Staplehurst Monarchs are the toast of England this week after winning the Under 13 Boys Tesco Cup UK Final at St Andrews stadium last Sunday.
The English champions, whose website is powered by Club Website, lifted the trophy after overcoming two other Club Website teams: Welsh champions Ysciefiog Wolves and Scottish champions Fauldhouse Foxes.
Having overcome the Foxes courtesy of a solitary Theo Duckworth goal in a tight semi-final, another Duckworth strike looked to have taken Staplehurst to final glory, before a last-minute Ysciefiog Wolves equaliser forced extra time.
With no more goals coming, penalties followed and a perfect record from the spot saw the Monarchs take the trophy with a 5-4 shootout win.
“We’re just so proud of the boys,” said Staplehurst manager Andy Thomas. “It is a fantastic achievement for a team that last year was playing under age and were getting beaten pretty heavily.
“Little did we know less than 12 months on we’d be playing at such a fantastic venue and being crowned the champions of the UK. It’s just amazing.”
In the Under 16s Girls competition, Club Website team Sion Swifts of Northern Ireland lost to eventual winners, Manchester City Ladies 2-0 after extra time. Hibs Girls won the Under 14s tournament for Scotland.
The Under 13s tournament did not pass by without controversy, after Fauldhouse Foxes captain Alyshia Walker was deemed ineligible to play in the boys tournament, despite steering her side all the way to the UK finals.
Walker, a Scottish international, has scored over 70 goals for the Foxes this season and was named Player of the Match as her team qualified for the Tesco Cup by winning the Scottish Youth FA Cup (below).
But she was deemed ineligible for the UK finals as the rules of the tournament prohibited girls from taking part, in line with English FA rules for the 2010/11 season in which mixed football was allowed up to the under 11s only.
Ironically a rule that was extended to under 13s just days later.
Fauldhouse secretary Ina Meek said: “It’s such a shame. Alyshia is a hugely important player. I’m sure if she’d been allowed to play Fauldhouse could have beaten England and gone on to win the tournament.”
The controversial ban captured the attention of the media, including a feature on BBC’s The One Show in the build-up to the finals, in which SYFA National Secretary David Little threatened to withdraw from next year’s tournament as a result of the ruling.
Little said: “The English FA unfortunately don’t have as enlightened a view as we do have in Scotland. We changed the rules between 8 or 10 years ago to allow mixed participation.
“If this rule exists there will not be a Scottish participation next year, or I am more than delighted to suggest the excellent Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie for the finals with enlightened Scottish rules.”
Ironically, just three days after the Tesco Cup Finals, the English FA’s rules were amended to allow mixed football for under 13s for the 2011/12 season. The move brings England more in line with their Scottish counterparts, but it came too late for Alyshia Walker.
An FA spokeperson said: “We sympathise with the player involved, however, it is clearly stated in the competition’s rules which were submitted and approved that all participants must be male.
“Previous FA Rules meant mixed football was not permitted over the under 11 age range. However, the resolution to extend mixed football to the under 13 age group received the approval of The FA Shareholders at The FA’s AGM on Wednesday (25th May) and was fully supported by The FA Board, FA Executive and FA Council.”
“We are very pleased that from next season [2011-12] girls and boys will be able to play in the same teams at under-12s and under-13s.”
Tesco Cup image courtesy of Anthony Upton.