There he sat on the Manchester City bench, chatting with manager Roberto Mancini like they were old school chums.
It was a soccer fantasy for 12-year-old Aidan Godfrey, a striker with the Vernon Red Bulls of the North Okanagan Youth Soccer Association.
Godfrey got up close and personal as a player escort with the 2011 FA Cup champion Blues when they clipped the Major Soccer League Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 in an international friendly before 24,074 fans at Empire Field July 18.
“It was a life highlight,” said Godfrey, a keen student of the game. “There were some Vernon kids I know in the stands yelling at me on the bench.”
Aidan owes his father, Kevin, who works for Investors Group, a grocery list of chores for the five-star experience.
“My dad organized it. He played in the West Ham youth program and he knows people in England. I got to shake hands with the players in the hallway after they did their training. That was pretty sick.”
Aidan, who was given a Man City kit (jersey, shorts and socks), even filled in Mancini on the expansion Whitecaps.
“He didn’t know they had only won two games and were at the bottom of the league. He’s the manager, and he didn’t know, which was pretty funny. We were talking while the players were training (pre-game warmup).”
Shaun Wright-Phillips gave boss Roberto Mancini a reminder of what an asset he can be with a sublime 25-yard winning goal against the Whitecaps.
The Blues had to come from behind to beat the dogged Canadians, who led through Camilo Sanvezzo’s 30th-minute deflected effort. John Guidetti equalized at 68 minutes before Wright-Phillips settled the game five minutes from time.
“Most people thought the Whitecaps were going to win, but I thought City would come back and win,” said Aidan, a Kidston student headed to Kalamalka Secondary this fall.
Aidan, whose father has coached him in soccer the last five years, also enjoys golf, tennis, swimming and snowboarding. His brush with greatness definitely made his summer.
“I saw the Whitecaps play FC Dallas, but this was 20 times better.”
Manchester City’s Joe Hart made a game-winning penalty kick as they continued their tour to beat the LA Galaxy 7-6 in a penalty-kick shootout after a 1-1 draw before 24,897 at The Home Depot Center.
These North American tours by Man City and Manchester United as they prepare for the Barclay’s Premier League season to start up in two weeks, have nicely promoted soccer and shown fans the extraordinary talent of these English sides.
Man City rested several of their superstars against Vancouver, while Manchester United racked up 18 goals in a sweep of MSL teams, including a 4-0 victory over the All-Stars and a 7-0 ambushing of the Seattle Sounders.
We’ll never totally catch up to the Premier level, but as long as Canada continues to pump up its Li’l Kickers and elite Rep programs to develop our own stars, we’re making progress.
The MSL is entertaining to watch and Canadian networks are giving the league great air time. It’s marketed well and the talent is very good.
Now, if someone can please tell David Beckham of the Galaxy to lose that stupid headband, the soccer world will be a better place. Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham) surely doesn’t approve).
Americans show lack of class
I was stunned (more than usual) to hear from Vernon U18 coach Ron Krause that the Team USA players refused to have photos taken with his girls team at the Frankfurt Airport.
The Americans were obviously still upset at losing to Japan, in a shootout, in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final, but really? Turn down a photo op with young ladies who would love to be in their position?
The purse for the Women’s World Cup was US$6 million, while the men divvied up US$420 million at last summer’s World Cup in South Africa.
So, Team USA should have checked their egos AND suitcases at the gate before shunning the Vernon Euro team. The female game is making good strides, but the sport can hardly afford to have their so-called heroes disappoint young fans.
You gotta believe the Team Canada women, no matter where they finished, would have acted in a much classier fashion.