Cardiff Met University FC are exactly what it says on the tin: a football team of university students, run by volunteers and those who work there. But unlike most university teams, Cardiff Met created history at the end of last season and endured a summer they will never forget.
For the first time in the club’s history, the university boys managed to finish fourth in the top tier of the Welsh Premier League. The prize, you ask? A place in the Europa League qualifiers.
The team from the university had the opportunity to test themselves against a top European side. Each player was not to feel the financial benefit from their success either, who still pay (yes pay) £150 a year in order to play for the university. It’s certainly a pinch-yourself kind of moment for the players.
Their efforts saw them come up against Progrès, a side which famously dumped Rangers out of the Europa League only a few years ago.
To put their achievement into context, Wolverhampton Wanderers, who had previously finished sixth in the Premier League, were also going through the same process as Cardiff Met University was.
This was a side which managed to stay unbeaten against the so-called top five teams at home in the Premier League last campaign. So, it wasn’t your smaller sides making an appearance in the early rounds of the Europa League. Steven Gerrard’s Rangers also had to jump through a few hoops if they were able to reach the group stages.
Wolves have started their Premier League campaign with some promise, once again securing points from Manchester United at home in a 1-1 draw. You can bet on the English Premier League winner 2019/20, with Liverpool, Arsenal and Man United all hoping to get closer to Man City this time around.
Cardiff Met had to travel to Progrès for the first leg. Their ambitions were to make sure they were in the second leg by the end of tie, which they achieved. Despite a 1-0 loss, the boys remained optimistic for the second leg a week later. At odds of 1/12, Progrès were meant to give the University students a hiding, but that never came.
In fact, in the second leg, Cardiff Met went one better. The university boys managed to win the tie 2-1, but were unfortunately knocked out on away goals, having failed to score in the first leg.
Away from the disappointment, the Cardiff Met University team would never have expected in a million years to be competing in the Europa League, which is one hell of an achievement for the side.
Cardiff were rewarded with almost £200,000 for reaching the first qualifying round, and the prize money will be spent on new equipment and maintaining the pitches, all in hope for another European trip in the near future.
One thing for sure, Cardiff Met University have put themselves and Wales well and truly on the map. Despite losing the tie, the 2-1 home win against Progrès will live long in the memory for all involved with the university.