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‘Best experience of my life so far’
4:20pm Friday 16th August 2013 in News
A FOOTBALL-MAD young-ster who moved from Ramsbottom to New Zealand with his family seven years ago has returned to take part in a prestigious competition.
Fifteen-year-old Billy Jones, previously of Bolton Street, competed in the finals of the Manchester United World Premier Cup with his team, Onehunga Football Club.
While his under-15s team were defeated at the group stages, Billy and his family were ecstatic the young sportsman had made it so far in the worldwide contest.
The tournament, which took place between August 6 and August 9 at Manchester United Foot-ball Club, saw 8,000 teams from across the globe whittled down to a top 20.
Billy, previously a pupil at Old Hall School on Springside View, moved to Auckland in 2006 after his parents fell in love with the country while visiting friends in 2005.
His favourite moments of the competition were playing against Arsenal and being part of the atmosphere at the event’s opening ceremony.
Billy said: “Taking part was the best experience of my life and if I had the chance I would do it all over again.
“I was thrilled to have family watching – even cousins, aunties and uncles came out to support me.
“It was a shame I could not have stayed on for longer but as I had mock exams I had to go back to New Zealand straight after the tournament.”
Billy and the rest of the Onehunga U15s team started preparation for the Nike World Cup in October 2012.
They beat teams from across New Zealand and the top teams from each Australian state to win their place, with Billy scoring the deciding penalty in their final match.
The last time Billy and his family all returned to the UK was in 2011, but he still keeps in touch with some of his old school friends via social networking site Facebook.
He added: “We play a lot of football all year round in New Zealand and I like spending so much time outdoors, especially in the summer.
“If there is anything about Bury I miss it is family, Vimto and being able to watch Liverpool FC.”
Billy’s parents Justine and Pete, both teachers, were unable to travel to the tournament with him as they are currently in the middle of term time.
Billy was given just three hours to spend with his UK family so Justine’s parents, Ralph and Susan Capper, organised a celebratory barbecue for 33 relatives at their home on Lingfield Close, Brandlesholme.
Susan said: “The competition comprised academy teams attached to prestigious worldwide football clubs, so simply qualifying was a massive achievement for the boys.
“Despite not making it beyond the group stages the team had a fantastic time and were a real asset to the competition.”
Bury-born mum-of-three Justine has two younger sons – Sam and Joe – and was previously deputy headteacher of Woodbank Primary School on Brandlesholme Road.
Her husband Pete, also a teacher, worked at Holy Trinity CofE Primary, Moorside Primary and Prestwich Primary.
Justine said: “Since moving to New Zealand we have enjoyed the laidback day-to-day outdoor living, with the whole family heavily involved in local football.
“Our family are absolutely made up with Billy making it through to the finals and grandparents, uncles and aunts went to watch the opening ceremony and showed their support at each of the tournament’s matches. The team had a tough draw but have worked hard.”
and gave it their best – they have amazing coaches and we are just thrilled Billy had the opportunity to take part in such an elite contest.”
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