Oxford-Bonn-Leiden-Perm youth exchange: 15th-22nd August 2018
All photo credits Stephanie Wilde unless otherwise indicated (CS, Christian Stegmüller)
Wednesday 15th August
The Bonn Rot-Weiss-Lessenich team enjoyed a good journey to Oxford in their coach hired from the Weiss company in Bonn. Their Channel crossing was sunny and smooth and they all arrived at their home for the week, Hill End, in good spirits.
On arrival at Hill End they all sorted out their room allocations and did some unpacking. They met a few of the Dutch and Russian players. Dinner was served in the Hill End kitchen, offering a first encounter for many with English food!
The sun was shining in Hill End when they arrived, and the teams all settled into their accommodation and got to know the Hill End area, and its sheep!
In the evening there were team-building activities using sports activities with Rob Jeffs from Oxford City Council. The weather was dry and warm and the players had lovely views across Oxfordshire from Hill End.
By all accounts everyone did not get much sleep on this first night!
Thursday 16th August
In the morning the trainers offered ice-breaking activities to help the players to get to know each other a little and slowly begin to communicate.
In the afternoon the first tournament of the exchange took place, at the lovely lower pitch in Cutteslowe Park. Olympic Perm, Leiden and RWL Lessenich from Bonn were the exchange teams participating, with Mansfield Road Juniors and Summertown Stars representing Oxford. There were some hard-fought games and the teams played with great spirit. Olympic Perm emerged clear winners.
After the tournament there was a big spread of food for all at the pavilion, laid on by Oxford International Links, and an awards ceremony.
Friday 17th August
Early in the morning the International Links group headed off to Hinksey open air pool for a refreshing swim. They then walked up St Aldate’s for their reception with the mayor’s representative, and a buffet lunch. They visited some of the main rooms of the town hall too.
The next destination was the Community Arena in Marston, the training ground for Oxford City Football Club, where two professional trainers from Oxford United were ready to put them through their paces! They worked hard and made the most of this opportunity.
They needed more leg power in the evening with the disco evening at Hill End. Some international dance moves were displayed and exchanged!
Saturday 18th August
This was a very varied day which began with a morning of sampling different sports at Hill End, with Rob Jeffs from Oxford City Council Sports Department
After lunch there was time for the young people to explore Oxford city centre, get to know the city and do a little light shopping.
Another tournament took place at Cutteslowe Park, with all the exchange teams represented, and also a local Oxford team, Mansfield Road Juniors Football Club. Their representatives, Holly Bridge and David Kay, also provided food for all the teams after the tournament. A big thank you to MRFC for that!
Players from the different cities were chatting and laughing together during the tournaments.
Sunday 19th August
Sunday began with a session of orienteering and exploring Oxford’s beautiful Shotover Park, followed by a picnic lunch in the sun. English crisps were proving very popular!
Following this there was a training session with professional Oxford United trainers, held at the Community Arena, where Oxford City’s club is located.
In the evening there was a multi-lingual and multi-cultural quiz, as well as another Hill End dinner.
Monday 20th August
In the morning the teams travelled to Oxford University’s Rugby Club, at the famous Iffley Road Athletics Club. They played table tennis in mixed international groups.
After this they had lunch and headed to Oxford where tours had been arranged for them, of the city centre, the world-famous Pitt Rivers Museum and a special tour of New College given by Holly Bridge, who is a member of the College.
In the evening another tournament took place at Cutteslowe Park, with the three teams from Bonn, Leiden and Perm, and Mansfield Road Juniors Football Club from Oxford. The teams were mixed to allow the international players to play in different team set-ups. This was a linguistic and sporting challenge which everyone seemed to enjoy.
Tuesday 21st August
The teams had some time to relax a little in the morning and to pack their bags and tidy their rooms. At lunchtime the Oxford organisers cooked up a delicious barbecue lunch for everyone, before proceedings turned to the presentation and medal ceremony.
The photograph below shows the full Bonn Rot-Weiss-Lessenich team with the former mayor of Oxford, Bob Price, and their medals. The players are standing outside the accommodation block that they stayed in. Hopefully these medals, specially designed by the Oxford organisation team, will be treasured for years to come.
The teams got to know each other during the week and found useful ways to communicate with each other.
A wonderful memory of the exchange – a photograph of all three teams together. Bonn Rot-Weiss-Lessenich in red on the left, Perm in the centre behind the two flags, and Leiden on the right.
Later on that day the teams from Bonn, Leiden and Perm all headed over in the specially chartered coach to the Kassam Stadium to watch Oxford United take on Accrington Stanley in a crucial League One game. Oxford United were without a point since the start of the season.
Before the game, all the exchange teams were welcomed to the stadium before all the other fans by the Managing Director of Oxford United. He gave an enthusiastic welcoming speech and presented the trainers from Bonn, Leiden and Perm with signed Oxford United shirts, before checking that all the visitors were indeed supporting Oxford United in the match!
The players and their trainers made their way to their reserved seats, looking forward to an exciting match. Oxford United played well and put up a fight, but slipped to a frustrating 2-3 defeat by the end of the match.
Wednesday 22nd August
The day of departure had already arrived. It was too soon, in many ways, as the players from different countries had begun to find common ground and new ways of communicating. Addresses and numbers were swapped, and plans were already being made for meeting up again, perhaps even in 2018!
They were tired and ready to go home, with lots of new stories to tell and new people to get to know. What an experience they had! Thank you to all involved in Bonn and in Oxford, the RWL players are truly appreciative.
With thanks to all the organisers in Bonn and Oxford, especially Bill, Gill, Lauren and Voirrey and all the others who worked so hard behind the scenes in the kitchens, offering activities and providing support.