NO COACHING clinic could ever give these under-15s and 16s Mount Druitt Town Rangers the football lesson they learned in Portugal last month.
A team of 22 travelled to Lisbon to compete in the under-16s Vila Franca do Rosario International Tournament against some of the strongest soccer academies in South America.
The Rangers finished the tournament with one loss, a draw and a win. They won the fair play award and were the only team to take points off winners Sporting Lisbon.
The boys also attended the Portuguese Cup semi-final between Benfica and Porto.
The fanatical crowd made the Western Sydney Wanderers' Red and Black Bloc look tame, said Rangers football co-ordinator Scott Payer.
The squad were still in Portugal the day Benfica won their 33rd championship and 500,000 people packed the city centre to celebrate.
The Rangers were invited back to next year's tournament.
"The trip exceeded our expectations and the boys held their own," Payer said.
"Before we left, we weren't fussed on results. Our aim was to see where our football levels were at. Our under-16s coach Paul Ribiero is from Portugal and has taken his son back a few times.
"But he was very passionate about taking his players over, some of whom have been together since the under-9s."
Players are reaping the benefits.
"They have grown as footballers," Payer said.
"One boy scored a hat-trick last week who'd only scored a handful of goals before then.
"Playing against the best of the best has given the boys a belief in themselves."
Planning has already begun to plan for next year's tournament.
"We're looking at our current under-14s and the under-15s who will be eligible," Payer said.