The Blues men’s football team took part in the second annual self-styled ‘World Elite University Football Tournament’, this summer. Hosted by Tsinghua University, in China, the tournament lasted just under two weeks, and consisted of twelve teams from across the globe. In the first match, a strong Oxford team proved too much for Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, recording an 8-0 win.
In the next match against Tsinghua University, a high-quality, technical encounter ended with Oxford winning 2-0, finishing top of the group and setting up a quarter-final showdown against Hua Zhong University of Science and Technology.
The team took advantage of their rest day and travelled a little way out of Beijing to the Great Wall of China and the Summer Palace.
The focus then shifted back onto football, and the efforts of coach Juliun Liu and captain Laurence Wroe to keep everyone focused were rewarded with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Hua Zhong University.
This meant Oxford were in the semi-finals, having reached the same stage in the competition last year.
The rest day before the semi-final was used to experience more of Beijing, visiting Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
The semi-final encounter was against the University of British Columbia. Although Oxford lost the game 2-0, it was a performance to be proud of from the Blues, and it is no exaggeration to say UBC would not have felt robbed had the result gone the other way.
What the loss did mean was a 3rd-4th place play-off against none other than the University of Cambridge, in an exact replica of the previous year’s competition.
With the game coming on the final day of the tournament, various commitments to internships and pre-booked flights home meant the Blues went into the game missing four key players and the coach Julian.
In what can only be described as a war of attrition, made so by the intense heat and sore legs after a long term and two long weeks of football, the 90 minutes ended with the score at 1-1.
Penalties followed, and nerves of steel by both sides meant all of the first 18 penalties were scored, leaving the score 9-9. Goalkeeper Sean Gleeson saved the next one, before going on to score the winning penalty.
Gleeson told Cherwell: “After 18 consecutive penalties scored, a call from the team on the halfway line meant I had to start thinking about actually taking one.
“I remember guessing the correct way and celebrating the penalty save before having to calm myself and show no emotion while I picked up the ball and placed it on the spot. I chose which way I wanted to go and next thing I know I’ve got the biggest smile on my face and the team running towards me, the most unbelievable feeling.”
The tournament itself was won by Tubingen University, who beat University of British Columbia in an end-to-end final.