Venezuelan youth soccer academy sets sights on producing World Cup talent
By Carlos Seijas Meneses
Caracas, May 23 (EFE).- Since founding an academy for youth soccer players two and a half years ago at an abandoned parcel of land in Caracas, Jean Paul Chang has set his sights on a lofty goal: training future professionals capable of leading Venezuela to a first-ever World Cup berth.
“Everyone who works in junior soccer in Venezuela does so for one reason, and that reason is we want to see La Vinotinto (the national squad) in a World Cup, and that’s our small contribution, developing … soccer skills at the lower levels,” the 26-year-old Chang told Efe.
The Nuevo Talentos (New Talents) soccer academy, which has an agreement with the lot’s owners to train three days a week, also is focused on exporting star Venezuelan players, who he said have “everything you need to compete” at other clubs around the world.
“We have several contacts with teams from Germany, Spain, who are interested in players from here, from the academy, and we’re really proud of that because it tells us we’re doing things well … and that there’s talent in Venezuela,” the academy’s founder and director said of a country known for its star baseball players.
More than a dozen 12-year-olds are currently preparing to compete next month in the MadCup, an international youth soccer tournament in Madrid that features “super important (youth) teams” like “Juventus, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Boca (Juniors) and River Plate.”
“We started out with just a dream, and today we have a great academy, a great institution, that will represent us internationally. On June 22, we’ll be traveling to Madrid to play the MadCup in the U-12 category,” Chang said.
“Beyond competing, playing, we’re going to have a nice experience with the kids.”
A total of 140 children between the ages of four and 16 are enrolled at Nuevos Talentos, which began its journey with 30 students.
Thirty of these youth players currently receive full or partial scholarships, depending on their families’ economic situation, although the academy plans to expand that number as part of a plan to be implemented in August.
Six of those scholarship students will be traveling to Madrid and living out “their dream of leaving the country (and) setting foot inside those stadiums” where everyone “dreams of playing in as a kid,” Chang said.
One of those young recipients is Santiago Ferreria, whose family lives nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Caracas in Guatire, a city in Miranda state.
His father, 37-year-old Alvaro Ferreria, says being part of that academy and being able to travel to the Spanish capital to play is a “fantastic opportunity” for his son.
“I’m very grateful to (Chang) for this opportunity he’s giving my little guy … Most of the academies have a cost that’s quite high,” he told Efe.
Chang said his goal is for the academy to keep growing and eventually own its own training ground.
For now, however, he says seeing the academy’s shield at an international tournament is a source of immense pride. EFE