Hummersknott Badminton Club European Tour

Tuesday 8th Apr 2014

A group of 30 young badminton players travelled to Germany and France to play 5 matches in 9 days against local youth teams. The trip was organised by Hummersknott Badminton Club and included players from across the Tees Valley area and a group from Phoenix Badminton Club, Wolsingham, Durham. A couple of Oxfordshire Badminton Association players,(with links to Hummersknott), travelled too. In all 632 games were played on court at the five venues, and the players had a feast of badminton, everyone winning and losing some games. The overall winner was international friendship.

The hosts were Mülheim ,Leverkusen and Gelsenkirchen in Germany, and Amiens and Ecouen in France. In Amiens a team from the Somme Region, (twinned with County Durham), joined in too and the warmth of the Town Twinning links was very evident.

In Mülheim a Town hall reception with the Mayor's department was arranged by Sabine Kuzma, followed by a walk in Darlington Park and a visit to Camera Obscura. An end of tour meal at the Campanile Hotel in Amiens, allowed the local team managers along with Tristan Montigny and Stephanie Dapsance from Amiens Town Hall to join in and meet the players and leaders. The trip provided lots of other experiences including language skills for students. Visits included Ghent (Belgium), Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Veltins Arena the home of Schalke 04 FC. In Paris a day at EuroDisney, a boat trip along the Seine, drive along the Champs Elysees, a meal in sight of Notre Dame, and a visit to the Eiffel Tower were made by the whole group and a few then visited the Louvre. Whilst travelling to Amiens a visit was made to the Somme Battlefields Museum at Albert.

The behaviour was noted as being of the highest standard by several host teams and hotel managers, and the players proved to be good ambassadors for the Uk. The young people were specifically invited back to every venue in the future.

In July a smaller group will make visits across Italy, and to Athens, continuing to make links with various places. Bracciano, (a town north west of Rome), have promised a Mayoral receptiom as an early step to formalising a friendship agreement with Darlington.

Ideas are being discussed about and international event in 2015, maybe in Mülheim, wheer teams from Darlington, Mülheim, Amiens and Bracciano could participate.

Players and families are grateful to those who sponsored the trip, including Glaxo, Darlington Building Society, Nissan, and DTTIA. Asda, Iceland, Morrisons, M&S and Sainsburys have also aloowed bag packing across the Region which has greatly helped funding. We are also grateful for a donation from the Co-operative Membership Community Fund towards future running costs.

After the tour, Tristan Montigny, (Amiens Metropole, Direction Generale), wrote, " I am paticularly happy thet you enjoyed so much your last stop to Amiens. It was a great pleasure to meet you, and the team and the players. you are running your projects with a great sense of responsibility and professoinalism. Everthing was so friendly. I am very optimistic about a future tournament between twin towns. Stephanie and Jean-Francois were very happy to welcome you, and the young players had a really good time playing with Darlington and Durham teams. It was great to see the involvement of both French clubs hosting the tournament which shows the interest in such exchanges. Not only the managers but the young people appreciated meeting you. A sport exchange, but also a cultural exchange and a linguistic challenge. The parents were glad to see their children could start building some links with young English people. To conclude, I think we all want to continue building sport international exchanges, and we are open to future proposals. May we go on building the ties between our towns, and more broadly, European and International friendship."

Lea Boeger, a teacher from Otto Pankok Schule, Mülheim wrote, "I can just tell you it was lovely to get to know you and your colleagues, and I had two great days as I really enjoy meeting people from England who i can talk to and practice my English. And now I am looking forward even more to our school visit to Darlington in September." Lea and Sabine Kuzma from Mülheim Town Hall had been instrumental in setting up the two days of activities.

Report by Philip Boyle.

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