SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN — Sixteen pitch players — mostly from the Midcoast — experienced the trip of a lifetime in a journey across the pond to play in a high-profile, worldwide soccer tournament.

The 2022 Donosti Masters Cup, which has had more than 80,000 players from 60 countries compete since its inception in 1992 and has become one of the most significant of its kind in Europe, had another topnotch showing from teams across the globe.

7Tree FC team members in Spain. Photo courtesy of Patrick Mellor

7Tree FC, a non-profit organization, was one of many squads from the United States to participate in the event, as 7Tree FC competed in the U16 division. The event was Sunday through Saturday, July 3-9, with games at facilities throughout Basque County — an autonomous country in northern Spain — with the tournament centrally located in San Sebastian.

7Tree FC included players from Camden Hills Regional High School of Rockport, Medomak Valley High School of Waldoboro, Oceanside High School of Rockland, Lincoln Academy of Newcastle, Erskine Academy of South China and Freeport.

Those players included Liam Belyea, Bruce Bossow, Seamus Donaghy, Travis Dube, Casey Duncan, Finlay Fitch, Harrison Garcia, Vishal Mellor, Mo Ngido, Zan Nugyen, Eli Pluecker, Charlie Pons, Nevan Power, Holden McKenney, Harry Walker and Gavin White. The team was coached by Patrick Mellor, Scott White and William Smith.

“The trip was absolutely incredible on every level,” said coach Mellor. “San Sebastian is spectacular. The Basque people were welcoming. The boys grew as players and as individuals. We truly couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Coach Mellor said there were “around 250 teams” across the 16 divisions, with as many as 40 squads from the United States. Sixty-four teams vied for the tournament title in the U16 division.

Coach Mellor said the Midcoast team’s first game on the pitch was “humbling” as it lost 7-0 to an opponent from Malaga, Spain, but the locals found their footing after they rallied from down a goal to tie Catalonia 2-2.

“It was inspiring for us as it showed that we could compete, even if the players on the other team were more technically sound than our players,” said Mellor. “We stayed organized and supported one another on the pitch.”

7Tree FC next earned a 2-1 win over a team from Basque Country and confidence was high, “however, we lost two of our stronger players to injury and lost in penalty kicks in the knockout stage of the tournament” against Penaflorida of Basque Country, coach Mellor said.

Juventud de Torremolinos FC of Malaga won the pool 7TreeFC competed in, while Alginet UD of Valencia won the overall U16 title.

With global soccer powers abound, the scores largely were secondary for the Midcoast contingent. Coach Mellor said “the experience in Spain was dreamy. Very different from what we’re accustomed to.”

“We walked from our dorm to the beach every morning and practiced barefoot on the beach before things got too warm or crowded,” he said. “The matches were well-officiated and well-played. The facilities were top shelf. More importantly, these boys’ minds have been opened up a bit. They met players from all-around the world. They practiced communicating in a different language. They tried new foods and experienced a level of responsibility and independence that was beyond what most of them had experienced previously.”

Coach Mellor thanked the team’s sponsors, particularly The First, the primary sponsor.

“Without their support at the outset of this effort, it would have been a difficult hill to climb,” coach Mellor said. “The First’s generosity will be remembered by our club.”

In addition to The First, donations also were made by Medomak Valley Family Camp, DLTC Healthcare, Washington General Store, Rockport Automotive, Andes Variety, Superior Roofing Co., KDK Screen printing / Embroidery, Maritime Energy, Midcoast Realty Group, Atlantic Sportswear and Maine State Credit Union and the Laken Harrington Memorial Fund.

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