23. - 28. JULY 2018 - HJØRRING - DENMARK

 Trip Home Already Planned

 While the teams currently play the first matches at this year's Dana Cup, the tournament's department of transport is already busy putting together the final pieces of the big puzzle that is the transport home of the many thousands of players and managers.

'On Friday we'll send information to the schools about the details of the transport of the teams,' said head of transport, Jørgen Nielsen, at the tournament's first meeting with the schools.

Jørgen Nielsen also mentioned that on Monday 73 buses set off to pick up players and managers in order to take them to the schools.

'Every day 49 buses run on 19 routes from the schools to the centre area and from there to the 70 football fields that we use at this year's Dana Cup. We encourage teams to leave early, so that they are sure to turn up on time for the game,' Jørgen Nielsen stressed.

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 The Tournament has started

 After a nice opening last night, this morning the participants have begun the first matches in high spirits. This is also the case for the Norwegian G14-team Raufoss IL Football, who looks forward to playing the first match of the tournament on the centre fields.

'Naturally, we hope to do well. Moreover, we are looking forward to playing the first game. Actually, the football pitches are very good,' states team manager Øystein Bjørge shortly before the first match.

'We don't know anything about our opponents, so it will be interesting,' Øystein Bjørge adds. Of course, this means that the Norwegian team will mainly focus on their own game.

'We have two good teams, so we hope to go far in the tournament,' the coach says. In addition to the actual game, the social aspect is also an important part of the trip.

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 What do you do Between Matches?

 In between the matches there is ample opportunity for recreation in Dana Cup's Event Area. In the FIFA tent the two Scottish boys, Mikey Morton and Cammy Duncan from Newbattle, had decided to spend the waiting time in the company of the computer game FIFA.

'We have just finished our first game, and we won it 6-0. And then we decided to pass the time in here,' Cammy Duncan explains. 'It is quite enjoyable and time passes quite fast,' Cammy Duncan adds. 'Actually, we just came for the laugh', Mikey Morton stresses. Unsurprisingly, both boys like playing FIFA.

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 Bread Rolls and Sausage Rolls for Everybody

 Just because one is at Dana Cup one does not have to give up break rolls for breakfast. Among all the goodies in the Event Area one can now also buy bread rolls in the new sales tent belonging to the supermarket Brugsen. However, it is far from the only thing that the manager, Mathilde Vorre, and her nice colleagues offer customers. As something extra they have 30,000 freshly baked sausage rolls, so there ought to be enough for everybody.

Opening hours: 6 a.m. to midnight

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 American Virgin Islands at Dana Cup

 For the first time in Dana Cup's history two teams from the former Danish West Indies participate in this year's Dana Cup. As a matter of fact, Denmark and the three islands St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix (United States Virgin Islands) share a long common history because they used to belong to Denmark until they were sold to the United States in 1917.

Ahead of next year's 100th anniversary of the sale, two teams from St. Croix participate in the tournament in order to strengthen the old ties between the people of the American Virgin Islands and Denmark. Consequently, the players will stay in Denmark for a fortnight playing football for one week and living with a Danish host family – naturally, football players themselves - in the second week. Then next year the two Danish teams hosting will hopefully go to the Virgin Islands. However, in order to do so all participants from St. Croix and Denmark are interested in sponsors to fund the cooperation.

'We have managed to find sponsors to pay for the plane tickets from the Danish Virgin Islands to Denmark. Moreover, it is also important to us that we have young people who can come and tell their story; partly about the destination, partly about the islands, but makes it contemporary for there are plenty of historians who have written about the history of Denmark and the Virgin Islands. Within tourism focus is different since we try to get young people engaged and these 30 ambassadors who are running around in Denmark the next 14 days will hopefully talk to a lot of young Danes about the Virgin Islands,' managing director Karin Gert Nielsen explains.

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 Chance to Meet Professional Scouts

 Can you kick harder than 90 km/h? Then you should visit the tent of the International Football Academy in the middle of the Event Area to test your strength in terms of hitting the ball as fast as possible. You have three attempts to measure your personal top speed and, at the same, participate in a unique competition at the International Football Academy. In additional to prizes in each age group, the winner with the fastest shot at Dana Cup will get the chance to play in front of professional scouts in England.

Founded in 2007, the International Football Academy already has impressive results when it comes to talent development and training of their players. Several of their former players have signed contracts with top clubs across Europe and the United States. The students come from all over the world in order to participate in weekly courses or in a two-year football education in Stamford, Lincolnshire, England.

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 Test your Skills in the Event Area

 At adidas Experience Arena in the Event Area you can now have a photo taken of you doing a volley or backflip and then have it send to your phone for free.

'We are on tour with adidas doing a football event where we have a football cage where you play two versus two. Moreover, you get to try the latest adidas shoes, which is a big part of it. Naturally, we have every size. We also have a theme where you can do a volley or a backflip and then we take your photo', Johannes Schander from Sweden explains. You can meet Johannes in the Event Area on a daily basis from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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 Referees Prepared for the Games

 Early Tuesday morning the referees will start the first games at Dana Cup 2016. Almost 2900 football matches will be played and 275 referees will ensure that the games are played according to the football regulations.

