Members of the SFA Performance School at Braidhurst High in Motherwell were flying high after a recent trip to the Eagles of Lisbon.
The young players spent seven nights training and playing with one of the world’s biggest clubs, Benfica, at their legendary academy.
The group, made up of boys and girls from clubs such as Hibernian, Hamilton Accies, Falkirk and Motherwell, began their week by attending the passionate derby clash between Benfica and Sporting Lisbon, for which tickets were like gold dust.
On day two they enjoyed training sessions with Benfica’s under-14 and under-16 coaches in preparation for a match against the Benfica Academy side the following day.
Braidhurst took the game to their hosts and an early clinical finish from Hibernian’s Josh McPake put them one up.
Midway through the second period Motherwell FC player Kyle Connell made it 2-0 but Benfica pulled one back against the run of play and then earned a 2-2 draw with an equaliser in the last minute.
After further training sessions and lectures for the Braidhurst pupils the sides met for a rematch later in the week and an early goal smashed home by Motherwell FC’s Jamie Semple gave Braidhurst a 1-0 win in front of the Benfica TV cameras.
The win put the icing on the cake on what SFA performance coach Gordon Craig said was a highly successful trip.
He said: “The games were perhaps the highlight of the trip.
“But there were many great experiences such as meeting young former Dundee United star Ryan Gauld now of Sporting Lisbon, training sessions from Benfica staff coaches, two Benfica first team games, museum visit, stadium tour an exclusive look at the Benfica 360 Lab, an impressive machine to improve individual players’ development.
“The fact this trip is on the calendar for the next two years thanks to the funding and support of North Lanarkshire council and NL Leisure is the perfect learning experience and gauge of development stage for these elite young athletes.