NEWTOWN College teamed up with Newtown FC to send a team of 11 under 19s players to compete at a football tournament in Inner Mongolia, Northern China.
The college, part of NPTC Group of Colleges, was invited to China by the Saihan Education Bureau and WEG Education.
Staying in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, the team also found time to visit a local primary school and meet the Inner Mongolian president during their 10-day trip.
In the tournament itself, the Newtown team was the only one from outside the area, competing against 10 teams from Inner Mongolia and one team from Mongolia.
Gareth Watkins, head of youth at Newtown and a lecturer at the college, joined the youngsters on the trip.
He said: “The football was really different. We were technically and tactically better, but they had physical and psychological attributes that were better than ours.
“It was pretty hard going, with only 11 players and in the 37 degree heat!”
After a convincing 5-0 victory against hosts Hohhot FC in their opening game, the Newtown lads had a day off for some cultural visits.
They spent the morning at the No. 18 Middle School, the standout moment of the trip, before heading to the oldest Buddhist temple in Hohhot.
Gareth said: “There were two main highlights. The visit to the primary school, they did a football demonstration and then we coached them, and they presented us with gifts.
“The other highlight was meeting the president. We had a meeting and he spoke about his time in the UK, and gave us a gift.”
The team returned to the pitch after their rest day to beat their next opponents WuYan 5-2, securing them a spot in the semifinals the following day.
The tense match ended 0-0 and in the penalty shootout Newtown came unstuck, with Mongolian side Ulaanbaatar progressing to the final and ultimately winning the tournament.
In the third/fourth place play-off, Newtown came back fighting with their best performance and a 9-0 win, ending on a high before the long trip home.
A further boost was player Jake Mann becoming top goal scorer, and Gareth being named coach of the tournament.
“In addition to some great football the players conducted themselves impeccably and carried the Welsh flag with immense pride,” added Gareth.
“I would personally like to thank NPTC Group for the opportunity to travel to Inner Mongolia, WEG Education and the Saihan Education Bureau for the invitation, hospitality and experience that none of us will ever forget.”
See full story in the County Times