Sweden Trip

U15 Age Group Annual Trip to Scandinavia

Each year, the Blackhawks U15 age group has the opportunity to travel to Scandinavia to play in international youth soccer tournaments. This more than 20-year tradition has taken our players to the Gothia World Youth Cup—the world’s largest youth tournament, to other tournaments in Denmark and Sweden, and into the homes of Swedish and Danish soccer families who host our boys and girls to learn about the culture and find common ground through the love of soccer.

The Sweden trip each year proves to be one of the most memorable parts of our player’s youth soccer and lifetime experiences.

Players and families typically begin fundraising efforts one year ahead of the trip. Since the trip is not funded by the club, teams work hard to make the trip feasible for themselves and their teammates who need financial support. The club provides fundraising and work opportunities for the players (helping assist with Little Hawks programs, selling concessions at events, etc.). Families of the travelers pull together group fundraisers (coffee, plant, and food sales, garage sales, etc). Players have worked individually by babysitting, mowing lawns, and refereeing to make this trip possible.

The spirit of our mission is alive in the Sweden trip. Every year, there are kids who work hard enough to raise the full cost of their trip and several who raise money on behalf of their teammates, who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to participate. That is building character and community.

Travel and Play is proud to be the travel partner of Blackhawks. Your club embodies all that is great about the sports travel experience, and is unique in offering the program to every player regardless of income.

Working with clubs to provide opportunity for players to travel and meet kids from all over the world playing our wonderful sport is something we pride ourselves on. You can tell this is more than a business to me. No other club we work with “gets” this like Blackhawks. The way your coaches, parents, volunteers, all work towards a common goal inspires me. We hope the partnership lasts a long time and we can keep helping your players experience the magic of these trips.

— Barry Wamsley, Travel & Play

While the logistics are managed by a sports travel agency, it takes hours of volunteer support and player work to make the trip happen. The hard work and fun helps support our mission of building community and character. As a community, we hope each age group will work hard together to offer the opportunity to any player who desires to be a part of this annual event.

By Danah Ditzig

Highlights

Blackhawk Friends,

Thank you for all of your support for this year’s U15 travelers to Sweden. This trip would not have been possible without you. The kids earned through fundraising and your charitable donations roughly ¼ of the total cost of the trip. Your support enabled all kids with a desire to take this trip the opportunity to make it happen!
The Sweden trip has been a part of the Blackhawk tradition for 20 years. This trip is more relevant today than ever before as being a practical way our players live our mission of building character and community. The kids, their families and our larger Blackhawk family should be very proud of how the kids represented themselves on and off of the field. We heard nothing but compliments for the kids from their home-stay families & Gothia Cup staff. The kids worked well on and off the field:

  • Both boys and girls did well in tournament pool play to advance to the “A” flight in a 3-tier system
  • Everyone got along (which is a big deal for 11 days, sleeping on a classroom floor)
  • The boys and girls supported one another, cheering on the sidelines
  • They spent great time together exploring Sweden and meeting new people, making new friends
  • They demonstrated independence & leadership as they needed to take responsibility for themselves exploring a new place with freedoms and also respecting rules & guidelines

The kids made memories that will last a lifetime. That’s one thing we hear from trip alumni; this was a highlight – not only for their soccer experience, but memories from their youth that will stay with them. The beautiful thing about this trip is that it gave the kids so many different experiences. During the bus rides and team dinners, the players shared their fondest moments. In their words, they included:

  • The home stays (more than ½ of the kids enjoyed this most; they said it gave them the opportunity to really feel what it’s like to be a part of a family in a different part of the world)
  • Gothia Cup opening ceremony
  • Blue Lagoon
  • Winning!
  • Boat rides (touring the canals & ferry rides to see the area)
  • Watching a professional soccer match
  • The Disco!
  • Meeting new people
  • Visiting Marsden & touring the castle
  • Singing in the “party van” on the way to our games
  • Running 3 miles at 7:00 AM (I think that was facetious, but it certainly was character-building)

