Our local walking football team, the Grimsby Ancient Mariners took Europe by storm when they competed in the Almelo City Cup in Holland recently.
Taking a squad of nine finely tuned athletes off to Doncaster Sheffield airport where they boarded their own charter flight, well nine reserved seats on the afternoon flight to Schipol.
After a steady flight, then a long trek to baggage control, they were met by two Almelo Cup volunteers to transport them the 100 km from Amsterdam to Almelo City.
On arrival straight into the dining room for some needed nourishment, checked in, wash and brush up then to the numerous bars and use of the hotel facilities.
Up bright and early Thursday, breakfast, then off to meet and greet the local Mayor for the official opening ceremony.
Rigged out in their blue GAM jackets along with some Harry Haddocks and Mexican sombreros to add a bit of joviality to the occasion.
The Sombreros and our fish were definitely the main topic of conversation, especially trying to explain why a UK fishing town and Mexican Sombreros go together.
We had arranged with the our Mayor to present a Grimsby plaque as a gesture of sportsmanship and friendship between our two towns and Pete Cribb was on hand to present the plaque to the local dignitary.
After the opening ceremony, coffee and cakes were laid on, then back to the hotel for lunch and then the serious stuff started.
We were drawn in Group E along with NAC Oldstars (Holland), HZVV Hoogeveen (Holland) and Borne Blijft Fit (Belgium).
The Ancient Mariners lost their first game 1-0 (NAC), reversed the score against Borne with a Gary Kershaw goal and then went down 3-1 to the group winners HZVV with Ken Thompson netting for the GAM.
The first afternoon depicted which second group the team went into and by finishing third, went into Group O for another three matches on the Friday morning. Waiting for them were VFL Wolfsburg (Germany), Gold Star Heracles (Holland) and Werder Bremen (Germany).
Losing their first match 2-1 (Alan Bielby), drawing 1-1 their second meant that they needed to be Gold Stars to finish second in this group and move into the 21-24 knockout group.
Recording their biggest win of the tournament 6-0 saw them comfortably into the knockout stages.
Two more games to finish an excellently organised tournament.
Groningen in the semi final with a 2-0 victory, followed by a 3-0 win over Den Haag in their final finished off in style.
Playing eight matches over two days enjoyable football, winning five and losing three for our first visit to this prestigious international tournament was more than we could have expected.
Looking towards 2018 we may decide to leave the bars a bit earlier than 1 am prior to our matches, maybe 12.45, give the dodgem cars a miss to prevent unforeseen injuries and maybe, just maybe we may finish in the top half of the draw.
Congratulations to Gary Kershaw for winning our golden bootee as the top scorer, Pat Lince for getting the most sleep in their room and to Rob Andrew who kept annoying the guests by giving them Grimsby Town pens.
All in all a tremendous trip and thanks must go to all nine members who represented not only our club but the towns of Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
Well done to Pete Cribb, Carl Reeve, Neil Holcombe, Gary Kershaw, Pat Lince, Alan Bielby, Rob Andrew, Alan Nilsen and a special thanks to Ken Thompson who got us there and home again.