Fifteen schools from across Hertfordshire, Essex and Waltham Forest have been battling it out since September last year for the title of Soccer 7’s Champions 2013 and by 2pm on March 16th we should know who the winners are as the finals of the competition are taking place on the Score 3G astro-turf opposite the West Stand from noon, prior to the League One game against Carlisle United.
Now in its fourth successful year, the Year 6 tournament (under 11’s) is designed to invite schools from a bit further afield, welcoming the player’s, teachers and parents to enjoy an Orient experience and hopefully retaining some as future O’s supporters. And as an added bonus, some players may even be invited back for Academy trials and who knows…we may find an Orient star of the future!
After the group winners and two best runners-up from the three knock-out rounds have battled it out, the eventual winners will have the Soccer 7’s trophy presented to them on the pitch at half time.
At each of the knock-out rounds, an Orient star is on hand to present all participants a certificate as well as pass on advice and have photos taken. Goalkeeper Lee Butcher, who was at the December round, commented: “Obviously I like watching the ‘keepers but overall it’s a great little tournament. I think it’s a good idea to invite schools who may not have a chance to visit a professional club and give them a taste of what we offer. A couple of the players already said to me they’ve really enjoyed themselves and want to come back so that can only be a good thing.”
And Kevin Lisbie who presented the certificates last month, said: “It’s great to see this happening. My own boys love to play so I know the guys here are having a brilliant time. The set-up is good and going on to watch the first team afterwards is a great idea. If these guys can go back to their mates telling them what an excellent time they had at Orient, it’s job done!”
The ten player squad, 7-a-side tournament has seen over 30 different schools participate during its time and has also included teams from the LOFC Academy and LOASS (Leyton Orient Advanced Soccer School) on occasions, with some schools participating every year since its concept whilst others have had to do with the waiting list!
Colin Williams, teacher and current manager of the St Andrew’s team from Hertfordshire, said: “The idea came from a supporters meeting whereby Matt Porter (Leyton Orient Chief Executive) asked how Orient could reach children outside of the local community. As a teacher in Hertfordshire and stalwart Orient supporter, I suggested the idea of inviting schools around that area and into Essex to play a tournament and maybe watch a game afterwards and here we are today! It’s supported really well by the club who supply the trophies, match tickets and obviously the players attending as well as the community side (LOCSP) who provide the pitch and staff. The response is always amazing and I know personally via my own school team, that the players and parents love the whole day’s experience.”
Howard Gould, club Liaison Officer, who facilitates the tournament, said, “When I took over the reins the tournament had already completed a successful first season so it’s just been a case of tweaking and trying to improve on the experience for the participants. Last year we introduced the first-team players presenting the certificates at each round and now we have the team manager’s nominated player from each squad coming onto the pitch at half-time to take a penalty against Theo, the mascot. These little extras hopefully go some way to give all those attending a really positive day here at Orient and one they will hopefully want to repeat, ideally with visits back to watch games in the future.
“It’s also a really good opportunity for our Academy scouts to watch the school teams they would not necessarily be able to see and I know a few players have been invited to attend trials in the hope we may find an Orient player of the future.”
The eventual winners will be presented with the Soccer Sevens trophy at half time during the Carlisle game and will parade around the pitch. Please give them your generous applause and if you’d like to watch the whole thing unfold, why not come and support the teams on the Score 3G from noon. Schools participating are; Yardley from Chingford, St Andrews from Hertfordshire, Henry Moore from Harlow, St John Fisher from Loughton and Epping from…Epping! Good luck to them all.