I wasn’t sure that day two of my time at the COPA Coca-Cola camp in Paris could live up to day one after I was lucky enough to meet Xavi, yet somehow the guys over at Coke had other ideas…
First and foremost, let me start by saying that this whole tournament concept is far bigger than just being football. Yes, these youngsters were chosen to take part because of their abilities on the field, and yes, there was a tournament with a winning team, however, it goes further.
Some of these kids had never been overseas before this, some never even had a passport until they had to apply for one to attend the camp. Thanks to the guys at Coca-Cola, these kids have a memory that will genuinely live with them forever. They would’ve done even if it hadn’t been for the game at the Stade de France, but obviously that helped too!
After spending the day checking out the Eiffel Tower and floating down the River Seine, we made our way to the famous stadium in Saint-Denis to watch two of the best supported teams at Euro 2016 do battle.
What happened was actually more of a pummelling than a battle, but I’m sure the kids – many who ended up donning French flags and face paint – won’t have minded seeing seven goals in a full stadium in a European Championship quarterfinal. It could’ve been worse!
I have to say that it was an absolute pleasure to be sat with the South African teenagers for this game. They embraced everything that was going on, singing and dancing with the stadium as the goals went in, and see them all grinning was just another reminded of why I love this game so much.
Honestly, I cannot imagine how it felt for all the kids heading back to base camp after a such an amazing day out, but one thing is for sure. They won’t be forgetting COPA Coca-Cola any time soon.