Thursday was a rest day for every team participating in the tournament, and the Future Champions organizers had a full day of cultural activities prepared.
After breakfast at the hotel, the 12 teams were split into two groups, with two teams per bus. The Revs shared a bus with the Orlando Pirates, who they played on Monday in the first game.
The first stop was at FNB Stadium, also known as Soccer City. The stadium was designed as the main stadium for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and was the site of the Final, played by the Netherlands and Spain.
The tour included stops at the upper level of the stands, in the locker rooms and on the field. While on the field, music pumped throughout the stadium, giving players a small glimpse at what being a professional player at the highest level could feel like.
Before lunch, the bus dropped the group off near Nelson Mandela’s house in Soweto. Street vendors lined the stretch of road between there and the restaurant, so players enjoyed the opportunity to shop for souvenirs.
An authentic lunch was served at Sakhumzi Restaurant, giving the group some time to rest before boarding the bus again.
The next stop was the Lion Park. The buses drove throughout the grounds, past animals like lions, zebras and wildebeest. Lions typically sleep for up to 20 hours a day, so a highlight included one particularly active female getting up and walking over to within a couple yards of the bus.
Following the safari, players had the chance to wander the other parts of the Park. Everyone was excited to interact with the lion cubs, posing for photos and playing with the animals. A raised feeding station also allowed the boys to get up close to a giraffe. Other animals seen around the park included meerkats, hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs and antelope.
At the conclusion of the day, all 12 teams met up for the gala dinner. The players milled around the grounds for a while between formal team photos.
Once inside, each team was seated at two tables throughout the reception hall. Decorated in reds, blacks and golds, the space gave the night a special feel.
After dinner was served, each team put on a several-minute performance to highlight their culture and values, and most teams chose to sing in their native languages. Because the Revolution is made up of players with so many different backgrounds, the team chose to go a different route.
Introduced by coach Deven Apajee, the players put on a memorable performance. Luke Albertini and Matt Nyeayea showed off their unique (and very different) dance moves, demonstrating the players’ broad spectrum of natural rhythm and their shared appreciation of each other. The rest of the group, who had been supporting the pair in the background, then joined their teammates for a USA chant.
Once the night came to a close, the teams boarded the buses for the final time and returned to the hotel.
Following a postgame meal back at the hotel, the group quickly showered and changed before boarding the bus again. The next stop of the day was at the Museum of Africa. Players split up into small groups and took in the museum’s variety of historical, cultural and scientific exhibits. Also visiting the museum was a group of several hundred school children, who enjoyed getting their photos taken with the Revolution travel party.
Everyone returned to the hotel for a bit before dinner, and shortly after, all of the teams participating in the tournament boarded their buses to go see the Orlando Pirates’ senior squad take on the Free State Stars.
The atmosphere at the game was electric, with the passionate fans singing, dancing and cheering for much of the match. The Pirates won, 2-1, and the young Revs took it all in from the first few rows of the open seating area.
Thursday will be a rest day for the teams, when they will have the chance to do some cultural activities. Games will then resume on Friday.
The Revolution Under-16s played their second game of the 2012 Future Champions Gauteng tournament on Tuesday.
The group met for a 9:30 a.m. breakfast at the hotel, and then had some time to prepare before departing for the Nike Football Training Center at noon.
A full game story from the Revs’ action-packed 3-3 draw with School of Excellence can be found on www.revolutionsoccer.net.
Despite the tightly-contested and sometimes heated match, the teams shared a heartwarming moment before boarding the buses back to the hotel. What started as a few players from each team posing together for photos turned into a good portion of each side taking one large group picture. The players then continued to break off into smaller groups – some of which started to include staff members upon request – really highlighting the shared cultural experience of this tournament.
Upon arriving back at the hotel, the group learned that the building was experiencing a power outage. Largely unaffected, everyone enjoyed a postgame meal by candle- and flashlight before returning to their rooms to quickly freshen up.
Before long, players and staff were back on the bus and en route to Nelson Mandela Square. Everyone posed for more photos in front of the Mandela statue, before doing some souvenir shopping.
Power had been restored by the time the group returned to the hotel for the night and had dinner. Then, after a team meeting, the players returned to their rooms to relax before bed.
The Revolution Under-16s played their first game of the 2012 Future Champions Gauteng tournament on Monday, just one day after the 18-hour trip from Boston.
After sleeping in for a bit, the team met for breakfast on the first floor of the hotel. Between then and a light pregame lunch, players had a chance to receive treatment and prepare for the match.
The group then got to see a little more of the surrounding area en route to the Nike Football Training Center in Soweto, including Soccer City, site of the 2010 World Cup final.
A full game story from the Revs’ 3-0 loss to the Orlando Pirates can be found HERE.
Following the match, which was broadcast live on television here in South Africa, head coach Bryan Scales and captain Christian Sady were interviewed as part of the postgame coverage. The group then headed to the locker room to change, returning to the field after for the opening ceremonies. As part of the ceremony, all of the teams were welcomed and were treated to a performance by a zulu dance troupe.
Upon returning to the hotel, the team held a quick regeneration session in the pool. Finally, everyone met back up for dinner and a team meeting before spending some time unwinding before bed.
The Revolution Under-16 squad arrived in South Africa early this morning after a long day of travel. Players and staff met at Gillette Stadium at 4 a.m. on Saturday, before bussing down to New York to catch a direct flight to Johannesburg. 14.5 hours later, the group collected their bags at O.R. Tambo International Airport and after Head Coach Bryan Scales conducted a flash interview for the Future Champions Gauteng tournament website, hopped on a bus – complete with police escort – to the hotel.
After several meetings with tournament officials and team staff, the players went up to their rooms to unpack before a quick stretch and prehabilitation session. Lunch followed shortly after in one of the hotel’s restaurants, and nearly everyone then took the opportunity to battle their jetlag with a nap.
Ahead of dinner, the group went for a walk around the hotel’s surrounding area, which we learned is near a university. Following our return, first-year Rev Guy Kabala shared a nice moment with his sisters, who he met up with briefly for the first time in six years.
Dinner was held in a second restaurant at the hotel and the team met after to discuss logistics for Monday – the first game day of the tournament. The rest of the night will continue to be low key as players continue to prepare.