Again, thank you for making this trip possible and for the opportunity to be a part of it.
Your 2012 Trip Committee: Danah, Jamie, Gerard, Thom, Andy, Matt & the parents of the age group

By Kirk Wythers

Gothia Cup Opening Ceremony

The Blackhawks received the honor this year of representing the United States in the Gothia Cup Opening Ceremonies. The U.S. joined England, Norway, and Sweden as the countries who had participated the longest in Gothia Cup (30+ years), and as a result, the kids were in the last group of teams to march in. Although the kids had to wait in the “holding area” for their chance to march into the stadium and so missed the show (which rivaled half time at the Super Bowl) a great scene in its own right unfolded among the kids backstage. It started with the Swiss and Venezuelan teams trying to out-sing each other with various national songs. Then the dancing began and some of the kids started dancing in a big circle with other players, and then all the kids started singing and dancing and waving flags. All this was going on as they were slowly moving toward the entrance to the ceremonies, and when they caught sight of the inside of the stadium, packed to the rafters with more than 50,000 spectators, the Olympic fever-like thrill notched up even higher. Al Organ proudly carried the American flag and all the kids waved and danced and shouted as they marched around the stadium. The Blackhawk players were then seated next to the team from Iraq (check out the web for stories on this team…not since 1980 has an Iraqi team been able to attend Gothia Cup). The cameras were clicking like crazy, covering the Iraqi and Blackhawk kids with arms around each other, waving flags and dancing -seeming to have the time of their lives. Opening night was incredible! Another highlight: Viktor Adamcsek was able to find the team from Hungary and had a joyous reunion with the coach who took him to Gothia Cup as a young Hungarian player some 15 or so years ago.

By Thom Gilligan and Doug Powell

The U16 Experience

Each year since 1993, St. Paul Blackhawks teams have worked hard to raise money to travel to Scandanavia to play in some of the most prestigious youth soccer tournaments in the world. The preparation and fundraising begins more than a year in advance of the trip.

This year, the Boys U16 Premier and Girls U16 Premier teams traveled to Sweden to play in the Gothia Cup and to Denmark to play in the Denmark Soccer Festival. The Gothia Cup is the largest youth soccer tournament in the world and is considered the world youth cup. This year, there were nearly 1600 teams and 33,000 participants from dozens of countries. The Denmark Soccer Festival hosts 170 teams from as far as Brazil.

In the Gothia Cup, the Girls U16 team finished first in their group and advanced to the “Swede Sixteen” out of 116 teams in its bracket, eventually losing in a shootout to a team from Denmark. The girls were absolutely brilliant in the Denmark Soccer Festival, going undefeated and winning their age group against teams from Brazil, Denmark, Norway, UK, and Sweden.

The Blackhawks U16 Boys played 11 games against 8 different countries during their 12-day tour of Sweden and Denmark. Our boys were solidly competitive against teams from Brazil, England, Czech Republic, Hungary, and many more. In the Gothia Cup, the Boys U16 team finished third in its group and won its first playoff game against a Brazilian team in a shootout, only to lose its second playoff game in a shootout to another Brazilian team. In the Denmark Soccer Festival, the boys finished first in their group, but finished second in the semi-final group and did not advance further (but ended the tournament by avenging their Gothia Cup shootout loss to the team from Brazil from Sweden.)

Between the ample helpings of soccer there was plenty of time for the beach, the disco, an amazing match between Brøndby and Juventus, and just plain hanging out. Both teams had a fantastic soccer experience and an even better life experience. They made friends from around the world, navigated their way through Gothenberg and Copenhagen, and got a chance to seize the opportunity of a lifetime.

Special thanks to coaches John Sylvester and Keaton Peterson for their leadership, Shannon Norton for her care and keeping of our players for 2 weeks, and to Bo Conroy for planning the logistics of this unforgettable journey!