A student soccer team from Cardiff Metropolitan University was heading for the Balkans today (note: Thursday August 9) to make their debut in Europe’s premier competition for women footballers.
The Cardiff Met team, reigning Welsh Premier Women's Football League champions, were this morning flying to Eastern Europe to compete in a Uefa Women's Champions League qualifying tournament based in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.
Qualifying tournament winners progress to the Champions League final 32 when opponents could include holders Olympique Lyonnais, Spanish giants Barcelona or previous European champions Arsenal.
From August 11-16, the South Wales university side will face host club and group top seeds SFK 2000 Sarajevo, Israeli outfit ASA Tel-Aviv and Irish hopes Peamount United, from Dublin.
The hosts are twice Bosnian champions and three times national cup winners. Their squad features internationals with Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and America. In 2003-04 they beat Cardiff City 2-1 in the European Women’s Cup.
Met coach Kerry Harris said: “We’re thrilled to be heading out and confident about our chances. Our pre-tournament training programme has seen us train more than 20 hours a week for two months. With the assistance of sports scientists and other experts from Cardiff Met the squad is in the best condition than ever. Our players are generally aged 18 or 19 and we’ll be playing teams with a great deal more experience than us so it’ll be a real challenge. The heat, as well, could cause difficulties as it’s recently been in the high-30s in Sarajevo.”
Karen Espelund, chairwoman of the Uefa Women's Football Committee, said: "This is the fourth season of the Women's Champions League in this form and the very start to the road to the pinnacle of European women's club football.”
The winners will be crowned champions in London on 23 May 2013.
The Cardiff Met team, known as UWIC until now, won the Welsh title in May. The players in their 18-strong European squad are all aged 18-23 and amateur.
Last season’s Welsh representatives Swansea City lost out at the Uefa Women's Champions League qualifying stage.
More: www.cardiffmet.ac.uk, www.cardiffmetsu.co.uk, www.welshpremier.com, www.uefa.com
Cardiff Met Schedule:
§ August 11 v ASA Tel-Aviv, 17.30, Asim Ferhatović Hase Stadion, Sarajevo
§ August 13 v Sarajevo, 17.30, Asim Ferhatović Hase Stadion, Sarajevo
§ August 16 v Peamount, 17.00, SRC Slavija, Sarajevo