The fourth EuroCopa Walking Football tournament was held in Fereiras, Albufeira, on April 17th and 18th 2023.
More than 40 teams took part from all over the globe, making this easily the biggest WF tournament held in Portugal (and possibly Europe) so far.
East Algarve Walking Football (EAWF) entered an over 50s team, EAWF Olhão, and two over 60s teams, EAWF Olhão and EAWF Tavira.
The EAWF Olhão over 60s squad, managed by Stuart Meakin, was made up of Johan Houben, Peter Dickinson, John Dwyer, Andy Wilkings, Phil Jones, Paolo Turni, Paul Burn, Andy Smith, Mark Cruddace, Jon Berrill, Mick Coleman, and Terry Paddison.
Day one saw EAWF Olhão play 5 games in their league group of 6 teams. They needed to finish in the top three to guarantee a place in the Cup Tournament on day two, and the team managed 3 wins (2-0 versus Pimlico Burgundians, 1-0 versus West Hartlepool Strollers and 3-0 versus Brackley Sinners) and 2 draws (0-0 versus Gibraltar WF and 1-1 versus SC Farense), with all 7 goals scored by Andy Smith.
Thus, a comfortable second place finish saw EAWF Olhão through to the Cup Competition on day two:
Day 2 saw EAWF Olhão in the 60+ Cup Group A alongside our friends from the Silver Coast Strollers, previous tournament winners Sheffield FC, Culceth WFC and Leisure United. Only the top two would go on to contest the semi-finals, so a good start was essential. Playing Culceth first, EAWF Olhão started with a 1-0 victory with Andy Smith notching the goal. Up next was a match against tournament favourites Sheffield FC who showed their class knocking the ball around very precisely. Despite a bright start from EAWF Olhão the breakthrough could not be found, and Sheffield took control and went 3-0 up very quickly. That woke EAWF Olhão up again, and a Mick Coleman howitzer gave them hope but the match finished 3-1. The next match against Leisure United started slowly and EAWF Olhão had to settle for a 1-1 draw. This meant a draw in the final game against Silver Coast would be good enough to see EAWF Olhão finish second in their group again and a place in the Cup Semi-Finals, a task they duly completed earning a 0-0 draw.
In the semi-finals, EAWF Olhão came up against Walking Lions FC from Bilbao who had topped Group B. EAWF Olhão started brightly again, but this time were rewarded with an early lead courtesy of a great long-range effort from Mick Coleman. Unfortunately, EAWF Olhão couldn’t hold out till the end and a late equaliser from the Bilbao team saw the match go to penalties. The first 3 spot kicks were duly dispatched for EAWF Olhão by Mick, Andy Smith and Mark Cruddace. Bilbao also scored their first two kicks, but Johan in the EAWF Olhão goal kept their third kick out to send EAWF Olhão through to the final to face Sheffield FC once more.
As they had lost to Sheffield FC earlier in the day, the team discussed what was needed to stand a chance. As a group they knew a tight, drilled start was in order. They finished the pre-match talk with a statement that they would win this for their absent friend and team member, Shane. A tight game saw few chances for either team, but EAWF Olhão more than held their own to take a 0-0 draw and the dreaded penalty shootout once again decided proceedings. Both teams scored their first 3 kicks, with Mick, Andy and Mark again on target for EAWF Olhão. Sheffield’s fourth spot kick rebounded off the post and Johan’s legs to go wide, to leave captain Paolo Turni the chance of glory. He duly rifled his penalty into the roof of the net to take the overall Cup Competition and Tournament Trophy.
This was a fantastic result for the EAWF Olhão over 60s squad and a fitting tribute for Shane, who we are sure would have been watching over his beloved team with pride. They have improved year-on-year, and are now looking like a very good team with players moving up from the over 50s squad to join those already established. More of the over 50s squad are turning 60 soon, so the squad will improve even more. Let’s hope for more at Browns next month.
Day one saw EAWF Tavira over 60s struggle against more experienced teams, with 5 defeats from five games (0-1 versus Leisure United, 0-3 versus Silver Coast, 0-2 versus Walking Lions, 0-3 versus Benhavis WF and 0-2 versus Cardiff City) to finish bottom of their group. Things improved ever so slightly on day two where they did manage one draw in their four games (0-0 versus Brackley Sinners), but defeats against Odiaxere (0-3), West Hartlepool (0-2) and Brackley Saints (0-3) left them bottom of their Trophy group. They also failed to score a single goal over the whole tournament which is never going to be easy to build from.
Six games on day one in a group of 7 teams meant a long, hot day of football. The squad, managed by Jon Syed, comprised Jan van der Bij, yours truly, Karl Chapman, Barry Overn, Verner Baird, Ian Shaw, Andy Porter, Mo Sabet, Colm, Steve Jones, Jean-Marc von Keller, Stephan Schoeffler and Mark Wilson. With a top three place needed to guarantee entry into the Cup competition on day 2, EAWF Olhão over 50s started the tournament in their usual sluggish manner. Despite scoring first with a great left-foot shot from Mo against Winstanley Walkers, they contrived to then concede two goals to start with their customary defeat. In the second group game they came up against lowly FC Sudovus Mociutes, and a brace from yours truly making a rare start plus goals from Karl and Ian saw a comfortable 4-0 victory. The third game saw a much closer match against Culceth WFC, with Karl scoring the only goal of the game to give EAWF Olhão another 3 valuable points. A bruising encounter with Walking Lions FC from Bilbao ended in a 0-0 draw, while another draw followed against Clacton Knights with Ian scoring a very late equaliser for EAWF Olhão. That left EAWF Olhão needing a win in their final game to be sure of qualification. They duly provided with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over a tiring Gainsborough Trinity side, with a fine hat-trick from Verner and one from Mark Wilson to leave them in second place in their group:
|3||Walking Lions FC||6||2||4||0||8||1||7||10|
|4||Clacton Knights B||6||1||5||0||4||1||3||8|
|7||FC Sudovos Mociutes||6||0||0||6||1||25||-24||0|
Day two turned out to be a day to forget for EAWF Olhão over 50s. Up against our old friends from Malaga WFC, SC Farense and West Hartlepool Strollers, plus newcomers Bolton Nomads, EAWF Olhão knew a top two place was needed to progress to the semi-finals. However, nothing went their way and 4 straight defeats with no goals scored (0-2, 0-1, 0-1 and 0-2) left them rock bottom of the group and out of the tournament. I think we’ll just gloss over the day….
Congratulations to Malaga WFC who went on to win the over 50s Cup Tournament with victory over Bolton Nomads in the final. At least we can claim our group must have been the hardest as it produced both finalists!
A brilliant couple of days for EAWF Olhão over 60s saw another major trophy collected for the club, this being only the second tournament win for our over 60s teams. Hopefully the squad will now push on and deliver more in the future.
The over 50s struggled on day 2; they have lost quite a few players to the over 60s and those drafted in to replace them are playing catch-up when it comes to tournament football. A few injuries to some players didn’t help and a few of the usual suspects were missing. However, day 1 showed some promise and they can only improve by playing together at more tournaments.
Thanks to all the players who took part for EAWF, and also the managers, helpers and supporters.
See you at Browns in a couple of weeks…
(Thanks to Stuart Meakin for providing information for this report)