At two meetings on Monday the referees were informed about how the games are to be executed. For instance as something new, penalty shootouts after regular time will take place on the pitch where the game is played. However, after preliminary rounds teams play five minutes of extra time twice before a possible shootout.

Head of the jury, Finn Larsen, underlined that the games must start on time.

'With almost 2900 games a slight delay in each game could easily upset the entire tournament schedule. Consequently, one game can as a maximum be postponed 10 minutes if a team does not turn up on time; if a team is more than 10 minutes delayed the other team will win the game,' Finn Larsen stressed.

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 Hjørring Strongly Supports Dana Cup

 The positive publicity that Hjørring gets in connection with Dana Cup cannot be bought for money. Therefore, mayor Arne Boelt does not doubt for a second that, naturally, Hjørring municipality must strongly support the world's third largest football tournament.

'In the municipality we stretch ourselves really far making sure that Dana Cup can develop and continue to grow and become even more professional and, thus, interesting for football players from the entire world,' says Arne Boelt, who helps to promote the tournament. Hence, on Monday he will welcome two selected teams, plus he will participate in the official opening Monday evening at Femhøje stadium.

' Already four months prior to this year's tournament employees of the municipality meet with Dana Cup to discuss the tournament. Subsequently, we will meet a couple of months after the tournament to evaluate. For us it is important to be at the forefront, so that the municipality can help to ensure a safe and exciting football tournament. For instance, we focus a lot on safety, especially during Dana Cup. Additionally, we have participated in the construction of Park Vendia so that players and managers can have their meals in a safe and modern environment, which is used for sports on a daily basis and then prepared for Dana Cup. In the schools of the municipality we have opened up even more rooms for the players to stay in and we would gladly help to ensure that both Hjørring and Dana Cup continue to evolve,' the mayor underlines.

'Some believe that it costs the municipality a lot of money. No, not at all. We invest in knowledge and wherever I go on official errands, I meet people who know Hjørring and Dana Cup,' Arne Boels states.

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 Referees Cooperate Across Borders

 With referees from the entire world Dana Cup has been an international meeting place for football referees for many years. Now the organisation that keeps track of the many football referees has become even more international.

German Thorsten Vekens and Danish Kasper Poulsen are in charge of the referee organisation at Dana Cup. And, consequently, it is an experienced duo, who has taken over management from Søren Bach, who has instead joined the tournament jury.

Thorsten Vekens participated as a referee at Dana Cup 1998 for the first time and has subsequently served as leader of a group of German referee talents.

Kasper Poulsen has for years been in charge of accommodation at Dana Cup and, accordingly, he knows the tournament in detail.

'Thorsten is responsible for placing referees at the different games and the quality of the referees, while I'm responsible for the administration,' Kasper Poulsen explains.

'At the moment we have 275 referees available, but the number changes continuously because, unfortunately, we experience that some referees have to cancel for various reasons,' says Thorsten Vekens, who adds that last year 260 referees had to be positioned. Fortunately, there is a long waiting list of qualified referees, who help out.

The third leg of the referee organisation is Thomas Jensen, who is a board member of the Danish Football Association (DBU) and helps to ensure that the referees are paid according to the rules DBU has defined.

'Dana Cup is very much a social football tournament and it rubs off on the referees as well. We enjoy ourselves when the last whistle of the day has blown. We have a closed Facebook page where we stay in contact throughout the year. Therefore, we would prefer that the referees stay here and are present the entire week. In this way we maintain the relationship with each other and we can quickly find a referee if the need arises,' Thorsten Vekens, Kasper Poulsen and Thomas Jensen stress.

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 2900 Games Before the Winners are Found

 When the last final has finished on Saturday, 2895 matches at Dana Cup 2016 have been played – 140 more than 2015. With 65 more teams than in 2015, naturally, more games are played and more pitches are needed.

'As a consequence, this year we use 70 football pitches against 65 last year,' explains the head of the tournament Ole Vang Bruun, who spends months putting the giant puzzle that will eventually become the world's third largest youth football tournament.

In fact, he could easily put all the registrations into a computer program and let the software do the rest.

'But as a service for the teams we try to accommodate the many special requests that clubs may have. Many clubs want that the games the clubs are involved in, do not take place at the same time since some players might play for more than one team. If for instance, we have eight teams from the Oslo area we make sure, as far as possible, that they do not immediately play each other. Moreover, we also try to organise games so that teams from a larger area do not meet in the first matches. If a country has two clubs in the tournament we place them in each tournament half, so that they do not meet before the final, just as my ambition is that all teams must have at least one match in the centre area, but with so many teams I see that there are teams that do not get to play in the centre area,' says Ole Vang Bruun with regret in his voice.

'This year, we have 284 groups of four teams each and 17 groups of five teams each. 90 of the 284 groups had special requests, so it can easily become a fairly comprehensive puzzle making all the wishes come true,' explains Ole Vang Bruun with remorse in his voice.

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