If Carlsberg did UEFA Under 17 Championships then they’d appoint two venues that are within walking distance of your front door, just to make it easier for you to see the stars of tomorrow. There’d be another one in your home town because you’re bound to be back there a bit. The weather would be decent too.
That’s the deal I’ve got for the 18th staging of the UEFA U17’s. Tolka Park and Whitehall are two of the venues being used; one is a 5 minute walk to the left from my house, the other a 10 minute walk to the right. The Carlisle Grounds in Bray is another venue being used, my home town team’s stadium.
The other venues being used for the tournament, which runs from 03 to 19 May, are Longford’s City Calling stadium, UCD’s Belfield Bowl, Shamrock Rovers’ Tallaght Stadium and Waterford FC’s RSC. That makes it a three-all draw between Premier Division and First Division stadiums, if anyone’s counting, with Whitehall the only non-league ground being employed.
Ireland got off to a decent start, drawing with Greece 1-1 in Tallaght Stadium on 03 May. It could have been a win; Brighton’s Matt Everitt put Ireland ahead only for us to concede an equalizer deep in added time. The next game, on Monday 06 May, saw us level it late against the Czech Republic in the RSC; we finish our Group A campaign on 09 May when we face Belgium in Tallaght, and will need to get a result against the group leaders to have a chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.
The other groups are packed with exciting teams. England. Italy. Germany. Spain. France. Holland. Watch these players now in the Under 17 UEFA Championships and you’ll be able to say you saw them first when everyone is raving about them in the Champions League in a few years’ time.
Looking through the names of the players there is the odd familiar name. There’s a guy playing for France named Theo Zidane. He’s with Real Madrid. He’s Zinedine Zidane’s third-eldest of four sons; all four joined Real’s academy during their father’s time there. Talking of names, one that brought a smile was James Trafford of England. Why? Because he’s named Trafford but is with Manchester City. Easily amused, aren’t I?!
As well as the UEFA U17 title being up for grabs, there is more at stake in these championships. In every odd year the UEFA U17’s also act as the UEFA qualifiers for the FIFA U17 World Cup, which will be held in Brazil later this year; the top five from this tournament go through.