegen and FC Utrecht, while the third matches were split between Feyenoord (U13s) and Vitesse (U14s and U15s) who are rated as one of the top programs in Holland.
"Three games in three or four days was a challenge for the lads," said Cross, "but we brought three of our physio/medical staff to ensure proper treatment, recovery, massage and nutrition. Also, we had enough players to be able to continuously rotate and avoid overloading as much as possible."
The Sky Blues then travelled to the excellent Ammonite Hotel in Amsterdam, where the staff participated in professional development at De Toekomst, Ajax’s facility while the players got a chance to train inside the Dome and do some testing with their staff.
Everyone spent a day at De Toekomst observing Ajax youth matches, including Ajax v Feyenoord in the U15s, which is always a big derby.
The youngsters also got to have a sightseeing day where they got out and about and checked out the sights of Amsterdam.
Overall it was a hugely successful tour.
“I’d say it has been a massive success both on and off the field, with the players and officials all learning plenty through their experiences with the Dutch sides,” said Cross.
“This trip will only further enhance an already outstanding youth program that Sydney FC has to offer. I am sure our club’s partnership with Ajax will blossom and bear fruit over the coming years.”
There will be not much rest for the squads as they begin their NPL NSW Youth campaigns next week.