BUCHAREST – About 100 Romanian children harboring dreams of becoming the next big stars in the world of soccer have for months been turning up to training at the Valencia Soccer Club in Bucharest.
The academy, which opened its doors to young soccer fans in September 2017, is sponsored by former Romanian players Adrian Ilie and Miodrag Belodedici – who both had stints at Spain’s Valencia CF – and aims to implant the culture of the Spanish side into the Eastern European country, as well as discover possible future stars.
“It all started two years ago with the creation of the Atletico Madrid Royal Sport Academy, with which we became national champions in two categories,” the school’s manager, Valentin Matei, told EFE.
“But we decided to start a better project,” he added.
“I saw on the internet that the academy was opening and I said to myself, I want to play on that team,” said eight-year-old Robert Cristescu, who wears the number 10 shirt for his favorite players, Valencia’s Dani Parejo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
Another player, Felip Andrei, whose mother drives an hour to get him to training three times a week, also had dreams of becoming professional.
“I like matches the most and being with my friends,” said Andrei, who plays center-back.
The academy employs three trainers who have experience coaching minors, but the list of staff continues to grow toward to goal of being able to train 500 players.
“That the kids come, play for pleasure, have fun, try to win the matches and enjoy every minute on the pitch is what satisfies us for now,” Mattei said.
But the school, whose players pay a monthly fee of 42 euros ($52), also aims to train its students “beyond soccer,” by attempting to instill in them appropriate behavior and how to perform well at school.
“If a player doesn’t have certain social values, it will be hard to become a professional,” said Ruben Rodriguez, a coordinator at the school, pointing out that there were always exceptions.
The academy also offers additional social and sports activities, such as visiting the headquarters of the club in Valencia or taking part in international tournaments.
At the end of last year, the children visited the club’s stadium in Valencia and met players from the first team.
And in summer, they are set to travel to Portugal to compete in the IBERCUP soccer competition.
“They’re exciting activities for kids, and they’re important because they can soak up Valencia’s values,” Rodriguez said.