A dose of Euro­pean pigskin

CBN play­ers head­ing to France with foot­ball team

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER TC ME­DIA nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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.”

SUBMITTED PHOTO

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-

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