All the boys want is Cupcake


By Rwitoban Deb
  • Published 28.10.17
Spanish U-17 players and support staff click a groupfie at Novotel before a cake-mixing session on Friday. (Arnab Mondal)

New Town: Abel Ruiz looks a good fit in a FIFA World Cup-winning Spanish side someday. Liverpool lad Rhian Brewster might break into contention for the Ballon d'Or in a few years' time.

On the eve of the U-17 World Cup final at Salt Lake stadium, these two potential stars of world football found different ways to dribble past the nerves.

Abel was with his teammates by the Novotel poolside, busy mixing dry fruit with whisky, rum and wine for a special Christmas cake. Rhian preferred a light workout at the gym with some of the other English boys.

Saturday promises to be among the biggest days of their lives. The U-17 final is a rematch of the 2017 UEFA European Under-17 Championship final in May, where Spain had defeated England on penalties. The sense of history wasn't lost on either side as they consciously avoided running into each other at the hotel they are sharing.

For the La Roja, the cake-mixing session was a welcome distraction, even if for a while. They walked in at quarter to 11, dressed for the occasion in chef hats. The boys had a ball pouring in the customary liquor into the mix of dry fruits and nuts for the Christmas cake. Several of them whipped out their phones to click groupfies.

The revelry was cut short by one word. "Training!" announced a senior member of the support staff and the boys followed him out with military-like discipline.

Minutes later, the English players, led by Manchester United's Angel Gomes and Manchester City's Joel Latibeaudiere, crossed the poolside and walked into the hotel gym. "The teams make sure they are not at the same place at the same time, so we have to give them separate gym sessions and breakfast timings," said a hotel employee.

Rhian, the top shooter of the tournament with seven goals, was among the last ones to join the workout. He sported a grey hoodie, shielding himself from the unforgiving noon sun.

England probably believe they are better equipped than Spain to deal with the Calcutta humidity, having played all their group matches at Salt Lake stadium. The team's head chef isn't willing to leave that to chance, though.

"We have made sure the boys up their protein and carbohydrate intake because they are burning more calories in this heat," said Kevin Clarke.

For Spain, the prospect of making their Calcutta debut in the final could be daunting. "We have heard great things about this stadium and I am sure it will be a great match in a great atmosphere.... We just hope we can win it!" smiled defender Eric Garcia, who plays for Manchester City.