China Trip 2018 - Day 4

We woke up early in the morning, ready for a big game ahead of us. Today was the day we were set to play the Xi-Bo international school's first eleven in a football match. As we have done each morning, before we headed out for the day we again made the short walk to the charming, local restaurant to eat our breakfast.

At first we went to a fantastic park with the finest architecture in the land. It was 40+ degrees in the park; which had minimal shade. Meaning walking became an endurance test, however the grounds of the park and the river that ran through it made it a memorable experience. Next, we arrived at the school and thankfully they had some English food (Chicken nuggets & chips), which after many meals of exotic and unfamiliar foods was a welcome sight. Afterwards we had a Chinese lesson with one of the teachers from the school -which was great- then we warmed up for the big game...

It was a 7 a side 80 minute football match with Mr Rafferty (aka Gareth Southgate) as our manger. Since there was about 14 kids who wanted to play from the three combined English schools we had rolling subs which meant we didn't play well as a team in the first half (especially as a lot of us had never played together before) and against opponents who were physically fit, well organised and knew the environment, we were 2-0 down at half time.

Regrouping at the break, we discussed weaknesses in their team for which to exploit...mainly that there was no offside being enforced! Gradually as the game wore on we became more confident as a team and were quicker and played passing football. We also realised that we needed to match them physically as they were on average much taller than our team.

Finally we got the breakthrough...a free kick was hammered in by one of the student's from St George's school (from Harpenden) and moments later the same student emphatically levelled the match to make it 2-2! Our side were now in full flow and minutes from time we scored the winner from one of the student's from Seven King's School (from East London). The match ended 2-3, it was an epic comeback!

After the match we had our pictures taken with the Chinese team. They were incredibly friendly and sporting, offering us water and speaking to us about football in general. It was great to play football and meet other students, not just from England who are on the trip with us but the students from China too.

By Callum Salmons and Danny Cairns