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Laumann and Tollefson train in Manchester City

The Memphis Futbol Club planned a trip to Manchester, England to go train with Manchester United. The team toured Manchester city’s stadium, or the Etihad Stadium, as well as the Big Ben, London Eye and Buckingham Palace.

Imagine stepping in the stadiums of soccer legends, training where players of the number one league in the world do, experiencing the sights of England, and tasting the dream of many young, aspiring soccer players. Max Laumann (12) and Riley Tollefson (12) no longer have to imagine this dream.

The players of the Memphis Futbol Club trained with Manchester United while touring England  at the Liverpool stadium and the Manchester City Stadium. These club members, Division 1 State League athletes, hoped to train like professional soccer players and learn new tactics from Manchester United’s coaches.

“Going to England was an opportunity to improve myself as a player… [and] get professional coaches to help me with tactics,” Laumann said. “I immediately snatched that opportunity.”

The soccer players trained up to three hours a day with Manchester City’s coaches for guidance and played three games against the professional academic team of Manchester United. The Memphis team lost two of three games, but managed to pull one victory. 

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“Because we had more equipment, we could do certain drills that I can not really do here [in Memphis],” Laumann said. “[We] played in a cage, [which is] a field that’s caged in, [and] you can bounce the ball off the wall and the ceiling too.”

After only their first game against one of England’s professional academy teams, players noticed that the level of intensity was totally different than what they experienced in Memphis.

“Soccer in England is a lot more physical than it is here [because here, we] are more concerned with the way and style, possession and everything,” Laumann said. “It definitely showed where we are at in terms of development.”

The team also had an opportunity to watch Blackburn Rovers and West Bromwich Albion play for the English League championship game. Eric Tollefson, a parent who went along the trip with his son Riley Tollefson, was surprised by the enthusiasm the players and fans showed. 

“The passion and level of training that you see there is at a higher level of what you normally see here in the United States, so it can give people a really good idea of just how much work goes into soccer in foreign countries,” Eric Tollefson said. “If you take that experience and see how hard they are working, it gives you an idea of how much there is that you need to to improve.”

The academy team’s head coaches were from the Manchester United training camp and both attended the academy. 

“They taught us how to move faster with the ball and without it [taking too much] space [on] the field,” Riley Tollefson said. 

Even though Riley Tollefson and Laumann had been abroad before, England was a country they had never gone to. 

“Getting to see the stadiums [and] getting to train on the training ground was a really cool experience because that is not something usually open to the public,” Laumann said. “I watch soccer on TV all the time and actually getting to be there… [and] train where Ronaldo and Messi used to train was incredible.”

Besides training, the players roamed around the cities with their parents and visited the tourist attractions. Though it rained almost the entire time in England, they did not let the weather restrict their exploration of London and Manchester.

“About [Manchester] itself, I really liked how walkable it was and how easy it was to go around with the public transportation,” Eric Tollefson said. “That was fantastic.”

Europe’s traffic policy and the 600-year-old Cathedral stood out to the Memphians the most during this 10 day trip.

“They drive on the left side of the road and that tripped me up a little on the first couple of days… just like when you’re crossing the street, you have to look to your right, instead of your left,” Laumann said. “And then the double-decker buses were really cool.”

The accent and food of England was something they were not used to. Riley Tolefson noted that his favorite out of all the local foods was pizza. Laumann agreed with him.

“Food wise, English food is not my favorite by any measure…it was very bland,” Laumann said. “The people were very friendly but some of the accents were difficult to understand, especially in Liverpool.”

Both Laumann and Tollefson were inspired by their family members and close friends into playing soccer and making it something they enjoy and are passionate about.

“It is definitely a sacrifice… I find myself hanging out with my friends much less [but I enjoy it],” Laumann said. “I am definitely a soccer person.”

Traveling to England, training with the one of the best professional soccer coaches, and seeing new places was an eye opening opportunity to these Division 1 State League players. 

“Being in a different country and being able to train at the places where the world’s greatest soccer players trained [was amazing],” Tollefson said.

This story was originally published on The Scroll on October 31, 2023.