Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-15 Residency head overseas to compete in the Rotterdam Football Cup, starting this coming weekend. Organized by AcademyTrips.com in cooperation with Dutch side SBV Excelsior Rotterdam, this elite youth tournament hosts some of Europe’s most storied clubs. The team departed this past Monday, April 10 with matches beginning on Saturday, April 15 and concluding on Monday, April 17.
The 16-team tournament welcomes clubs such as Chelsea FC (England), West Ham United (England), Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), and PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands). As the only Canadian representatives, it offers the ‘Caps a great opportunity to measure up against top notch competition.
Whitecaps FC have been drawn in a group with Chelsea, F.C Nordsjaelland (Denmark), and host club SBV Excelsior (Netherlands). The matches present a strong challenge for the young lads.
The ‘Caps U-15 Residency squad is led by head coach Robert Earnshaw, whose playing career speaks for itself. Having played in the English Premier League and internationally for Wales, he’s gone head-to-head with some of the biggest names in European football. Now, he sees the opportunity to have his pupils compete in a tournament showcasing future European professionals as something that will resonate with his boys moving forward.
“Playing in a tournament against some of the best players around the world at their age is going to be such a huge influence,” tells Earnshaw. “I told them a tournament like this, you go away and it stays with you once it’s finished. However you do or whatever happens, it’s something that stays with you forever.”
Earnshaw says for his group to go across the pond and square off against these sides is huge for the organization. But with the quality in the ‘Caps Residency program, he hopes to instill the same calm yet competitive demeanor that helped him succeed throughout his own career.
“I’m not a coach to be fearful of anybody. Really, honestly, it doesn’t matter who I play against or who my team plays against, I have to have a solution for that, and I have to be confident going up against that. It’s the same for them, and that’s the advice I’ve given them. This is the approach, we go in there and we are going to surprise a few people. No one’s going to have as much detail as you’ve been given over the last eight months to be ready for a tournament like this.”
It could be easy for his squad to be distracted by the excitement of the trip, but Earnshaw is confident that won’t be the case.
“You have to remember the reason you’re there, and I think they get that. They’re really good boys, really mentally switched on. Some of them surprise me a lot with how smart they are. They’re always ready and great to work with, so to be honest I think they’ll be fine.”
Ultimately, after the dust settles on the pitch, he wants the young ‘Caps to take in the experience and cherish this rare opportunity.
“I want them to enjoy the city, I want them to enjoy the downtime, I want them to take a minute and take the experience in too,” summarizes Earnshaw. “It’s not a vacation, it’s a tournament, but also you have to take the moment to enjoy the downtime because that is just as helpful as going out on the pitch.”
The ‘Caps open play against FC Nordsjaelland on Saturday, April 15. More information on the tournament can be found here.