A young football star has the world at his feet after playing for Wales and rubbing shoulders with real life royalty and the Hollywood variety.
Cai Lloyd Evans, 17, who lives in Bangor and plays football for the Wrexham AFC youth team, was a member of the 20-strong Wales Schools Under 18 squad who took part in the 2023 Roma Caput Mundi tournament in Italy.
Cai’s mum Sandra, who is the manager at the award winning Bryn Seiont Newydd care home on the outskirts of Caernarfon, often takes Cai to the training sessions and regularly watches him play.
“I enjoy watching football and I am so proud that he was selected to play for Wales in this tournament,” she said.
Each squad member was required to raise sponsorship for the Italian trip and Pendine Park, the owners of Bryn Seiont Newydd, were happy to chip in via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust along with Huws Gray, added Sandra.
Cai, who is studying sports psychology at Coleg Menai in Llangefni has been a member of the Wrexham Youth set up for the past seven years travelling regularly to the Racecourse ground for training and playing games in the National League Alliance Under-19’s Division H.
So far this season Cai has played six games in the League and three in cup competitions.
He has also met Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, the Hollywood actors, who purchased the club two years ago.
“They came to the training ground and we were all presented to them and we shook hands. They asked us about the games we played and seemed very interested,” he said.
Ryan and Rob’s influence, said Cai, has been significant at the club and standards and expectations had been raised considerably in the past 18 months.
The two superstars were also present when King Charles III and the Queen Consort visited the club last November. The Royal couple were celebrating the city status conferred on Wrexham as part of the late Queens Platinum Jubilee in 2022.
“We were introduced to the King and Ryan and Rob were there and we shook hands,” said Cai.
The Italy trip was the first time Cai had been abroad in his footballing career but he’s determined it won’t be his last.
He said: “It was a really good trip and a great experience.”
The strapping six-foot centre back played in all three games played by the team during the week-long UEFA recognised tournament.
According to Cai, eight international teams were split into two groups with Wales lined up with Canada, San Marino and Lazio, a local team from Rome.
Although the Welsh team did not win any trophies everyone played well and enjoyed themselves.
“We were a goal up against Lazio in the first game but they equalised in the last few minutes so it was a draw at full time.
“We lost by two goals to nil against San Marino and by three goals to two against Canada, “said Cai.
Cai played the full 90 minutes of the first two games and 30 minutes as a second half substitute in the third match.
After jetting off to Italy the squad went first to Bologna, the home of sportswear company Macron who have their headquarters in the city.
Cai said the squad wears Macron kit and were able to use their training grounds for the first few days.
“The facilities are excellent and the first time we had a training session about 200 people turned up to watch. That has never happened at Wrexham before,” he commented.
Then the squad moved to Rome where they played their matches at the Borghesiana complex, the training headquarters of the Italian national football team in Rome.
The squad is run by the Welsh Schools Football Association and is managed by Marc Lloyd Williams.
In his younger days Marc was a prolific striker who played professionally for various clubs in the English and Welsh leagues before turning to management and is regularly heard commenting on games on television and radio.
He said the Roma Caput Mundi is a European invitational tournament featuring international national teams, amateur teams and schools or colleges teams and features the most promising schoolboys currently playing in the domestic game.
In addition to the three games the lads were able to go sightseeing in the Eternal City and sat on the famous Spanish Steps and threw coins into the Trevi fountain..
“We had an opportunity to visit the Stadio Olympico where the Italian international team play their matches as well as being the ground for Lazio and Roma. The stadium was used for the 1960 Olympic Games and has these huge statues all around it.
“We saw the changing rooms and went out and had a look at the pitch and had some photos taken. They were preparing the ground for a match so we weren’t able to go on the grass for a kick about,” he added.
Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE said: “We were delighted to support Cai as he took his first steps on football’s international stage.
“He is a very talented young player and we wish him all the best for the future.”