Motherwell’s U13s girls have returned from a historic European trip – where they were runners up in the Norway Cup.
The tournament, which has been running since 1972, is an annual competition which is competed by over 3,000 teams from across the globe.
The seven-a-side ‘Well girls team, which even included 10 year-olds, managed to pry the second placed trophy away from a Norweigan side for the first time in its 44-year history.
And the achievement, which has been congratulated by nations from across the globe, has left coach Linda Gibson feeling “emotional” and “over the moon”.
She said: “Once we made it out of our group I had to inspire the girls so I said to them, ‘look at how you girls are faring against these teams – they are 13, 14 and 15 years-old and you are 10, 11 and 12’.
“We set a target of the quarter-finals, which would mean we’d reached three quarter-finals this season, and when we got to the last sixteen we were all so nervous because we were so close to achieving our aim.
[pullquote]When we won that game to get us to the quarter-finals it was incredibly emotional – parents were crying, the girls were crying and I was too.[/pullquote]
“When we won that game to get us to the quarter-finals it was incredibly emotional – parents were crying, the girls were crying and I was too.”
She added: “The response from the media back here was amazing, we had people from the SFA phoning us, wishing us all the best and congratulating us, the Motherwell first team showed their support too and that sort of response really spurred the girls on.”
The quarterfinal went all the way to golden goal, and looked like it was heading to penalties as well, but with two minutes remaining, Jenna Woods ran the length of the park and hit a low strike past the keeper from a tight angle to send the team through to the semi-final and her coach and all of the parents in to elation.
Linda said: “There was a pitch invasion – we all just ran on to the park and piled up on each other.
“Tears were flowing but I tried my best to stay strong in front of the girls so I went and hid behind a tree to phone home and tell them the news: we had reached the semi-final.
“It was so overwhelming and so emotional.”
[pullquote]There was a pitch invasion – we all just ran on to the park and piled up on each other. It was so overwhelming and so emotional.[/pullquote]
Those feelings continued for Linda and her team though, as they dominated the match and progressed to the final with consummate ease.
Linda said: “The parents were the extra player on that park – singing their hearts out at every game, waving flags and everything.
“Their support really did play a huge part in pushing the girls that extra bit more.”
Upon reaching the final, the sense of pride and joy was tangible among the group and among the travelling parents, but Linda added that the girls spirit and personality was infectious to everyone.
She said: “They were singing and chanting Motherwell songs wherever they went.
“Locals and tourists would take pictures and videos of them because they just took such an atmosphere with them wherever they went.”
The final ended in heart-breaking fashion for the girls, who were just five minutes away from being crowned joint champions.
[pullquote]Out of the thousands and thousands of girls who competed, it’s amazing to say that my group were among the top 20 in the competition.[/pullquote]
But Linda was not disheartened, as the sheer joy of an incredible week overshadowed the final match.
The coach said: “Out of the thousands and thousands of girls who competed, it’s amazing to say that my group were among the top 20 in the competition.
“It was just the most emotional journey and I cannot put in to words how proud I am of everyone who was there.”
But it wasn’t just those who travelled, with Linda adding that the support of the Motherwell Community Trust has been a huge difference.
“It’s testament to the support from the Community Trust General Manager Dawn Middleton that we achieved what we did.
“Her backing of the girls football and her support has really made a huge difference since she arrived – the work of the trust and the help from Dawn, even in such a short time, has really pushed us to the next level.
“I just hope this emotional, roller-coaster of a journey doesn’t slow down any time soon.”