Last November, all Year 10 students have received an email inviting those who wished to participate in the international Polisportiva Giovanile Salesiana Futsal tournament which was to be hosted by the Italians in Udine. With no hesitation I signed up to take part in the trials from which the team would be selected.  I decided to give it a go!

In December we kicked off with the trials.  From fifteen students only twelve could be selected to make up the squad which were to play in Italy. Focused and determined I put all my energies to gain my place. The trials kept on going till the end of February and in the beginning of March the coach informed us that he would be sending the final list of the selected players by email.

When I returned home after school, not without a dose of anxiety, I checked my email to see if there was my name! The email notification popped up!  It was the final list sent by Mr Kurt Drakard, our P.E. teacher and team coach and to my great relief and joy my name was with the name of the other eleven.  What a day!  It was the best day of my life! I never felt happier before.

It took us only a week when training sessions recommenced with more intensity. To help us gel as a team we had to face three opponents in friendly matches just a few weeks before we travelled to Italy. Moreover, the week preceding the much-awaited tournament we met up for an intensive training camp at Savio College with two sessions of 1.5 hours each and a technical meeting in the evening. This was a grand opportunity for us to get closer to each other and grow in our friendships in an authentic Salesian atmosphere.

Finally, the 18th of May arrived.  It had to be a very early flight to Treviso. After landing, a short van trip took us to the magnificent Bella Italia Complex where we met other youths, some of whom we had to face in the several games we had. The atmosphere was amazing: young people, boys and girls, from Belgium, Italy, Holland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Spain who were going to compete in futsal, volleyball and gymnastics.

The first evening there was the opening ceremony where three players represented their country. After a good rest, the next day we had two important matches.

The first game against Slovakia was truly a tough one.  We lost with the score of 8-3.  A good talk and a few changes in tactics helped approach the next game with a very different spirit and attitude.  In fact, in the following game we fought until the last minute to gain a much-needed victory of 8-7 against Hungary.  We were jubilant and ecstatic to say the least! This game gave us the determination and hunger for victory that we really needed!

The following day we had two other games against two different teams from Belgium. Although the results were not what we aspired for we knew that we had given it our all!  We lost both games with last minute goals and tricky scores of 3-2 and 5-4. The word disappointment cannot really describe what we felt!  It could have been game over for us until we discovered that the best fourth team was selected to play in the playouts!  Minutes felt like hours as we anxiously waited to see if our hopes were futile or not!  After dinner the officials called all teams for the final play-offs and playouts for the next day!  Hearing “Savio College” mentioned as one of the teams in the playouts gave us that sense of contentment, satisfaction and drive to do our best! Savio College had to face the resilient Belgian team which we had faced in group stages.  We knew it was not going to be an easy feat.  Notwithstanding the bravery and determination, we had to bow down to the strength of the Belgian team who on that day were superior.

That night, the closing ceremony wrapped it all up!  Before the presentations started, we had a memorable encounter with several young people from the other countries.  Getting to know each other while exchanging the clothing with the different Salesian logos made us aware of the vast movement of the Salesians around the world!  The spirit of Don Bosco still lives on!

During the award giving ceremony, it felt as if all were victorious.  When sport is genuine it unites us together!  As a team we knew we could not receive any reward until we heard the President of PGS calling us to come up on the main stage to receive the Fair Play reward!  I felt so proud to represent Malta and Savio College while receiving this prestigious award!  A medal I will treasure for life!

The 22nd May marked the day of our return home.  We could hold our heads up high knowing that we truly had done our best. The lesson to “never give up” will remain with me from this experience.

A special thanks goes to our coach, Mr Kurt Drakard, Bro. Matthew Alfino sdb and Fr Jeremy Vella sdb, our headmaster, who supported us all throughout this fantastic journey!

Neil Caruana Melbourne – Year 10G