PORT HARDY—Some local soccer standouts could soon be rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite after impressing coach John Soares.
Soares is the technical director and coach for the International Futbol Scouting Academy, which came to Port Hardy last week to offer high-calibre soccer coaching and assessments to top North Island players.
During a successful playing career Soares developed relationships with some of the bastions of European football — marquee clubs like Barcelona and Benfica. Now he travels Canada, passing on his knowledge and looking for those with the potential to try out for the first-rate youth programs hosted by those big-name clubs.
And last week he may just have found some.
Soares said several players of the 15 participating had potential, with three senior boys in particular catching his eye as possible candidates for European tryouts. But they’ll have to work for it, with Soares handing out instructions on areas of the game they need to work on.
“I’ll come back around spring break and then we’ll see,” he said. “They can all do it, but the attitude has to be right.”
It wasn’t just the boys who shone during the soccer camp, Soares said, with several of the girls showing the potential for university-level play — provided their grades are up to scratch. “They’ll need the grades,” he said. “It’s the difference between paying $20,000 and getting a $50,000 scholarship.”
Soares said that even the experience of trying out would benefit the players and their game.
“We’re talking about the elite,” he said. “When you play with top players you learn more, you have to push (yourself).”
The coach stressed that he was not an agent or broker — he receives no percentage of any deals made by successful players, and his program is simply a way of connecting top clubs with top players.
The participants were put through their paces in a series of drills and exercises based on the professional standards Soares himself experienced as a player.
Each of the participants in the program received a personalized assessment highlighting strengths and areas to work on, as well as a nutritional guide and a Futbol Academy kit.
The coach ran a pilot program last December on the North Island and was impressed enough with the standard to return last week. Soares explained then that he had been on the North Island 10 years ago, when he was involved with a program in Port McNeill and saw the potential in local players. “Small places always produce great players,” he said.
Soares and his program will return in spring for another round of training and assessment.