The Academy Cup 2016 is fast approaching its start date of Friday the 25th of March 2016. The tournament which is quickly establishing itself as one of the biggest youth tournaments in Europe is run and hosted by Irish Schoolboy Club St Kevins Boys FC. This article features a preview of Barcelona skipper Xavi Simons and an interview with St Kevins Boys FC coach Craig Caffrey.
The tournament now in its 8th season since it first launched in the summer of 2009 has grown from strength to strength. Previous participants are listed below.
This year the tournament welcomes two new teams. Olympique Lyonnais and for the first time ever competing on Rep of Ireland soil FC Barcelona will take part in the tournament alongside West Brom, current champions Deportivo de La Coruña, Celtic and hosts St Kevins Boys FC.
The standard and talent that will be on display at the tournament this year is extremely high. One such example is Barcelona midfielder Xavi Simons. The twelve year old Barca skipper has already attracted the interest of numerous clubs throughout Europe with interest from Chelsea FC going public. Xavi is the Son of former Eredivise professional footballer Regillio Simons who currently works between the academies of Ajax Amsterdam and FC Barcelona. Xavi who is a technically gifted footballer with a game intelligence way beyond his years was born in Amsterdam and named by his father after legendary Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez.
Xavi Simons moved to Alicante in Spain at three years of age following his father's retirement from professional football. He quickly came on the radar of Villareal CF and was signed to their academy. At just six years old Xavi was already being asked to represent Villareal three years above his age group at U9's. Xavi's father didn't want this, he felt his son at just six years of age was to young to be featuring in U9 age groups and refused to allow this. Barcelona called Xavi for a trial a week on from the refusal, at seven years of age Xavi Simons was signed by Barcelona's famous academy "La Masia". In the five years since Xavi has excelled producing displays of class and intelligence way beyond his years and showing real signs that Barcelona have a potential global superstar within their ranks. At twelve years of age it is unfair to heap pressure on a kid but his talents are becoming difficult to keep out of the media spotlight, Xavi is already widely regarded as the best footballer within his age group in Spain alongside Hugo Alvarez of Celta Vigo. Both Xavi and Hugo are being tracked by Chelsea FC Spanish scout Vicente Fernandez. Xavi Simons - one of many promising young stars to keep an eye out for at this year's academy cup.
Keepitonthedeck.com recently caught up with St Kevins Boys FC coach Craig Caffrey to find out how host club St Kevins Boys preparations are coming along for the tournament.
Q1 - How are preparations at St Kevins Boys U13 coming along for the tournament Craig?
Preparations are going great so far, we try to create a non-pressure environment that allows players to go express themselves freely at all times. We haven't changed much in terms of our normal preparation for games, we do however get more time with the kids on the training ground as the tournament coincides with the Easter Break. At St Kevins Boys FC it's all about the development of each player in all aspects of the game, we want our lads to gain experience by testing themselves against players within major academies at their own age group.
Q2 - What type of standard can everyone expect from the teams involved?
Having attended each season since the tournament inauguration seven years ago I've witnessed a very high standard year upon year. I've no doubt this year will be no different with an outstanding line up of clubs involved yet again.
Q3 - Shanowen Road has received high praise for the quality of it's facilities from all the clubs who have featured in the past, how is the facility shaping up for this years tournament?
The work that goes in behind the scenes at St Kevins Boys FC is absolutely mind blown, not just in relation to the tournament but in general all year around. There is literally too many volunteers to name, unless you can write all day lol, I have to give a special mention to our director of football Ken Donoghue, that man literally works day and night to ensure the pitch at Shanowen Road is in pristine condition year after year.
Q4 - Jack Byrne who has recently been called into the Rep of Ireland international U21 squad is one from a host of international footballs to have played at St Kevins Boys FC in the past. The club continues to produce talent year after year that attracts interest from professional football clubs, why are St Kevins so successful at producing talented footballers?
Here at St Kevins we have a clear and structured player and coaching development pathway in place which is overseen and implemented by head coach Alan Caffrey. Our focus is the player and their development first and foremost. I feel our focus on development first and foremost has played a big part in the success of the teams and players within the club over long term.
Q5 - The current crop of U13's at St Kevins Boys who will feature in the tournament. What are they like as a group?
Genuinely a superb group to work with, myself and the other coaches Ger Browne, Greg Donoghue and Paul Carr are blessed to be working with a group so willing to learn, so well disciplined and a very talented group of young footballers. Cannot praise the lads enough for the work they put in and the respect they give us as coaches, this really is a special TEAM.
Q6 - A hot topic around Europe and the rest of the World at under age level at the minute is the influence from the sidelines, pushy parents being one subject to make recent headlines. As a coach what is your opinion on parents or spectators in general at schoolboy games, are parents and spectators really putting kids under too much pressure and thus driving them out of the Sport?
I can only speak from my own experience and generally at St Kevins Boys I've found the parents and spectators who attend games and training to be very understanding of what we are trying to achieve with our players. Here at St Kevins Boys FC we are all part of a team, from the players, coaches, volunteers, parents to the spectators. We all want the best for the club and everyone involved. Whilst on the subject of parents I'd just like to give a mention to the invaluable fundraising effort for this season's tournament from the parents involved in the U13's.
Q7 - St Kevins Boys FC have yet to win the tournament, is this the year?
It would be a bold statement for me to say the side is going to win the tournament and I wouldn't want to heap that sort of pressure on the kids, what I will say is that we will give it our best shot and see how far that can take us and hope we can learn and develop along that journey together as a group.