The sun shone, the crowds sang themselves hoarse and the young footballers ran their hearts out as the annual Mayor’s Cup primary school tournament maintained its reputation for thrills and excitement.
The finals of the borough’s eight-a-side football tournament, staged in the sunshine in Hurlingham Park, saw the north-of-the-borough girls’ champions Brackenbury take on the southern champions St John’s in the first match.
The sides seemed evenly matched, but when St John’s had a penalty saved, the pendulum swung Brackenbury’s way, and Brackenbury emerged as 1-0 winners.
In the boys’ section, Sir John Lillie, champions of the south, played St Stephen's, the northern district victors.
Again, it was a tight game, with Sir John Lillie the clear favourites having gone through the entire tournament unbeaten.
But while the first half was evenly balanced, St Stephen’s flew out of the traps for the second half, and scored to record a deserved 1-0 victory.
Playing 10 frantic minutes each way, the tournament finished with four teams of exhausted footballers.
Afterwards the trophies and medals (gold for the winners, silver for the runners-up) were presented by Sue Hayward, head teacher of Sir John Lillie school and chair of the Hammersmith & Fulham Primary Schools’ Sports Association.
She praised the sportsmanship displayed by all four of the day’s finalists… sentiments echoed by organiser Calum Fairley, who arranged nearly 300 matches in total for the busy tournament.
“The support from the parents, friends and staff was positive and very sporting,” he said. “The finals were conducted in a fair way, displaying a great attitude.”
Now the winning teams will represent Hammersmith & Fulham at the London Youth Games, being staged at the National Sports Centre, Crystal Palace, on March 22 and 23.
Calum, who has organised the last three competitions, also had words of praise for the tournament’s referees, supplied by QPR and Fulham.
With the finals being staged in Hurlingham Park this year, it was Fulham FC coaches who refereed the games.
Change of format?
Calum has been asking for feedback from the borough’s participating Mayor’s Cup teams about changing the format of the competition, which has been running since 1989, to possibly move from a weekly format to a series of one-day tournaments.
But with most schools preferring the existing league arrangement, and with official backing from the Football Association (including week-by-week updates on the FA’s website), it looks like the current format will be retained, at least for another season.
“The competition is great for all the children who take part,” said Calum who, since October last year, has been schools games organiser for the whole borough. “They all get a huge amount out of competing, and the finals are always a big occasion.
“The idea of a league for primary schools is unusual in London, but it allows players to train and develop through the year, and it really does seem to add excitement.”
The thrilling conclusion to this year’s Mayor’s Cup means that, for the second year running, it is the two teams from the north of the borough who triumphed.