With his usual abundant enthusiasm Alex Rastelli helped the Oldham and Werneth club become the first English teams to enter the Rome Lacrosse Festival. The festival, in its second year, is organized by Robert Corna, the President and founder of The Italian Lacrosse Federation or La Federazione Italiana di Lacrosse. In total we took two U-15 junior teams and one senior team to play 4-a-side lacrosse in the sunshine of Italy on April 5th and 6th.
With few flights from Manchester to Rome we were forced to take 14 boys and 3 adults and our LDO Kevin Hebert by train and coach to Heathrow. Meeting at Piccadilly station for the 05:58 train to Watford nobody was late and we made a good getaway. The Virgin coach driver was surprised to find a party of 18 filling his small coach which conveniently takes you from Watford Junction via the M25 directly to your Terminal at Heathrow.
The Al Italia flight left a little late but arrived on time for us to take the final train to Rome Termini, after they finally found the last bag belonging to Kevin Diskin. Alex and Jason Teal who went on their own from Stanstead met us at the station and took us to our pension in a traditional Rome Apartment block.
We then set off to St. Stephen's School for dinner. St. Stephen's School is a private school in Rome close to the Circus Maximus. It is an English speaking school attended by the children of Americans working in that part of Italy. It was our venue for the games and has been the centre for Robert's program of introducing lacrosse to Italy.
Saturday morning was cool but the Mediterranean blue sky was cloudless as we made our way back to the school where we had met Robert the evening before for dinner. The first game involved Oldham youth against St. Stephens School in a match which saw the English boys take control against Americans with the winning margin of 16 - 12, not entirely a fair reflection of the game. Mike Ford made the mistake of taking his refereeing kit and was forced into following the pioneering footsteps of Graham Lester who last year officiated most of the games. Second up had Oldham's younger team against a warmed up St. Stephens who won 19 - 11.
In the men's section a number of teams were formed whose members had remarkable similarities and you guessed it they were playing for several teams. This did not detract from the competitive spirit. They included a former Broadway School player, a couple of Americans and assorted learners from Germany, Italy and Spain and a star American from California who played for the championship winning Sonoma State club team last season with breathtaking stick and shooting skills. For the first game Oldham took on Aviano and won easily 26 -14, followed by Aviano beating Spain 11 - 8.
Next another American school AOSR played Oldham youth's older team in a very close fought game. With time running out and AOSR in the lead Oldham staged a recovery to win 13 - 12 on the whistle. Later Spain beat Italy 14 -11. The last game for the juniors was against an Italian side or at least they had the blue Azure shirts on but most spoke some form of English. Our boys proved far too strong for them going on to win easily 18 - 8.
In the last game of the day Oldham men played a very different Italian team from the one defeated by Spain. With the Sonoma player on fire Oldham had real problems holding the Italians, even with LDO Kevin Hebert playing. But they pulled it out in the end for a 15 - 14 victory.
We were able to capture victories for most of our teams even when we loaned the opposition a goalkeeper. A very tired UK party returned for dinner that night and relatively early bed.
On the return home a combination of a late flight, lost bag (later found in Rome) and incorrect bus information conspired to make us miss the last train at Watford Sunday night. We would like to thank the Virgin Trains staff at Watford who plotted a passable return journey for the team via Wolverhampton overnight. Thanks also to the kind lady at Wolverhampton who opened the waiting room especially for us and made the 2 and a half hour wait for our connection to Crewe bearable. A very weary tour party was met by parents about 5 hours later than planned at Manchester Piccadilly. The youngsters coped with the difficult train journey with great resolve and we are very proud of them. Perhaps next year we will spend a little more time in Rome to avoid the excessive travelling in such a short time.
Team Italy will be participating in the E-Lacrosse Amsterdam Tournament this summer!