A dose of European pigskin
CBN players heading to France with football team
When a contingent from this province takes to a football field in France next Easter, there will be a lot of players from the Conception Bay North region in the huddle.
Of the 30 players scheduled to go, nine from this area suiting up in one form or another when they square off with a group of French players in Amien, France on Easter Sunday 2017.
“I can’t wait to go,” said Bay Roberts’ Adam Sparkes.
Jonah Mercer, Alex Tucker, Daniel Seymour, Mitchell Peach, Zach Wheaton, Brandon Petten, Anthony Yetman and Cody Mugford will join Sparkes when the team travels to Belgium and France next year.
“They all play different styles,’ said Football NL president and technical director Brian Hughes of the Conception Bay North players.
It can be a strange thought, Europe and American football, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
While what we call soccer is king in Europe, there are strong ties to American football across the continent. Teams in several large European centres toiled in NFL Europe from 1991-2007.
France has under-17, under19 and adult programs, while the game is large in other countries like Germany and Austria.
More than football
The trip is about more than playing football on foreign soil. It’s partly an educational trip as well.
It’s being dubbed “the Trail of the Caribou” and will take the group of players, parents and coaches through the various parts of Europe where the Royal Newfoundland Regiment fought and sacrificed.
Originally, Hughes had eyes on heading overseas in time for the 100th anniversary of Beaumont Hamel and the Battle of the Somme, but football season would have concluded in France.
He turned eyes to Vimy Ridge and Monchy-le-Pruex, which both have centennial anniversar- ies next summer.
“I said, ‘Okay, now it makes sense. There are two 100-year anniversaries,’” said Hughes. “Both of them connected to young men in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
After some back-and-forth with the French Federation of American Football, it was decided there could be games played during April.
“The tour is two-part,” said Hughes. “(Players) are going to visit each site of the caribou in Belgium and France.”
Plenty of training
In the many months leading up to the trip, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for the players to improve their skills.
The five coaches travelling with them are heavily credentialed. There are three coaches from Acadia University, a Queens University coach and a former player from Quebec, who played in France.
They put off a series of camps last week in St. John’s for the players going and will return in the fall and December for additional camps.
“There’s an excitement for the team, but they’re exhausted because they’ve never worked this hard for three days in a row,” Hughes said of the minicamp. “I know they enjoyed it. They enjoyed the intensity, they enjoyed the level of teaching and learning they went through over three days, and they probably even surprised themselves.”
As a player, Sparkes is keen on getting the most out of his last year of football as he can. A new player to the sport, relatively speaking, he got into the game a few years ago because it was something different.
“I’m looking forward to all of the training coming up,” said Sparkes.
Sport can afford young athletes great opportunities. This is one of them for the boys from the Bay Roberts Warriors.
“It’s neat to get to do all of this through football,” said Sparkes. “You get to go with your teammates and your friends too.”
The Football NL group heading to Belgium and France in 2017 has plenty if local flavour with nine players from the Conception Bay North region. They are, from left, Mitchell Peach, Daniel Seymour, Jonah Mercer, Alex Tucker, Brandon Petten, Anthony Yetman, Cody Mugford and Adam Sparkes. Mis-