Kappa Classic points to a bright future
Honours were shared out on a day of finals as the twentieth Kappa Classic had a thrilling finish at the National Sports Centre yesterday.
Devonshire Cougars, with a vocal cheering section, won an exciting under-7 boys' title when they beat Somerset Reds 1-0 in the final, with Zevi White following up on his goal in the 1-0 win over PHC Zebras in the semi-finals to score the only goal in the final, a well-placed lob over the Somerset goalkeeper eight minutes into the first half.
Somerset came closest to equalising midway through the second half when Russon Bailey's shot hit the crossbar. Zeko White, the Cougars coach and father of Zevi, praised his team's performance.
“I'm proud of the team; they played well this year,” said White, who is also the captain of the Cougars senior team. “The fans brought it out and it was nice for all the youth to see.”
Dandy Town Gold avenged their loss to St George's Dark B Blue in last year's under-15 final when they edged them 3-2 on sudden-death penalties in the first final at North Field. Both goalkeepers, Kaelin Paynter of St George's and Town's Milai Perott, made saves during the shoot-out. Perott made the decisive save to give his team victory.
“There was a lot of pressure, and if I didn't save them, we would have lost,” Perott said as he was surrounded by celebrating team-mates. “It feels good; we waited three years for this.”
Perott was in the Town under-13 team that lost to Valencia in the final in the past two years.
In the under-13s final, Warwick Archers Bows were crowned champions after a 3-2 win on penalties over Next Generation Onions Orange after the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 in regulation time. Jannis Roberts scored for Onions and Nick Massa for Archers in the first half.
Bows had four females in their team, with Zakari Turner, a member of the under-17 girls' national team, making the crucial penalty save from Cole Summers's shot.
“We had four girls who are members of the under-15 and under-17 national team and we started working with them last year to provide them with regular play since the girls league wasn't up and running and they needed to be challenged,” explained coach Richard Todd, whose team is part of Robin Hood's programme.
“They have integrated into our under-13 boys' team but we treat them as players. They come in, train and have the same expectations, and as you see they play significant roles in our team based on their merit. Zakari saved the last kick and, prior to the finals, she maintained a shutout all the way through, conceding just one goal in five or six games.
“It was good teamwork overall and we're only in our second year of the programme and both Dennis Brown and myself are pleased with what is happening with the Warwick Archers.
“Warwick Archers is the youth team for Robin Hood but we're based out of Warwick Academy, so the children from Warwick Academy transition into our competitive teams. The core of the team is from Warwick Academy but we have others from outside programmes who have joined us as well.”
Next Generation Onions picked up the under-11 title with victory over Somerset Reds, 5-4 in sudden-death penalties after the match ended scoreless. The first nine penalties were all converted before Thomas Mello emerged as his team's hero, saving the tenth kick from Rico Outerbridge to earn the win.
“The boys had a great tournament, going down in our first game they were a bit unsettled but they definitely worked their way through,” Quincy Aberdeen, the team's coach, said. “Thomas came up big in the penalties; it wasn't our first penalty shoot-out after shoot-outs in the quarter-final and semi-final against BAA teams.
“This is a good way to finish the tournament; this team made it to the final last year and lost on penalties, so it was good to turn the tide.”
Dandy Stars lost in the under-13 girls' final when BPro beat them 2-1. Stasia Spurling netted the winner in the second half.
Stars won the under-9 girls' final with a 1-0 win over BHS Wizards, with Evans Welch scoring the lone goal from a free kick in the second half.
Cedars took the under-15 girls' title with a 1-0 win over BPro, while BAA Greens won the under-9 boys' final with a 1-0 victory over Warwick Grizzlies. Kaiyui Albuoy scored the only goal in the twelfth minute when his shot went in off the underside of the crossbar.
In a final at the main stadium, an East Select defeated Dandy Town 2-0 in the under-17 match.
Ray Jones, chairman of Kappa, is delighted to watch the tournament continue to grow in popularity after 20 years.
“This year saw 113 teams and 1,352 players, so that is another record,” said Jones, who would like for overseas teams return to the competition in the future.
“I think that bodes well, that youth football is thriving. We want to allow everyone to play so we're not ever going to limit the amount of teams that can enter. We'll add another day if we have to because we think it's important the children get their chance to shine.
“It probably means too much to the parents who get a bit overzealous sometimes and we have to remind them that if the children are happy then everything is great.”
Jones added: “We have been streaming the last two years and with that it is starting to get some overseas interest. We're actually going to start the process early and see if we can add some overseas teams. We have moved the day to coincide with the Easter break, so they can make it more than a football trip, come for a few days, see the country and participate in the tournament.”