From Scandinavia to San Diego – Foyle Cup’s international impact

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
​A diverse range of nationalities will once again be on show when the highly anticipated O’Neills Foyle Cup 2023 kicks off later this month.

​The tournament has previously attracted talent from all over the globe, and this year is no different, with North American outfit Surf Select Soccer and FD Suomi from Finland making the trip.

Surf Select have a vast pool of players to choose from, with 46 regional clubs spread across the US and Canada, the majority of which are based in California.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The best players from these sides are then invited to national trials, and those who progress take part in various tournaments, such as the Foyle Cup.

FD Suomi team with Nikolas Talo Finland Under-21s and FG Groningen at Foyle Cup 2022FD Suomi team with Nikolas Talo Finland Under-21s and FG Groningen at Foyle Cup 2022
FD Suomi team with Nikolas Talo Finland Under-21s and FG Groningen at Foyle Cup 2022

There is certainly a local influence at Surf Select and one familiar name within the setup is Buncrana’s Jonny Bonner, a former Finn Harps and Crusaders midfielder, who now works as Regional Director in Boston.

Another individual whom Irish Premiership followers may be

aware of is Scott Graham, a Programme Co-ordinator for Surf Select based in New York.

Scott is a Newtownabbey native and a former coach at Linfield FC who made the move to the US in 2014 and got involved with the programme three years ago.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Surf Select's 2011 sideSurf Select's 2011 side
Surf Select's 2011 side

The club has experience of playing in Northern Ireland and indeed were successful in two age groups at last year’s SuperCupNI.

Despite this past silverware, Scott says the players will not be getting carried away with thoughts of glory.

“Of course, those victories last year were fantastic, but I don’t believe it puts any extra pressure on the players to perform, he remarks.

“There is a competitiveness within the squad, and they are thoroughly looking forward to travelling to Europe to compete against different styles of play.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

FD Suomi will not need to come quite as far as their American counterparts, but around 1,200 miles travelling from Helsinki to Derry is still further than most of their competitors at the tournament.

The Finnish team operates as an academy side and is based in the UK, but all the players come from the Scandinavian nation. Similar to Surf Select, the most talented players are brought to camps where they will then be selected for various tournaments.

Kristian Heames is the Head Coach of FD Suomi, and he enjoys bringing the players to the Foyle Cup given its challenging nature.

He explains: “The tournament is really tough, one of the toughest in fact. There are many smart players taking part who know how to play the game and how to win. The most important thing is testing the young Finnish players, and the Foyle Cup provides that.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Unlike most European countries, football is not the most popular sport in Finland.

Ice Hockey rules the roost, and much of this is down to the national team’s success on the international stage.

“A lot of Finns think that they will be able carve a career out of ice hockey a lot easier than they would playing football.

"Having said that, football remains popular here and there are no issues putting teams together.”

Related topics: