A select group of players from Burnley FC Disability Football Club experienced the trip of a lifetime recently when they represented Burnley FC in the Community in the VIII International Trophy Ciutat De Barcelona, a prestigious 5 a side futsal tournament for people with disabilities.
Staff from Burnley FC in the Community’s Danny Ings Disability Sport Project took the group of seven players to compete in the tournament organised by the ACELL Federation (The Catalan Sports Federation), the Special Olympics Catalunya and the City Council of Barcelona with the event seeing squads entered from FC Barcelona, AFC Ajax, AS Monaco and Real Madrid C.F. come together to vie for the international trophy.
The tournament took place at the CEM Mundet of Barcelona Sports Centre, a specialist facility that works cohesively with Special Olympics Catalunya to provide sport for people with disabilities throughout the local communities of Barcelona.
The Burnley FC Disability squad was made up of individuals from various backgrounds and varied abilities and disabilities, ranging from learning difficulties to hearing and visual impairments and for many of them the trip was the first time they had left Burnley for various reasons from financial difficulties to lack of opportunity. With many feelings of anxiety, it took the group out of their comfort zone and ultimately offered them the opportunity of a lifetime.
The trip started with a 4am meet at Turf Moor as the group set off for Manchester Airport. Upon arrival in Barcelona at 11am, the team and BFCitC staff members Lewis, Matt, Harry and Billy, were met by tour volunteer Agnés Planas who remained with the group throughout the duration of the trip. Agnés proved to be an invaluable resource throughout the weekend, escorting the group and offering her extensive local knowledge ensuring the team got the most out of the visit and through her own admission is now a converted Burnley FC supporter!
First up on the agenda was a visit to FC Barcelona stadium Camp Nou, where the group learned about the history of FC Barcelona and enjoyed taking in the sights of the largest stadium in Spain and Europe. Alongside the hundreds of thousands of supporters from around the world the Burnley FC squad were ecstatic to visit the world-famous stadium, having followed the progress of FC Barcelona the impressive surroundings set the perfect scene for what was set to be a fantastic weekend of sport.
With the interactive tour, an area dedicated to Lionel Messi, five European Cups and countless trophies and memorabilia to view the team had plenty to inspire them as they headed home ready for day 2 and the start of the tournament!
Tournament Day 1
The setting for the tournament, CEM Mundet, is a specific facility for people with disabilities to access sport. The tournament itself consisted of teams playing 40 minutes, made up of two 20-minute halves of futsal. Initially this challenged the group as the Burnley FC team aren’t as experienced in futsal, a variant of traditional football played on a hard mainly indoor court, smaller than a football pitch and played with a smaller ball thus altering the technique required. The Burnley FC team however adapted well to the format and tried to not let it hinder their performance.
The Burnley FC team’s opening game was against AS Monaco FC, a team that was big in stature and well accustomed to the futsal format.
Burnley started strongly showing great flair and creativity however had difficulty initially adapting to the tactics of futsal. In the end the Monaco team was too strong and won the game 10-2.
However, Burnley took a lot away from the fixture and showed lots of potential to take with them into future games.
With the quality of the opposition not easing up, Burnley faced Real Madrid next, who had drawn with Barcelona in the first game. However, taking to the changing rooms afterwards the squad reflected on the performance of the first fixture. An inspirational team talk from Danny Ings Disability Sport Project coaches Lewis, Matt and Harry, Burnley FC entered the next game with fire in their belly which paid off! They started the game with two goals in quick succession and controlled the majority of the first half.
Football however can sometimes be a game of two halves and any small lapses of concentration can be punished particularly in the game of futsal. Real Madrid fought back with gusto, coming back from two nil down to 4-2.
Burnley FC however showed great character and resilience to dominate the last 10 minutes to level the score line 4-4 and had several chances to win the game however it was not meant to be and the game ended in a 4-4 draw.
A vast improvement from their opening game showing that the team were adapting and improving at an accelerated rate and had fantastic momentum to take into the next game against hosts Barcelona.
