PORT HARDY—A small squad of soccer standouts got some top-class coaching last week as the International Futbol Scouting Academy kicked off a pilot project in search of the next Kevin Wasden.
Victoria-based program director John Soares and coach Carlos Almeida took a dozen youngsters through their paces at Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw school. And the group clearly made the grade, as the Academy will return to Port Hardy in early July, opening up to additional applicants.
Soares brings a wealth of experience from his years as a professional player in Europe, playing alongside the likes of Portuguese legend Luis Figo, 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year.
He also built up a slew of connections with coaching staff at some of the biggest clubs in the world.
His academy searches for the crème de la crème of young talent in western Canada and connects them with scouting programs at some of Europe’s football titans; clubs including Benfica, Barcelona, Porto, Sporting Lisbon and AC Milan.
But Soares was quick to point out that the program just opens doors for young players. “I want to make sure people understand that just because I’m a scout, I’m not an agent — there’s no percentage for me if they get picked up by a professional team.”
The program introduced the youngsters to a series of drills and testings, developed by leading coaches. Each participant received a personalized assessment highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.
Soares uses these assessments to recommend players for development programs and tryouts with the European sides, with the hope of getting scholarship and professional interest for the elite players.
Each player at the Academy also receives a nutritional information package, advising them on food choices and hydration, again modelled off the professional standard.
Soares explained that he had been on the North Island 10 years ago, when he was involved with a program in Port McNeill. “Small places always produce great players,” he said, adding the pilot group had impressed. “They’ve worked so hard; it’s unbelievable.
“I saw it 10 years ago. I thought, ‘Wow, these kids are good.’ They just need somebody to give them an opportunity.”
Coach Almeida said that the academy focussed on improving the players’ technical ability while encouraging creativity. “We’re definitely looking for those players that can go on to be university standard and pro standard,” he explained. “But we want to get them to love the game.”
Almeida said the pilot scheme had gone well and they had lined up further programs in Victoria in the coming weeks.
“It’s been awesome,” he said. “The community’s been great, these facilities have been perfect for us. I think this is a win-win for everybody.”
Both coaches and local organizer Scott Harris expressed thanks to the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations for facilitating the use of the school for the program.
The Academy will return to Port Hardy July 2-6. A registration of $250 per player for the five-day course includes a jersey and shorts, as well as the written assessment and nutritional package. The program is limited to 20 players per age group, with priority for players recommended by their coach.
For more information contact Soares at 250-590-1697 or firstname.lastname@example.org.