The UK Minifootball Association prepares for a massive year ahead with a look back at 2014
The year began with senior UKMA staff going to Poland to the first European Minifootball Federation General Assembly of 2014. Amongst the topics for discussion were the venues for miniEURO2014 2014 and 2015, the strategy for the European Minifootball Federation moving forward into 2014, a review of miniEURO2013 and developments of National Associations.
Closer to home preparations continued for the first ever National Teams Trials Days, which were to be held in England, Scotland and Wales in the spring.
In the middle of February it was announced that Brackla Sports Centre in Bridgend was to be the venue for the Wales trials, while the week before interviews took place that were to see the new England management team chosen.
In March the new men were put in place. Manchester based duo of Mark Staines and Gary Thomas were joined by Team Director Paul Darke and Chief Scout Jamie Leggett, it was hoped that the quartet could help drive things forward ahead of the autumn miniEURO2014. Their first official role was to oversee the England trials in Stevenage, which saw over 100 players looking for a coveted spot.
Domestically in March it was time to really kick in the preparations for the UK 6 a aside championships, which were now confirmed as the 21st June 2014. To celebrate this, the tournament website was given a fresh new look.
April was a busy month at home and internationally. Ben Long was announced as England skipper, and a number of new players were scouted for Scotland, including a striker called Joe Andrew….more of him later….There were initial trials for Wales too, and plenty of new blood came forward to be selected.
Elsewhere the big announcement surrounded the prize for the UK 6 a side Championships. A holiday to the Algarve was announced the prize courtesy of Algarve Football Tours.
As May swung round plans were unveiled for a very special Home Nations championship to take place at the UK 6 a side Championships as England, Wales and Scotland were to battle it out for the crown, while the UKMA TV Crew produced its first feature – a film of the Stevenage trials
Internationally it was announced that Eilat in Israel was to be the venue for miniEURO2014.
June was largely taken up by the Championships – and what a day it was! A record amount of over 300 teams descended on Moor Lane Pavilion from all parts of the UK. The title was won by Enfield, who beat Oxford in the final. In the Home Nations, England won the competition after drawing with Scotland and beating Wales. Guests of honour, including the Mayor of Solihull Kate Wild, thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. It was immediately announced that the competition had been so successful the Home Nations games were back next year, while over 50 teams signed up for 2015 by using the special “Early Bird” offer.
In July we received a visit from the President of the World Minifootball Association, Filip Juda, who stopped off for a day of talks. We also announced an expanded TV Crew which was to be used at all our major events and the England team met up for the first of their regular training sessions.
August saw a series of major announcements. Chief amongst them was Barry John taking on the job of Wales National team manager with the task of leading the team to miniEURO. That event was not going to be in Israel, though. The worsening political situation in the Middle East meant that it wasn’t thought safe to hold the tournament in Eilat and new bids were invited for the 2014 event.
Players everywhere in the UK were glad to learn that the 2015 UK 6 a side Championships was announced as 20th June in order to maintain the success of the 2014.
September saw Montenegro chosen as the venue for miniEURO2014. The coastal city of Herceg Novi beat off challenges from other countries for the right to stage the championships. Wales and Scotland both announced their squads for the competition. Wales had just one survivor from 2013, while Scotland still contained many of the players that performed in Crete along with some new players from the Glasgow area. UKMA Chief Scout Jamie Leggett – who had unearthed the new talent – was announced as their interim manager for the championships.
The UKMA also involved itself in domestic matters, some trivial – the Ice Bucket Challenge which swept the world – and some not so , as we came out to back the winning “No” campaign in the Scottish Referendum debate.
In October the groups were announced for miniEURO2014 and all our three teams had a tough draw. Scotland had to take on the hosts Montenegro, Israel and Moldova. Wales had to overcome Bulgaria, Poland and Slovakia, while England had to play Spain – who they drew with in the 2013 championships – the Czech Republic and Turkey.
Wales new skipper was announced as Rory Garey, the aforementioned one player who remained from 2013, while England took part in a tri-nations tournament with Germany and Luxembourg in Sippersfield, and suffered last minute heartache when a late goal robbed them of a win.
November revolved around miniEURO. And our three sides endured mixed fortunes. The headline makers were Scotland, who reached the quarter finals where they lost 3-2 to eventual winners Romania. That however, does not begin to tell the story of the drama. First they were involved in what is thought to be the finest game in the history of the championships – a dramatic 4-3 victory over Israel – and had the tournament’s top scorer in Joe Andrew, who bagged nine. Wales were twice undone by last minute goals as they exited at the group stage despite a draw with Bulgaria. England won their first match against Turkey, but then lost their next two. However they still went through to the knockouts. Their reprieve was short-lived, however, as they were beaten by Montenegro in the second round.
Even allowing for the performance on the pitch, it was still a successful period for the UKMA with Paulo Vernazza appearing on national radio to talk about the championships and the respected Football magazine When Saturday Comes featuring the us.
We returned from miniEURO on 2nd December and it was immediately announced that Jamie Leggett had been given the Scotland job full-time. Within days of it finishing the video highlights of the games were being watched by thousands on YouTube.
In addition to all this our staff supported many hundreds of thousands of affiliated players and hundreds of leagues up and down the country. We also attracted 15 new member organisation during 2014.
We are proud of what we achieved last year, but that does not mean we won’t continue to strive to move forward still further in 2015.