Charlie Wickham and Hamza Semakula returned from their England Colleges duty this week, having spent last week in Rome, Italy.
The pair were competing in the famous Caput Mundi tournament, spending the week with their England teammates, as part of the tournament squad.
Wickham and Semakula were called up to the squad in 2018 having impressed the coaches during a trial period.
Eye catching performances in the lead up to the tournament then saw them earn a place on the plane to Rome, for the Caput Mundi tournament.
Wickham started at the heart of defence for the men’s side as they beat Malta 3-0 on the first day of the tournament, to get off to a dream start.
However, Wickham and Semakula suffered defeat on the second day, when they were beaten 3-1 by a physical Kosovo side. A spirited and battling performance from the team on the Thursday unfortunately saw them exit the tournament before the final, as they narrowly lost 2-1 to Italian giants Lazio.
Reflecting on the experience, Wickham said: “It was really good, I thought that all the boys clicked really well, and we played how the England coaches wanted us to play. We were passing out from the back really well and we played well.
“It was just annoying that four mistakes cost us the tournament, if those mistakes hadn’t have happened, then I really feel like we could have won it.”
Despite defeat, it was the experience of tournament football in a different country that really counted for the PASE Academy duo and their teammates, which will make a massive difference upon their return to Meadow Park.
“Just getting ready every day with the mindset of being a pro footballer in a tournament. Coming in together as a group, having to do your stretches, having your ice baths and your hot baths. We all got ready together and it felt really good, just a proper experience.
“The football was really good. I enjoyed watching the Italy teams and the Kosovo side slow down the game. It is a different style of play that you don’t see in England, so I learned a lot.”
As well as their time spent on the pitch, the England Colleges lads took in the sights of Italy, during a team bonding day.
“We went to Rome and me and some of the boys brought a bicycle, although it was like a car style bike,” Wickham laughed. “We then had to drive them around Rome; we went to see the Colosseum and drove around there. We all went to The Vatican as well and it was great to see all of the sights in Italy.”
Fellow Colleges international Semakula enjoyed a similarly incredible experience. He explained: “I enjoyed it, although it was unfortunate that we came third. We tried really hard, it was just unfortunate that we couldn’t go all the way.
“We lived Like professional footballers; the meals were nice, the hotel was nice, everything was great.”
The chance to represent your country is just one of the many opportunities there for our PASE Academy students.
The experience allows them to live, eat and breathe like professional footballers in a tournament surrounding, while meeting new people and seeing another culture.
Semakula continued: “We all got along quickly, very quickly in fact. Some of us knew each other from other places and there was a good atmosphere, lots of banter,” he laughed.
“It was a good experience to play in a different country. In Italy, their pitches are very narrow; they are different to pitches in England.”