Sun, sea, sand, sightseeing, sport and socialising – the six key components for many sports tours and certainly the perfect combination for the rugby and football boys from Birchgrove Comprehensive School in Swansea.
The group’s leader, Craig Bonnell, said, “for many of these boys, the school sports trip will be their only chance to play in an international fixture and to get the thrill of playing against a foreign school or club, on their turf. Many of our students don’t play at club level, therefore this may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them.”
With this in mind, we knew exactly the type of tour we needed to create for Brichgrove – an all-round international experience, both on the pitch and off it.
On the 22nd October it was a bright and breezy start as the group headed for the sunnier climate of the Costa Brava in Spain. Lloret de Mar was the perfect base for the group, thanks to its array of fantastic hotel resorts, a variety of attractions nearby to keep the group entertained when not on the pitch and its close proximity to Barcelona for the all-important cultural day trip. After all, who would want to come to this region of Spain without visiting the bustling city of Barcelona? Plus, with the added bonus of being able to cross the French border in just over an hour, we could give the group a chance to play two international fixtures in just one trip!
Our first day in Spain saw the rugby team take to the field in Girona against the local youth team from GEIEG RC. It was a try-fest and Birchgrove came out triumphant! So, the pressure was on the football team as they took to the pitch in the small French town of Ille sur tet later in the week. The pressure mounted as the group arrived to the welcome of half the town’s residents who had appeared to watch the ‘big match’; not to mention an appearance from the local mayor! It was a challenging game, but the boys from Birchgrove were triumphant once again.
Back in the club houses there were no winners and losers as the teams came together for some well-deserved post-tour hospitality, as well as a short presentation ceremony where team shirts were swapped as a memento of their tour. Craig commented, “although the score line in the rugby was heavily in our favour, they did play extremely well, in fact, the best I`ve seen them play! Both football matches were very even and competitive. Overall, fantastic fixtures for both teams!”
Time spent off the pitch is just as important as time spent on it, so a day trip to the fascinating city of Barcelona was a highlight for many, notably the guided tour of the magnificent Nou Camp Stadium.
Home to FC Barcelona and host to one of the most popular museums in Barcelona, it was a chance to explore the museum that charts the history of one of the greatest sporting clubs in the world before viewing the stadium from the grandstand, taking a tour of the changing rooms, down the tunnel and going pitch-side. Then it was the moment that many groups find the most exciting, the chance to lift the European Cup above their head in true winner’s style – the fact it was replica didn’t seem to matter one bit and certainly wasn’t going to dampen their spirits.
Just a short bus ride from the stadium and the group found themselves in the centre of Barcelona and a chance to shop, soak up the atmosphere and see the sights that many recognised from films, TV, books and the internet.
Did we achieve an all-round international experience for the Birchgrove boys? Absolutely! As the person who organised their tour, it was great to be able to act as their courier and see all the planning come to life. Craig rated his experience as 5 out of 5 on his post-tour questionnaire (including full marks for our all-round service) and described the tour as “an excellent sporting experience and, for some in our group the trip of a lifetime” – now that’s not a bad result, is it?
To see more great photos of this tour, visit our Facebook Page.