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September-Days Photography

2008 Boys Back to School at Budapest

By Peter Weber, 09/12/19, 10:30AM PDT


“Back to School” had an entirely different meaning for a dozen soccer players from Napa United. While many of their classmates were adjusting to the first days of middle school, players from the 2008 Napa United 1839 Academy team were getting lessons in Budapest Hungary.

The Future Cup in Budapest, Hungary hosted by Budapest FC brought together 20 clubs throughout Europe and Napa California. Many of these clubs are top professional clubs, highlighted by Hellas Verona of the Italian Serie A – the top professional division in Italy.

“This tournament is high-paced, no offsides, very intense, and full of attacking prowess,” commented Napa United’s Academy Director, Gavin Taylor. This is Gavin’s third time with a Napa United team travelling to Budapest. “Undoubtedly, several players from that tournament will become future professional players in Europe.”

Taylor should know. Before coming to Napa, Gavin Taylor served as the U18 coach and Head Skill Development for Fulham FC, one of England’s top professional clubs. “My former player, Ryan Sessegnon, who just now signed with Tottenham Hotspurs for $40 million, had his first taste of top football at this tournament,” said Taylor. “There were several players that reminded me of him.”

While a $40 million paycheck might not be in the immediate future for these Napa United players, Taylor did mention that tournaments like these will be more common for Napa United. “This is the type of event we want our players exposed to,” admitted Taylor. “We are preparing for the highest levels including our girls’ teams who are making a big impression in Northern California.”

As for the tournament results, the 2008 boys came in 13th out of 20. “There are big differences in the style of play in Northern California versus European professional squads. Many of the teams we played against are full professional squads, so finishing 13th speaks a lot of how well we performed.”

Adjusting to faster, more physical teams was one thing, recalled Taylor, however, the cultural differences were also eye-opening. “When it comes down to it, Napa is a small city compared to Budapest and the other major clubs we played against,” said Taylor. “Obviously there are differences in language, culture, and food. The boys learned a lot about themselves as people and footballers during this trip.”

The tournament also prepared the team for more soccer when they came back home. Napa United hosted its 31st annual Wine Country Classic over Labor Day Weekend and the 2008 boys won their division at the tournament.

As for what the future holds for Napa United’s 2008 boys remains to be seen. However, one thing is for certain. The relationship between Budapest and Napa is growing strong. “Next summer, we will be hosting Budapest FC in Napa,” announced Taylor. “These are exciting times for Napa United. We are bringing an international standard to Napa that our community can be proud of.”