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Cardiff Met ‘representing student population of the UK’ in Europa League

The Welsh Premier League side will play Luxembourg outfit Progres Niederkorn in the preliminary round.

A detailed view of the Europa League trophy on display
A detailed view of the Europa League trophy on display

Cardiff Metropolitan University players will look to pass an altogether different test when they become the first British student-only team to play in European competition.

Met will play Luxembourg outfit Progres Niederkorn – conquerors of Rangers two years ago – in the Europa League on Thursday, dreaming of meeting Arsenal or Manchester United in the competition.

But that is only part of the story for a team dubbed Britain’s brainiest, with most of the squad studying for PhDs and Masters.

The Welsh Premier League side will bank £193,000 for playing in the preliminary round of the Europa League, but the players will not make a penny from the club’s European adventure, instead stumping up £150 in membership fees on top of their coursework and assignments.

“The buy-in we have is ridiculous,” concedes manager Christian Edwards, the former Swansea, Nottingham Forest and Wales defender who has steered Met through the Welsh pyramid structure during his 10 years on campus.

“But we have a unique model and it would be foolish if you tried to copy it.

“It’s different to the professional clubs in our league, but we have uncertainty. And with uncertainty you have risk, which keeps you on the edge of your chair.”

Although there is no payment, university scholarships are available to Met players.

Edwards, who also lectures at the university and combines football management with washing the kit – “I drive my wife mad as I’ve been through 10 washing machines and tumble dryers over the years” – makes it clear to any prospective player what life at Met is all about.

“When the players turn up, there is no contract to be signed,” said Edwards.

“The greatest contract you can have is that they want to be here. The reward is elsewhere, the relationships that they forge in making lifelong friends.

“As long as we’ve got that bond and understanding, I think we’ll do very well.

“The moment we go against our principles and start throwing money around is the moment we’ve got a problem. As long as I’m in charge that will never happen.”

Met twice went close to qualifying for Europe before beating Bala in a play-off penalty shoot-out to claim Wales’ last European place.

Well-wishers were from far and wide. The University of Moscow got in touch to offer its congratulations, as did other educational establishments in Canada and South Korea.

“We are representing the student population of the UK, as well as the city of Cardiff and Wales,” said Edwards.

“We are very proud to be the flag bearer but we also know this is new ground for us.”

Edwards says Met’s initial aim is to keep the tie alive for the second leg, which will be played at Cardiff’s Leckwith Stadium rather than the Archers’ Cyncoed campus.

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