Newcomer Sporting Portugal surprisingly wins Eurocup Delfzijl. Tension is on the young FC Groningen legs

Sporting Clube de Portugal became the surprising winner of the tenth edition of the Eurocup Delfzijl, the indoor football tournament for professional clubs with players up to 13 years old, who can already get a taste of life as professional football players.

Julian Huizinga (12) and Jordi Jager (12) stood somewhat abashed, waiting for the reporter. The first they speak to in their football career, which will hopefully last a long time. Yes, the Eurocup is beautiful, said both FC Groningen Under-13 players, almost in unison.


It is the most impressive tournament they have played so far. “All those people in the stands, it does something to you,” said Jordi, who comes from Meeden and is captain of the team. “Especially when you score.”

They both scored one goal, in the consolation match for the penultimate place against the Regional Team, with players from the municipality of Eemsdelta. FC Groningen won that 4-0. Julian makes the 1-0, Jordi the 3-0. “A lot of energy goes through your body,” Julian, who lives in the city of Groningen, said seriously. “When your name is called when you have scored. That’s really cool.” His buddy Jordi agrees.

Organizer Roy Boxmeer stops

Participating in the Eurocup is an unforgettable experience, not only for Jordi and Julian. This is also the intention of organizer Roy Boxmeer, who set up the tournament together with Nick de Groot and announced his retirement after ten editions: players aged 12 and 13 in a football atmosphere that gives them the feeling of being a professional football player: with a few thousand people in the stands, noise, music and a light show.

FC Groningen was therefore a low flyer in Wijnne Barends’ warehouse, which has been the setting for the Eurocup for years. Not surprising perhaps, if you look at the other clubs: Bayern Munich, PSV, Ajax, West Ham United, AZ, Sporting Clube de Portugal and Fortaleza, for example.

‘Too much tension’

“These are simply big clubs, with many more possibilities,” said FC Groningen coach Dirick Jan van Strien (38) afterwards. “And our boys suffered too much from the tension in the first two games (against AZ and Club Brugge, ed.). We lost a lot of them because of that, and then we decided to climb on top. But I thought we played really good football against Bayern (1-6 loss) and against West Ham United (5-1 loss) for a long time.”

In this age category, individual class within a team is decisive. One or two really good football players in a team mean the difference between a good final ranking and a mediocre one. Look at West Ham United, who reached the final last year. The English disappointed this edition with ninth place.

Belgians are doing well

Ajax and PSV, the reigning Eurocup champions, had also hoped for more. PSV finished eighth, Ajax came seventh. The Belgians from KRC Genk and Club Brugge did well, finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Bayern finished sixth.

Brazil’s Fortaleza, which finished third, was considered the fighting machine of the tournament, with physically strong boys who did not shy away from serious offense. “They fight for every meter,” coach Jason Salazar agreed afterwards. “Not surprising when you consider that many of these boys live in slums and really see football as their chance to escape poverty.”

Not Feitosa, but Mendonça

Israel Neves Feitosa was one of those guys. He hoped to be selected player of the tournament with his six goals and good play on Sunday. But that did not work out.

That honor was reserved for Laurindo Mendonça, the small number 11 of Sporting Clube de Portugal, the newcomer who surprisingly won the tournament by defeating AZ 3-2 in the final.

AZ was too strong in the group

In the group, AZ had been too strong for the Portuguese 2-1 and in the final it seemed to be going exactly that way. Thanks to goals from Musabe Abdusalem and Timo van der Schaar, AZ took a 2-0 lead.

But with three goals, the last of which a minute before the end, Mendonça still squeezed his team past the Alkmaarders. The little star was overwhelmed afterwards and could barely say a word. “I am very happy,” stammered Mendonça, “that we won this great tournament. I have too many emotions.”

‘We forgot to reward ourselves’

Julian Huizinga from FC Groningen came out better with his words. He analyzed his team’s mediocre performance in a ready-made manner: “We didn’t play that bad, but we forgot to reward ourselves.” Perhaps not yet in terms of football, but in terms of lyrics it is already quite at professional football level.