Following this performance Burnley FC were soon becoming the talk of the tournament impressing other players and coaches with their style of football and passion for giving everything.
The game concluded with a score line of 7-1 which wasn’t reflective of the performance however the team learnt lots throughout the day in a footballing sense with the Burnley FC players being tested both physically and mentally like they never have been before.
After the tournament, it was time for the group to enjoy some Spanish culture with the team visiting the Sagrada Familia Barcelona then in the evening enjoying the official tournament dinner at a 5* restaurant with all players, coaches and staff affiliated with the tournament enjoying a 4-course dinner, where players could mix amongst each other meeting people from all over the world and celebrating their participation in the prestigious tournament.
Tournament Day 2
With one fixture left against AFC Ajax, again the BFCitC coaches placed emphasis on enjoying the experience however explained to the squad that this was their last chance to get themselves a win in Barcelona.
The team rose to the challenge by playing some of the most aesthetically pleasing football the tournament had seen so far, finally applying some precision in front of goal with the score line finishing 14-2 with the majority of the team appearing on the score sheet!
This concluded Burnley FC’s round of fixtures leaving them with a total of 4 points, a commendable total considering their lack of experience in futsal and the time taken to adapt. However, there were many lessons learned that have been brought back to England.
A special mention must go to Burnley FC and potentially the tournament’s stand out performer Kyle Anforth, who played fantastically throughout, notching up a total of 16 goals for the Burnley side in just four games, which was picked up by the opposing coaches & staff making him well recognised throughout the tour!
The tournament concluded with a last game decider between Barcelona and AS Monaco who sat level on points, with Monaco eventually coming out on top beating the hosts 5-1.
After the tournament, there was a presentation at the venue which saw each team receive a trophy regardless of where they finished in the league.
Then to celebrate each of the 5 teams headed to the Casa De La Ciutat, the Barcelona Council and a key part of Catalan heritage where they gathered in notably the most famous room in Barcelona and met the Mayor of the city.
The team also absorbed the atmosphere at the Castells in La Mercè in Plaça Sant Jaume, a celebratory event involving locals forming human towers to cheers from the crowds (pictured right)!
The Burnley FC team then ended the trip with some authentic Spanish cuisine whilst they waited to make their return journey home to Turf Moor.
The tour epitomised everything the Danny Ings Disability Sport Project sets out to achieve, being able to provide the most meaningful opportunities to people with disabilities that need and deserve it the most. With most of the group never venturing further than the boundaries of Lancashire the players learned enormous amounts about other cultures and their languages, which opened their eyes to the wider world, seeing some of the most famous landmarks in Barcelona and learning about their history. It was truly a once in a lifetime trip, that the players and staff will never forget.
The trip also opened a plethora of opportunities for Burnley FC with their fantastic sportsmanship and overall demeanour shining through and noticed by staff members from other clubs leading to invites from across the globe for similar opportunities in the near future.
Disability Development Officer at Burnley FC in the Community, Lewis Rimmer said: “To refer to something as a ‘Life changing experience’ is a big statement, however one that is quite appropriate for the impact that this tour has had on the players, and staff that travelled to Barcelona representing Burnley FC in the Community & the Danny Ings Disability Sport Project.”
“The players gave a fantastic account of themselves on the pitch, however it was their demeaner off the pitch that impressed me the most. They naturally mixed with players from all over Europe with ease, despite the language barrier, showing that football can bring together the most diverse groups from all over the world.”
“A special thank you should go to Montse Villa, and the rest of the Special Olympics Catalunya for organising such a fantastic tournament that boasted an unbelievable atmosphere throughout, as well as the opportunity to experience the sights of the city in our down time.”
“Finally, a thank you to the players, without them it would never have been the trip that it was, their positive attitude and gratefulness for the opportunity is something that will live with myself and the other staff for a long time. They did the BFCitC badge proud and gave a fantastic representation of the brand on an international stage and for this reason we can look forward to future tours around the world!”
For more information on the Danny Ings Disability Sport Project and how to get involved please contact Lewis Rimmer on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01282 704716.