Youngsters bring flavour of World Cup to Yarmouth sands

Victoria NichollsIt was a weekend of cheers, tears, and ice-creams for soccer-mad youngsters, as football fever took hold of Great Yarmouth's central beach.Victoria Nicholls

It was a weekend of cheers, tears, and ice-creams for soccer-mad youngsters, as football fever took hold of Great Yarmouth's central beach.

Beach-goers basked in glorious sunshine on Saturday as a colourful Brazilian-style tournament brought families from across Norfolk flocking to the coast.

Just days before the start of the football World Cup, budding young stars had the chance to show off their own skills, as younger brothers and sisters made the most of a day at the seaside.

The hot weather meant water bottles had to be kept topped up for more than 1,000 boys and girls who took to the beach for Norfolk FA's 7th Soccer on the Sands tournament.

This year's World Cup theme saw each of the 128 teams don brightly coloured t-shirts of the nation that they were drawn to represent.

Hellesdon Youth U12, who wore purple for Japan, battled hard on the pitch but also found time to soak up the holiday atmosphere. One of its players, Ben Slaughter, 12, from Hellesdon High School, said it was his third time at the event, adding: 'The best bit is getting out in the sun, but you need a lot of water.'

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He said: 'It's been going well - we've won two and lost one. Sand is definitely harder to play on than grass as the ball doesn't move as much and it's harder getting your feet up and down in the sand.'

His teammate Connor Flood, 12, from Notre Dame High School, said he had enjoyed his first time at the tournament. 'It's hard playing on sand because the ball gets stuck in ditches, but it's been fun,' he said. 'It's not like grass tournaments - it's nice to do something different.'

Teams of youngsters in age groups from U7 to U13 had to prove themselves in the three group-stage games in order to qualify for the knock-out rounds, except the U7 and U8 categories, which were non-competitive.

Jack Bowhill-Mann, manager of Wendene Wanderers in Bowthorpe, who played in German colours, said it was fresh challenge for his players after a season of coming up against the same teams.

'It's brilliant, they love it,' he said. 'It's all about getting them out there playing football and getting them to enjoy it. It's social inclusion - they get to meet different people and play football against different people.'

He said even the most skilful players found the unfamiliar surface a challenge, adding: 'It's a complete leveller. They can't run with the ball so they've got to get the ball forward and pass it as much as possible.'

Cooler weather on Sunday failed to dampen the spirits of the young players, who enjoyed their last day of half term holidays.

Tournament organiser Craig Terrington, from Norfolk FA, said he believed the success of Soccer on the Sands was down to the lure of playing on sand.

'It's completely unique, there's nothing else like it around,' he said. 'It's all part of the World Cup which everyone's already buzzing about. It's the uniqueness of playing on the beach - it's something they can't experience anywhere else.'


U9 North Walsham, r/u Thetford Bulldogs A

U10 Taverham Tigers, r/u Dereham Town

U11 Gorleston Rangers A, r/u Moreton Hall Youth

U12 Toftwood Utd Youth, r/u Hemsby Hornets Wasps

U13 Shrublands A, r/u Hellesdon Youth


U11 Norwich City girls, r/u Brandon Lasses A

U13 Taverham, r/u Norwich City girls