Luca Connell recently captained the England squad for the Danone Nations Cup. Here he talks about the thrill of being part of the team and the opportunity to play at Wembley. The Danone Nations Cup are a proud partner of the ‘inspired by 2012’ mark, a Government lead initiative that is bring together legacy projects inspired by the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I have played football for as long as I can remember and first started playing with friends for a local Sunday league team. I grew up supporting Everton FC and have always looked up Cristiano Ronaldo – I saw how he turned his passion into a career and would love to follow in his footsteps one day.
When I first heard about the Danone Nations Cup (DNC), I immediately wanted to be part of it and I’m pleased my school entered the competition. It was an amazing experience just to be part of the initial qualifying rounds – the thrill of going through with the added excitement that the final was being played at the home of English football, Wembley Stadium. I also had the added bonus that I got to captain the England team at the tournament. Being captain of my school team made me realise how much I enjoy being a team leader. It was a huge honour to lead the team – certainly an experience that will stay with me for a long time.
The World Final qualifying rounds at Surrey Sports Park went well and we got off to a great start with the team winning all our group games and finishing top of the group. Unfortunately we lost on penalties in the knock-our rounds, but we still had a chance to play for 9th place overall against Russia at Wembley! I did feel a bit low after that loss but on reflection I think the team played excellently, I am glad we won at Wembley in front of our families.
Now the tournament is over for this year, my mind is already on the team that will be representing England at DNC 2014. I think England will go further and do better next year in Brazil if they have enough dedication and team effort. Although our team this year went through the competition with both of these, it was just unlucky that we lost that match on penalties.
I have enjoyed every minute of my experience with the DNC and I would definitely encourage other children to take part in this competition. Being part of it has given me the chance to travel to new places and meet new people. The DNC took me to London this year and I’ve been lucky enough to meet many kids my age from all over the world. This wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for my love of the sport and for DNC bringing likeminded people together. It’s an honour to be involved in such a great international event.