“All I can hear is the roar of the crowd. Was this a dream?”
That’s what went through Davis Hanson’s head as he sat in the stands at Elland Road Stadium. Within minutes, Leeds United would take on Derby in a Champions League soccer match. But before the teams had even taken the field, 24,000 fans were on their feet, chanting and singing their hearts out.
“It was a dream come true for any football (soccer) loving boy,” Hanson said.
That was his third day in England.
Hanson and a group of Chilliwack FC U-13 metro boys travelled across the pond for a week of training with the Leeds United Association Football Club.
Before the big game, Hanson and his crew toured the stadium. They also toured Thorp Arch, the training and academy home of Leeds United. Located in the village of Thorp Arch near the town of Wetherby, the 12.1 hectare sight contained the most beautiful soccer pitch Hanson had ever seen.
“One of their retired players, Steve Holmes, led the tour,” he recalled. “And our team even got to train on their astro turf pitch, a huge honour for any soccer fan.”
The Chilliwack players stayed at the Malsis Private School, located a short drive from Skipton and just south of Yorkshire Dales. Hanson painted an idyllic picture of a castle-like building sitting amidst 40 acres of lush countryside.
“Every few days we’d have an excursion,” he said. “We explored the streets of ancient villages, and went sightseeing out on the countryside. We went to the British train museum and afterword visited the Minister, a huge castle complete with statues, dungeons and a treasure room.”
But the main purpose of the trip was training and living the life of a professional soccer player. In that regard, the Chilliwack visitors were treated just as any other Leeds United player would be.
They worked hard.
“A typical day of training consisted of three hour-and-a-half training sessions, with 20 minute intervals,” Hanson said. “After these outdoor sessions we went inside and did a classroom session, to recap all we had learned and how it applied in professional games. I loved every minute of it.”