A football fairytale come true. That’s how Chichester College’s Female Football Academy’s rise to golden glory at this year’s AoC Sport National Championships has been described.
The Academy, only in its second year, saw off competition from eight other college sides – many of them elite category sides with links to the FA Women’s Super League - to claim victory and be crowned national champions.
Team captain Gracie White, 18, said: “It is unbelievable. The whole weekend was incredible and to wake up as champions is an amazing feeling for all of us.
“Some of the other teams had international players and had experience playing in the Super League, so we knew it was going to be tough. I don’t think any of us could have dreamed that we were going to come away with the championship.
“I just think the reason we won was down to the raw passion, determination and drive that we showed. I think we really wanted it and the whole team was buzzing – we kept each other going.”
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Having excelled at the regional stage of the competition in the autumn, the Chichester team were undefeated in the finals (six wins and two draws), to take a nail-biting victory over Bristol Academy for the gold medal.
Matt Wright, deputy head of learning and manager of the college’s Female Football Academy, said: “This is a very special achievement – I’ve coached a lot of teams, and won a few trophies, but this is right up there as one of the highlights of my career.
“It’s hard to put it into words what this means to us – we were one of only two non-elite sides competing at the competition and I don’t think anyone saw us coming!
“We just kept winning matches against top teams. We were the underdogs but the girls were phenomenal. They played brilliantly and just kept going.
“This is our second year – I don’t think any of us could have imagined this happening so quickly.
“These players came through the first ever youth team that we formed here at Chichester, which was part of a college project run by former students. They came through the youth system, college and now national champions!
“It’s like a fairytale sporting moment for us. The girls have worked hard and trained hard with Emma Alexandre, their coach. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Chichester College’s gold medal capped a successful weekend for the Chichester College Group at this year’s championship.
Worthing College, who merged with the group just a few weeks ago, also took Gold in the Netball competition.
Shelagh Legrave, chief executive of the Chichester College Group, added: “I think I speak for everyone across the college when I say how proud we all are of our teams’ performances at the AoC Sport National Finals.
“They demonstrated great character and determination to win gold and be crowned national champions. It is a tremendous achievement and one that they will be able to look back on in years to come with pride. Congratulations to each and every member of both teams.”