Earlier this month, the IMG Academy soccer program's U-17 boys' team traveled to Italy to play a tournament with seven Italian U-19 club teams, including A.C. Milan, Cagliari, Lecce, Napoli (all four have senior clubs in Serie A -- Italy's top division), Bari, Parma and Taranto. IMG's U-17 coach Ferdinando De Matthaeis filed a report from the trip. See photos below.
On May 4, IMG was invited to the opening ceremony of "Torneo citta di Ostuni" tournament held in the city of Ostuni. The teams that participated were all professionals and U-19 teams.
The following day at 10 a.m., IMG played the opening game of the tournament facing last year's champions, A.C. Milan in front of 2000 spectators. What a thrill for our team. A.C. Milan had in their lineup two players that already played in Serie A, Matteo Darmian and Oduamadi Nnamdi. The final score was 3-0 for the Italian team, but our boys were able to hold on up until the 65th minute in the game. It was a great accomplishment, and the spirit of our team was very enthusiastic.
What made the game more interesting was the fact that the both teams had lunch together at a local restaurant after the game, and our boys had an opportunity to interact and socialize with their opponents in a very friendly atmosphere.
The next day IMG faced Lecce and lost 2-0. Lecce scored their first goal on a corner kick at the 70th minute and if it weren't for a mistake by our guest goalkeeper, IMG could have easily tied the game after missing some earlier scoring chances.
In the last game of the tournament IMG played Napoli, and it was a very entertaining game, with a final result of 4-2 for Napoli. The goals for IMG came from Thomas MacFarlane on a header from a corner kick taken by Nathan Tayler and from a free kick by Di Benedetto, another guest player that IMG borrowed from Barletta .
Overall, the team did exceptionally well and got a lot of respect from the other teams and the media in Italy. Every player on the roster got playing time, and everyone was satisfied with the outcome of the tournament. Just to understand the toughness of our group, A.C. Milan and Lecce played in the final, which A.C. Milan won for the 2nd year in a row.
Aside from the tournament, the boys and some of the family members that came along on the trip got to enjoy some unbelievable sightseeing, great food and an unforgettable experience.
The group visited Rome upon arrival and managed to visit the "Coliseum," "Piazza Navona," "Fontana di Trevi," "The Pantheon," "The Vatican," and the "Spanish Steps."
The following day the group visited Lucera, a medieval city, in the morning and in the afternoon played a couple of exhibition matches in preparation for the tournament. IMG went to a professional soccer match between Foggia and Lanciano, a third-division game. Foggia was the former club that coach Ferdi worked for prior to IMG.
The group stayed for the whole week in Ostuni, a touristic city called "Citta' Bianca"( The white city) because of the typical "Greek" looking structure and colors of the houses.
On the day off the team visited Alberobello, another touristic beauty known for the "TRULLI," ancient circular barns with roof tops in the form of a cone. On the same day, the group visited 'Le Grotte Di Castellana," millions-of-years old natural underground caves that run for about 3 miles.
On our last day IMG visited Lecce, a city full of monuments and churches called "Firenze del Sud" (Florence of the south of Italy). In the afternoon, the team went to watch a Serie A match Lecce and Napoli.
This trip was a great experience for all of us, and we will have great memories of it. Here is the list of the boys that went on the trip:
Joe Rigo Morales
Juan Carlos Garcia
Coach Ferdinando De Matthaeis