U-17 stars savour new surroundings and friendships

20 Oct 2016

The 16 teams competing in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016 have spent a significant amount of time playing, training, receiving treatment or analysing their opponents’ play. But what about when their sporting duties are over? It turns out that tourism, studies, music and friends can fill the void between training sessions and matches.

Jordan has a long and rich history. A number of civilisations have occupied the country over the centuries. It is not at all surprising, therefore, that many teams made the most of their trip to indulge in a spot of tourism. The historical city of Petra, a three-hour drive from the capital, Amman, was a prime destination, but the Dead Sea (Earth’s lowest point) and the ancient town of Jerash, located one hour from Amman and featuring a famous Roman amphitheatre, were also popular points of call.

“Jordan has some wonderful scenery and great monuments, which are very different from what we’re used to in Germany,” Germany's Giulia Gwinn told FIFA.com. “Visiting the Dead Sea was a unique experience: you just have to lie back on the water to float comfortably. We really benefitted from the location, with its calmness and lovely sunsets.”

New Zealand were one of the first squads to travel to Petra and both players and staff were wowed by the experience at this world-famous site. "It's quite a long journey from Amman but well worth it,” said Young Football Ferns team manager Kelly Bolus. "It would have been nice to have even longer there as it's such a wonderful place. But the girls still had some time to appreciate the beauty of it, wander around, ride a camel - I think everyone got on one - and do some haggling with the local sellers."

Friendships formedThe participating teams arrived in Jordan one week prior to the start of the tournament. That date coincided with school starting back up in most countries, but the players’ teachers allowed their pupils some extra time off to take part in the prestigious international event. The young competitors did not forget to take their schoolbooks with them, however, and attended study sessions with their team-mates so as to avoid falling too far behind.

"For about two hours every day, we sit in a room all together and do some school work," explained England full-back Taylor Hinds. "We also nap whenever we can. But we have fun too, don't get me wrong. We have special nights, watching films together, beauty nights, quizzes... all that kind of thing. It's good fun and we're always together as a big group."

All of the teams were put up in the same hotel in Amman; consequently, the girls bumped into each other in the reception area, the swimming pool and the lifts. Despite their cultural differences and the language barrier, they succeeded in communicating, as Ghana goalkeeper Kayza Massey confirmed. "One of the things I've loved most is socialising with the other teams," she said. "We've done that a lot and it's been great to meet people from so many different countries. I spent a bit of time with the girls from the New Zealand squad and they were really lovely."

Rest and relaxationPlayers often look forward to long training camps and major tournaments, as it gives them the opportunity to spend time with their friends. “We listen to music together, sometimes all day long,” noted Spain’s Laia Aleixandri. “Anna Torroda sings really well, which is something that can’t be said of all the players in the squad (laughs).”

“We get together and listen to our favourite songs,” said Gwinn. “As we ended up staying here a bit longer, we’ve formed a tight-knit group and do the same things together.”

Japan captain Fuka Nagano, meanwhile, laid out how the holders have been preparing for the final when the hard work is done. “We just relax however we can," she said. "Sometimes that's going to the pool or the jacuzzi, at others it's just chilling out and watching TV. We also play cards together too."

Cameroon defender Eni Kuchambi explained how she filled her free time at the hotel: “After schoolwork, we would chat in the hall. We’d talk about what happened on the pitch and have a laugh about it. And then we’d set ourselves new challenges so that we could make some progress.”