WOKINGHAM District Under-11s won two penalty shoot-outs to be crowned national champions at the English Schools’ Football Association finals event in Liverpool.
Despite being the smallest district represented in the finals, Wokingham overcame the challenges of Bexley, Sheffield, Liverpool and Plymouth to reach the final, where they defeated Newham on penalties.
Stuart Bevan’s side began their group stage against Bexley, drawing 0-0, and they matched that score against Sheffield.
That meant anything but victory over hosts Liverpool in the final group game would see their competition come to an end.
Liverpool, who have over 200 schools to select players from compared to around 40 for Wokingham, came in as clear favourites and the game was locked at 0-0 again until two minutes from the end when captain Emil Mursalov netted from a free-kick to clinch victory.
That set up a semi-final showdown with Plymouth, with the game going all the way to spot kicks. Wokingham held their nerve, netting all their penalties while goalkeeper Pranav Ganti’s save sent his side into the last two.
In a battle of two sides yet to concede all tournament, Newham and Wokingham again drew blanks with a shoot-out required to separate the resolute pair.
And in sudden death, Ganti saved again allowing Sam Robinson up to stroke home the winning kick to seal a dramatic win to give Wokingham the title of the best district side in the country out of 60 who entered.
“This is an incredible achievement,” said boss Bevan.
“The boys have worked so hard all season and thoroughly deserve the title of national champions.
“The association has only been running for four years and to have won a national final within this time frame is just mind-blowing, but testament to the talent we have in Wokingham schools.
“I would like to thank our coaches, Ben Winship, Keith Doward and Jack Fisher for their efforts and commitment to the team as well as our chairman, Philip Theobald, for his support of District Football.”
Trials for the 2018/19 season for children in years four and five will take place at Reddam House on Saturday, June 23.
To register an interest, contact Stuart at email@example.com.
Next year will also see a Wokingham District U11 girls team for the first time. Trials will take place on July 14 at Leighton Park School and to register, contact Ethan Green at ethan.greene@ hotmail.co.uk
Under 11s Back row: Archie Shefford, Ejiro Abbey, Pranav Ganti, Joshua Murray, Emmanuel Osho; Front Row: Connor O’Donoghue, Harry Pashley, Emil Mursalov (captain), George Weston-Brown, Sam Robinson) Below: the staff team Ben Winship (Coach), Stuart...