On Tuesday 28th May, after months of anticipation, excitement, and intense fundraising the time finally came for Hackney Laces to go on tour to Barcelona – and we had an incredible time. The tour was a joint effort, alongside our ‘brother’ club, ReachOut, a boys football club and mentoring charity in Hackney.
The 42-strong party left behind a cold and rainy England in search of some fun and sun in this famous football city. After a long day of travelling, we arrived at the hostel in the Badalona region, before going out for a first night meal and exploration of the city. The excitement was clear to see, with the night culminating in a dance off between the boys and girls in the middle of the busy Las Ramblas.
Things got off to a great start on our first full day in the city, the sun was out, as were the Hackney Laces girls and ReachOut boys in full force, ready to visit one of the most famous football stadiums in the world. After spending the morning at Camp Nou, home of La Liga Champions FC Barcelona, we then took full advantage of the good weather, to the beach it was! Full marks to all of the girls, most of whom jumped straight in the sea and started swimming. That night we explored the area closer to the hostel, enjoying plenty of ice cream too.
Finally the day had come for the most important part of the tour- the match! We started the day by visiting the famous La Sagrada Familia, the cathedral designed by Catalan architect Gaudi. Work began on this amazing piece of architecture in 1882, with construction still ongoing. After doing what girls do best, some shopping on Las Ramblas, we made our way back to the hostel in preparation for the evening match.
The excitement was building up for the girls ever since they received their shiny new kit the previous evening. We were ready to bring Hackney Laces to Spain! When we turned up at the ground of C.E Sant Gabriel and took our seats in the stand to watch the training sessions taking place, we were impressed. Right up from the young girls the Spanish style was clear to see, the touch, technique and awareness in possession was evident in abundance. We were all aware we were witnessing something special. As the time got on to our 8:30pm kick off, we went down to the away dressing room to prepare for the match. The girls were told to enjoy, this was going to be a special game.
As the captain Chloe led the team out onto the pitch, we realised how far we had come as a club. What started as a few girls on a rainy night in Hackney had now turned into facing opposition who had been schooled in one of the most famous football cities in the world.
The game itself was certainly a learning experience. The girls played as hard as they could, but the quality of the opposition proved too much, who were able to assert their distinctive Spanish style passing on the game. Although Hackney Laces were very brave in the tackle and fought for every ball, there was some incredible skill on show from the opposition, who scored some truly exceptional goals. At half time we had a bit of a team reshuffle, with the coaches Katee, Sarah, Ayat, Missy and Tiffany all coming on to try and get more of a hold on the game. We gave it a good go and created some opportunities, while Justine, one of our players (who recently got her level 1 coaching badge) coached us from the side.
The role reversal was great, and we were all in it together. A special mention should definitely go to Bliss, who played the full 90 minute match and produced some amazing football in tough circumstances. Despite the big defeat, we were still all thankful for the opportunity to be in the position that we were, playing in a fantastic stadium by the sea against a team that transpired were the under 18 National Side!
The following day was spent at Port Aventura Theme Park, before heading on to the airport and the flight back to England, tired and weary by this point but full of stories and excitement of Hackney Laces first football tour.