As an ageing footballer, I approach my own full-time whistle with distant memories of heading leather footballs cunningly designed to soak up as much mud and water as possible, thereby transforming themselves into lethal weapons. The impact upon rising to the ‘big kick’ downfield (the most common strategy in my youth) would be somewhat similar to heading a medicine ball. Occasionally I would be lucky enough to meet the lace, so along with general concussion it was possible to get a little more localized pain – strangely it helped rather than otherwise. The pace of the game was generally slower, of course, and involved careful navigation around the really boggy bits, as well as slide tackles that could bring tears to the eyes, usually for all the wrong reasons. So it is with a great deal of envy that I watch players today. The technique and awareness of the young players can be a joy to watch, and the effortlessly headed balls just seem to float away. The players at this tournament are far more sophisticated than I could ever be, although that will not prevent me from making judgments or imparting words of wisdom to anyone too slow to get away from me on the sideline. This is football.
It is the greatest privilege for the British International School Phuket to host this tournament, arguably the largest of its kind, and I know that the memories and experiences gained here by the young players will last a lifetime. To those of us who, for whatever reason, have mysteriously failed to become top football managers, there will be excitement and disappointment in almost equal measure. This, too, is football.
It is my belief that all visitors will see something of the passion and teamwork that has been necessary to host this event, and I hope that our pride in the school and in each other will also shine through – but hopefully not too much. The staff and students of the school are truly exceptional and I am certain that this will become more apparent to all as the tournament progresses.
All that remains to be said is that it is our very great pleasure to welcome you to the 2017 Soccer Sevens; enjoy the occasion!
” Of course, all athletes compete to win, and I am sure many of you will try your utmost to do so, but for most of us throughout our sporting careers we have also had to learn how to lose. This is by far the hardest, but also the most valuable lesson, because it is how we are able to react to failure that will largely determine future success, not only in sport but also throughout our lives.
A clear objective in any game should be to gain the respect of the opposition, this requires each of you to play fair, work hard and always stay positive!
Win or lose, what I can guarantee is that everyone involved in the tournament will take away memories that will last a lifetime.
Enjoy the next two days, and give of your best and then – no matter what the mathematics tells you – walk off the pitch with your head held high.”