Madrid, here we come, to see Real players

Viva l'Espana! cry the Glasgow pupils who are preparing for a trip to hallowed turf, writes Roddy Mackenzie

Never before have Spanish lessons proved so popular at Shawlands Academy. Glasgow's international school has even started extra classes, but there is a special reason why pupils are swarming to them. The school is taking 60 pupils to Madrid next month to be the guests of perhaps the most famous football club in the world.

Real Madrid has a special link with Glasgow. Not only did it take part in the most famous football game to be played on Scottish soil - the 7-3 European Cup final win over Eintracht Frankfurt in front of 127,620 spectators at Hampden Park in 1960 - but it marked its centenary by regaining the same trophy on the same pitch with a rather more modest 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen this year.

Real Madrid talked warmly of the hospitality it received in Glasgow in May and now Shawlands Academy is hoping it will reciprocate. Bob Geddes, the school's football coach and principal teacher of technical subjects, has been instrumental in setting up the trip planned for October 11-18.

A brochure from a specialist schools sports holiday company was advertising the chance to go to various destinations but when Mr Geddes saw that Madrid was among them he knew that was the one city the school should visit.

"There were places at the likes of Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, even the chance to go to Boca Juniors in South America," explains Mr Geddes, "but we thought Madrid would be ideal as Real Madrid was playing in the European Champions League final in Glasgow and had spoken about the warm welcome it had received."

At a cost of pound;700 per pupil, it was an ambitious project but funding has been generated by the international school status and pupils have raised a third of the money through such ventures as bag-packing at a local supermarket. The cost is now a more reachable pound;250 per pupil and 55 boys and five girls are lined up to go.

The school is hopeful that Glasgow's senior football clubs - Rangers, Celtic, Partick Thistle and Queen's Park - will also back the trip by donating a memento.

Shawlands is now in its third year as Glasgow's international school and has already sent some of the teaching staff on trips to Europe and beyond. However, this is the biggest pupil trip so far planned and it will be the first time a Scottish school has gained such access to the Madrid football club.

"At first, the plan was to take 30 pupils but we were inundated and have had to turn pupils away," says Mr Geddes.

"It's not just about the football, although that will be an important part. There will be visits to local places of interest and all of the pupils who are going have started an eight-week course in Spanish for one hour a week in preparation.

"It is a unique opportunity for the pupils. The only criteria we laid down for those making the trip is that they either play for one of the school's football teams - there are girls' football teams at Shawlands Academy from S1-S6 - or are doing a Standard grade or Higher in PE."

The pupils range from S3-S6 but the majority are third and fourth years. They will get a chance to see Real Madrid's first-team squad training and see players such as Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Raul close up and look around the club's famous Bernabeu Stadium. Mr Geddes anticipates there will also be the chance to see a game while they are in Madrid.

Coaches from the club will take the pupils in daily training sessions. The group will probably train early in the morning, then go on an excursion in the afternoon and train again early in the evening, so it will give the pupils an insight into how top Spanish players prepare. There is the possibility of playing games against local schools too.

Mr Geddes, who is a qualified Scottish Football Association coach, will be as interested as anyone in the Spanish coaching methods. He is hoping there will be some spin-off in terms of results on the field of play for Shawlands Academy.

"We will be looking at all aspects of how Real Madrid prepare and that will include such things as diet," he says.

"I think the pupils will learn a lot. The foreign players seem to have a different attitude and, even when they are top professionals, work on perfecting their skills. I'm hoping it will rub off on some pupils.

"There are so many attractions for children these days and most are not prepared to put in the work to develop skills.

"At schools level the skills are not as high as they were, say, 20 years ago. But we have one or two players who play with Clyde's youth team and you see the difference in their attitude compared to other pupils. Hopefully, this trip will help everyone see what is required to make it as a professional."

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