Sacred Heart College first XI invited to world tournament in Prague
Sacred Heart's top football team will test themselves against the world's best in the Czech Republic this year.
The first XI team will depart on May 15 to contest the International School Sport Federation's World Schools Championships in Prague.
They're the first New Zealand team to ever compete in the tournament and will take on the best high school sides from football-powerhouse nations like Germany, Brazil, France, and Belgium.
Lead by current New Zealand U17 coach Danny Hay, the Sacred Heart boys will match up against 23 other school teams with the hope of making the nation proud.
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Hay said it was a great opportunity for the boys to represent the country on the world stage.
"Being the first team to go over and participate from New Zealand is pretty exciting but there is a fair amount of responsibility in that as well," Hay said.
"Even though we're a school team, we are representing this country. We want to do well so that other teams will get invited back each year."
Rob Dymond, the team's captain and a year 13 student at Sacred Heart, is no stranger to travelling overseas - being exposed to football in the United States and England.
For him, the competition will be a test for a lot of the players who haven't played that level of football before.
"It's quite hard to know what the other team's are going to be like but we are hoping to be competitive," he said.
Matt Palmer, also in year 13 at Sacred Heart, was part of the New Zealand under 17 squad which gained qualification to the FIFA under 17 World Cup in India later this year.
Palmer said having Hay as both the national coach and the school coach was a huge bonus.
"It definitely helps. We know what's expected and exactly how to play to the game plan," Palmer said.
The team will miss close to three weeks of school when they depart. While this presents a different sort of challenge for the boys, Hay said the school had been very generous in giving the team time off.
"Being exposed to true world class competition is an opportunity that is few and far between," he said.
"This chance is enormous and it's not lost on the players.
"There's another challenge for the boys in making sure they don't get behind in their school work, but the opportunity to go over and play against the world's best is something we couldn't turn down."
Despite the obvious benefits, the team is still well in need of funding.
The trip is expected to cost the players around $5500 each, with a Givealittle page set up in support.
"This is fully self-funded so parents and players are working hard to try and raise the funds," Hay said.
"That's the difficulty of it, making sure everyone get's the opportunity to go over there and we don't want anyone left behind."
More information on the team's Givealittle page can be found here.