Teenage footballers studying for a BTEC with Albion in the Community played at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light after reaching a national final.
The team, made up of players from AITC's BTEC programme, narrowly lost to their counterparts from Sunderland’s Foundation of Light.
They are among around 60 young people currently studying on AITC’s alternative post-16 education programme. Once they complete the two-year course with the football charity they will have earned either a Level 2 or Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport (Performance & Excellence).
Students studying with AITC are given the option of playing either 11-a-side football for the charity, or combining their lessons with regular futsal games.
Both teams play competitively against other football clubs’ community schemes, and the 11-a-side team enjoyed a particularly successful season – finishing second in the league and reaching the final of the National Football Youth League Trophy.
They also had the opportunity to play at the training grounds of a host of professional clubs, including Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers and Fulham.
The game against Sunderland’s Foundation of Light scholars was a closely fought affair, with the hosts winning 1-0 in extra time, thanks to a goal in the 113th minute. AITC top-scorer Kieran Rowe had earlier come close on a number of occasions only to be denied by some superb goalkeeping and an agonising goal-line clearance.
At the other end, AITC had keeper Connor Berwick to thank for protecting their clean sheet during the opening 90 minutes – with the custodian making a string of impressive saves.
With the prospect of a penalty shoot-out looming, Sunderland finally broke the deadlock following a neat move on their right-hand side.
AITC pushed for an equaliser, but came up just short after hitting the post with the final effort of the game.
Despite the loss, BTEC head coach Sami El-Abd was full of praise for the scholars. He said, “The players have worked hard all season and it was brilliant to reach the final of a national competition.
"Having the chance to play at such an impressive stadium was something I am sure they will never forget and they should all be proud of their efforts.”
AITC’s next BTEC course begins in September and there is still time to sign-up for either the 11-a-side or the futsal programmes.
For more information, email: BTEC@albioninthecommunity.org.uk