During most of March '07, forty players representing Sigma's flagship ETC program experienced soccer from a very different perspective than that provided within their southern Ontario soccer pitches. The Sigma 1995 and 1990/91 squads challenged their skills against the professional clubs from the leading country in youth development; the Netherlands. This included stops at PSV Eindhoven, AZ Alkmaar, SC Heerenveen, FC Groningen, NEC Nijmegen and AFC Ajax to name a few. The journey through this soccer rich country was full of lessons from day one, with players and supporters gaining a deeper knowledge of how this beautiful game is meant to be learned and executed by young soccer players hoping to one day play the game professionally for many of the famed clubs of this country.
For a 10 day period beginning on March 12th the Sigma 1995 ETC squad began their journey throughout the Netherlands. A journey that included 8 matches in all parts of the country, 5 training sessions, exclusive viewing of professional team training sessions and corresponding inside looks into the stadiums and youth academy set-ups. At the end the successful record of 2-2-4 was secondary to the soccer demonstrated on the field from these young boys. They proved that hard work in training and dedication to learning provided the opportunity to compete in the world's most challenging soccer environment. Notable matches included an action packed 1-1 draw at SC Heerenveen, a come from behind 3-2 win at Groningen, and a well fought 4-0 loss to PSV Eindhoven '94's.
The positive feedback from opposing coaches and officials was quite encouraging ensuring continued invites for the group to exclusive development camps and events in Europe. On an individual basis many of the boys definitely impressed, with squad captain Daniel Correa being asked to stay at Ajax for an extended period. All said this experience will surely shape the continued development of these boys back home and best prepare them for future opportunities in Europe.
The Sigma 90/91's tour of the Netherlands consisted of a demanding schedule of 10 matches in 13 days where the boys would be put to the test against the best of the Dutch '90 division age group. Although for many of the boys this was the first time in Europe to face such a level of opposition their play was quite exceptional and definitely improved after each match. The squad also held training sessions, and was afforded exclusive viewing of professional team training sessions and corresponding inside looks into the stadiums and youth academy set-ups. Notable matches included a 4-2 loss in Eindhoven against PSV where an exceptional match was played by both teams and a 3-1 win at Ajax in a very entertaining match for both squads. The last was quite special as all the coaches who make the yearly trip to Canada for the Sigma AJAX Academy Coaches ID Camp were in the stands to support both squads.
On an individual basis many of the boys put in an exceptional showing while in the Netherlands impressing club coaches and officials. One such player was midfielder Kyle Bekker, who was invited to train with and play in a friendly with AFC Ajax. Sigma will continue to provide such opportunities to its program players through developmental travel and camps at home with leaders in youth development.
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