Thirty-seven Bolton School footballers travelled out to Spain over the Easter break for the Madrid Tour, where they were scheduled to play six fixtures against local Spanish club sides.
The boys stayed at the Residence-Hotel Ciudad del Fútbol, at the heart of the home of the Spanish Football Association. Designed for Spain’s elite football players, the hotel acts as headquarters for the national football team. Some of the boys even bumped into Spanish National Manager Vicente del Bosque outside the hotel on their first full day in Madrid!
Upon arrival, the three Bolton teams had just enough time to drop off their bags and change before plunging straight into the opening round of matches against local team Arganda del Rey. Both sides were evenly matched in all three games, but at the final whistle the Bolton School boys ended the first day with two narrow losses and one win.
The next day brought weather more suited to Bolton than to central Spain, but the boys’ spirits were not dampened as they headed for training at the Real Madrid CF Academy, training alongside Real Madrid’s professional teams.
In the afternoons, the boys took breaks from their intensive training to visit the Spanish National Football Museum – which houses one World and two European Cups – and for an all-access tour of the Bernabéu Stadium. Then it was back to the stadium to watch Real Madrid play Éibar in Spain’s La Liga. It was a huge excitement to see Cristiano Ronaldo and company in action in the 3-0 win.
All too quickly, the final day of the tour arrived, bringing with it a final set of fixtures against club side Cogorro. Once again, the Bolton boys found themselves evenly matched, with the First team drawing 2-2 and the Third team drawing 1-1. The Second team, however, managed to pull off a 1-0 win.
The trip was a great experience for the boys: a tremendous opportunity to tour such a fantastic football city. The visitors displayed a great professional attitude and
high standard of football throughout. Although the focus was not solely on winning games, it was nice that the six games played were very competitive, with two wins, two losses and two draws.
Training at Real Madrid CF with the Academy coaches and staff, meanwhile, allowed the boys to experience the professional surroundings of one of the world’s very best clubs. With the Real Madrid reserves training on the next pitch and the first team behind closed doors just metres away, the tour party felt as close to the real thing as possible.
In summary, the trip was a great success. The mixture of football and culture allowed the boys to experience life on the continent as professional athletes. I have no doubt that they will remember this for the rest of their lives.
Adds tour member Elliot Turnbull: “One of the main reasons that the tour was so enjoyable was the world-class facilities on offer. Training at Real Madrid’s prestigious Valdebebas complex was a great experience. It was extremely helpful and enjoyable to work with two of the club’s academy coaches who ran brilliant training sessions with us, focusing on developing our technical skills.
“The hotel’s facilities were also second to none: it was a privilege to know that we were staying in rooms only recently vacated by international stars like David De Gea and Juan Mata.
‘The whole trip was a great success and experience and we are all extremely grateful to the staff who made it all possible.”
Mark Chilton is Senior Football coach at Bolton School – www.boltonschool.org