Na­tional cham­pi­ons!

The Wokingham Paper - - SPORT - By TOM CROCKER tcrocker@wok­ing­ham­pa­per.co.uk

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 sibevan@gmail.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...

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