Coming from a country where lacrosse is the national sport and hockey plays a close second, a young group of soccer players from Langley travelled to Spain to learn from some of the “very best” in the world of soccer.
Langley United Soccer Association send a group of 13 under-12 (U12) players (accompanied by 11 parents and the technical director) to Spain recently to train and to play a number of games against some of their Spanish peers.
This trip gave the young Langley players an opportunity to see soccer at its highest level, said Mike Thomson. He’s a father of one of the Langley players, Nick, and went along on the trip.
The kids had the chance to “experience real soccer culture and feel the passion – live,” Thomson said.
“The boys got to train with great coaches, play against incredible opponents, and watch some of the very best players – live. How could you not come away from an experience like that without a deeper love for the game. These boys have gained a new appreciation for a sport they already loved. This can’t help but grow them as players,” he added.
The LUSA have sent local players to Bolton, England five times since 2010, and this was their fifth international trip in six years, explained Mark Parker, the association’s technical director.
“In three words I would describe the experience as ‘an eye opener’ for the parents and players,” Parker said.
“The level of play that we need to elevate ourselves to is a huge step, the intensity these Spanish kids play at, the intensity they train at, for our Langley players to see and witness this, will only improve them as players.”
The kids were hosted in the official Spanish national training centre, calling the accommodations and the facilities in general “world class.”
For young Langley player Matteo Fronteddu described it as an education like no other.
“I learned that we need to train harder and with more intensity as a team. I need to practice on my own juggling and work on my footwork,” Fronteddu said.
“Hard work pays off, and if we’re willing to put in the effort, we can take our game to the next level. I am very inspired by the high level of play we experienced in Spain.”
The Langley United team was represented from boy from four different teams, and according to Fronteddu it took a bit of time to “find our groove together.”
How did they match up against their Spanish counterparts?
“I think the longer we stayed and trained together, the better we played. I wish that we could have play some of the teams again,” Fronteddu said.
“The Spanish teams play more aggressively. They didn’t give us much time to set up, and we needed to adjust our game to a much quicker pace.”
But all that aside, he and his Langley teammate learned a lot from both the players and the Spanish coach that trained with them, and were grateful for the experience.
“I liked the higher level of game [the coach] expected us to play. He was tough but in a good way,” Fronteddu said.
Parker is hopeful the boys can now apply what they’ve learned from this trip to their play on local fields.
As for the highlight of the trip, Fronteddu said that’s easy:
“In our last international game, we gave the opposing teams our jerseys. The gratitude the Spanish boys showed us made us all smile. They treated us like superstars, and even asked us for our autographs. However, it was our team that was in awe of them and the whole way all the Spanish teams train, play and live the game of soccer.”