Total Futbol Academy Takes on Europe with Manchester City and MIC Cup Trip
April was an important month for Total Futbol Academy (TFA), with two major trips to Europe for players and coaches. The month opened with the annual TFA coaching clinic at FC Barcelona for partners within the Total Futbol collaboration program and wrapped up with the TFA Academy 2002 team visiting Manchester City and competing in the MIC Cup in Spain.
A dozen coaches from TFA and affiliates headed to the storied Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona, for a week-long clinic managed by an international staff that includes veterans of the Barca Academy and Barcelona Veterans Association. Coaches were provided with intense instruction in the Barcelona Way of training players. They also had the opportunity to watch and study Barcelona Academy teams train during evening sessions and watch the club’s Second Division (Barca B) and U19 (Juvenile A) teams train during the day.
Among the coaches participating in the clinic were Daniel Rogers, head coach of the TFA Academy 2002 team and assistant coach Geovani Alvarez. The two were able to take the lessons learned at Barcelona with them when they joined the Academy team in Manchester City for four days of preparation for the MIC Cup.
At Manchester City the team was able to train on the same fields that some of the club’s Academy teams use, as well as meet important members of the program such as Manchester City Football Development Executive Patrick Viera. At the end of their stay, the team took on a Manchester City Academy team in a friendly scrimmage, which the Americans won 4-3.
Then it was south to the sunny northern Mediterranean coast of Spain for the 14th annual Mediterranean International Cup, better known as the MIC Cup, which takes place along the Costa Brava near Gerona. The TFA Academy team arrived ready to play and looking forward to showing the quality of soccer America can provide.
TFA’s first game, an evening match on April 16, ended in a 2-0 loss to Spanish club UE Olot, but the team quickly righted themselves for the next day. A morning match saw them post a convincing 5-1 win against Spain’s Esport Club Granollers, setting up the team’s most memorable match of the entire trip – a face-off with Real Madrid. The Americans put it all on the line in this game, leaving everything on the field to earn a solid 2-2 draw with the Spanish giants.
The dust had barely settled the next day when TFA took the pitch against another storied club, Netherland’s AFC Ajax, in a Quarterfinal round match. The Americans played their hearts out once again, but could not quite match the Dutch boys in a 4-3 loss. One final match remained, and TFA closed out the MIC Cup with a 1-1 draw with Spain’s Vic Riuprimer Refo.
While the team did not reach the final rounds of competition, they certainly came away having proven the quality of soccer they could play. After their draw with Real Madrid, several major pro Academies, including Manchester United, Real Madrid and AFC Ajax made a point of reaching out to TFA President Paul Walker and his coaches to discuss their program a specific players they were interested in.
“It was a wonderful networking opportunity,” said Walker. “The tournament placed us in the same hotel as all the big Academies were staying, so we were around them morning, noon and night. We plan these trips in part to gain attention for our program and to showcase our players to these professional Academies. We also want to begin relationships with them.”
In order to provide the players and coaches with this opportunity, Walker says that TFA completely funds the trips. The benefits for all involved go far beyond actual playing and coaching experiences.
“There are several ways our players benefit from these trips, including the exposure to new cultures, to soccer at the highest level, and to top professional Academies,” said Walker. “But mostly they benefit in their overall knowledge and maturity as well as a belief in themselves, knowing that they are as good as any of these players within these giant academies.”
“Every player that has participated on these trips comes back a different person both on and off the field,” Walker explained. “There are so many life lessons learned from these trips that all affect their overall maturity, confidence, determination, vision and goals. What they gain in terms of soccer is a clear understanding of what level in their development they’re at and where it is they need to get to.”
Walker and his team are already looking ahead to 2015 when they club again plans to send coaches to the FC Barcelona clinic and a team to the MIC Cup. As for the club’s network of contacts, that has already born fruit with the recent signing of TFA product Tyler Stierli with the Manchester City Academy.