Cardiff Met FC students live the UEFA Europa League fairy tale dream

Incredible stories around football usually amaze supporters and global football fans. The latest milestone leads us to Cardiff, Wales. There, Cardiff Met FC players have been occupied not only with exams but facing the previous step from qualifying for the Europa League.

They ultimately succeed in the Welsh Premier League play-off final after sealing their tickets to a European pro experience overcoming Bala Town in a dramatic penalty shoot-out win.

This means that they will play in the Europa League preliminary round at the end of June. Some of the players are already dreaming of an eventual matchup with Wolverhampton or Manchester United if they advance more rounds in the competition.

Also, they will receive £193,000 for qualifying, but their players will not be rewarded with a bonus and they will still have to pay £150 in membership fees along with different course work and assignments.

The fairy tale story is not finish as the same case occurred for Cardiff Met Women, whose success this season has ensured them a place in the Champions League qualifiers.

“For a lot of people out there they can’t comprehend the players paying to play,” Cardiff Met men’s manager Christian Edwards said.

Edwards must be the only manager in the Europa League who has the mantra of “study comes first, football is secondary”.

“No one is pushed into signing for us – they sign for us because they know the implicit rules,” he continued.

“They know before they come to the football club what it takes to be part of us.

“They see an added value of that dual career athlete where they can have an education and still play sport at a high level and that fits in with what they do.

“We develop them as young men to have good career prospects and that they play football at as high a standard that they want.

“We won’t be able to pay the players, but what we offer them then is an opportunity to play European football and that will be our unique selling point.”

Indeed, not many teams can offer a potential showdown with Wolverhampton Wanderers or Manchester United as a cherry on top.

The Archers’ seventh spot in the Welsh Premier League secured a place in the end of season play-off and they won 3-2 at Caernarfon Town in the semi-finals to secure their place in the final.

The climax to the Welsh Premier League season coincided with the final weeks of the academic year, with players having to balance their studies with the pursuit of European football.

“Most of the team is made up of postgraduate students, who don’t have exams, but they still have assignments that needed to be submitted,” added Dr Edwards, a senior lecturer in sports coaching at the university and a former Wales international footballer.

“A couple of the younger lads did have exams, but they’ve time managed that well and that’s credit to them because it would be easy just to focus on the football.

“But they’ve got a good balance in what to do and what comes first and ultimately it’s to study and football is secondary.

“But in the last few days you can’t help but think that the football has come first because of the nature of the game and what’s happened.”

Elliott Evans scored the winning penalty at Bala to secure Met’s European spot and conclude a successful season in which they had already won the Nathaniel MG Cup earlier in the campaign. A marvelous and special football story starred by the Archers.