TAMWORTH’S under 16s are itching to get to Inverell for this year’s McDonald’s Joeys Mini World Cup.
The bulk of the side has made the trip for the past two tournaments and wouldn’t miss the third and so far biggest instalment of the carnival for the world.
The aim is to win the cup but there is also a consolation competition for the first time if teams bow out after the pool stages.
“This is the third year for the 16s,” Tamworth coach Jason Cannon said.
“Most of these boys went last year and the year before.
“This year they have the cup and the shield, which is a great thing.
“If they lose a couple of games, that’s fine.
“They’ll just play in the shield.
“If you lose you don’t have to go home.”
The Tamworth boys aren’t just playing for team silverware either.
There are many other prizes on offer, including scholarships for the best players in each age group that includes a trip to Europe.
Cannon said something like that for any young player would be “life-changing”.
“The prizes they have on offer up there are really good,” he said.
“That’s a good incentive for the boys.”
To take out the cup, Tamworth will have to beat some pretty good sides.
Toowoomba Grammar won it last year and will be back again.
Several other teams are also back for the third time.
“The team to beat will be Toowoomba Grammar,” Cannon said.
“They won the 14s and the 16s last year.
“That’s to their credit.
“They were really good.”
It will be a testing start to the five-day tournament.
Tamworth faces Toowoomba Grammar (Spain) in its first game tomorrow and is also grouped with Joeys FC (Algeria), Withcott Soccer Club (Slovakia), Toowoomba Wanderers 2 (Chile) and Grafton (Cameroon).
This year Tamworth will play as Argentina, having worn the colours of Germany in the first two tournaments.
The Tamworth side is made up of players from various local clubs and plays together against other rep sides from the area.
“They play in the inter-town gala days,” Cannon said.
“This is one of those under 16s teams with a few extras as fill-ins.
“Just about every club is represented again.”
Tamworth will join forces with East Armidale to send a women’s team to the tournament as well.
There are three divisions again this year – under 13s, 16s and open women.
Joining the likes of Joeys FC, Tamworth, various Armidale clubs and Gunnedah are teams from the coast, Queensland and the Hunter Valley.
Cannon said the tournament was not just a good opportunity to play football during the school holidays.
“It has brought the football community closer,” he said.
“We get to know the other coaches and players and talk to them.
“So we get to know people from places like Muswellbrook and Armidale and especially Inverell.”
There will also be a New Zealand side in the women’s draw – the first time an overseas team has played at the tournament.
Games start at 9am at the Inverell Sports Complex tomorrow with finals played on Wednesday.