Dreaming of becoming a professional soccer player

Posted by Gonzalo Aguirregomezcorta

LOS ANGELES -- We all dream of this. What kid hasn't dreamed at one time or another of becoming a star on the world soccer stage? Of being a Cristiano Ronaldo or a Lionel Messi? Of playing on their favorite team or representing their country in a World Cup? Dreaming is free. But struggling to make one's dreams a reality takes a lot of work and sacrifice.

Recently 46 players aged 14 to 18 years (players eligible for the under 15 and under 19 squads) brought their dreams a bit closer to reality thanks to a decade-old initiative. Alianza del Futbol (The Football Alliance) started out with the objective of showcasing the best young players in the country and giving them the chance to be seen by different teams in Mexico as well as the soccer federations of Mexico and the United States.

The directors of youth academies from the best teams in Mexico (Chivas de Guadalajara, Club America, Pumas UNAM, Pachuca, among others) attended the event with the purpose of inviting the most promising players to become part of their developmental programs.

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"We are trying to detect young players with soccer talent with promising potential," commented Jorge Valtonra, director of Pumas Youth Academy. "At Pumas we put a lot of value on sporting development and we can find it in these kids," he said.

The players had three games to showcase their skills which ended on a festive note in Los Angeles, although they had already visited several American cities in search of the most outstanding young soccer players.

The Mexican and American soccer federations went all in with the Sueno Alianza (Alliance Dream) program and together closely supervised the development of the players. Jose Enrique Vaca, for Mexico and Hugo Perez for the Americans were in charge of managing the games for both categories with the aim of not missing out on the progress of the best players.

"We are looking for players we don't usually get to see, who can otherwise be seen by scouts from Mexican teams," explained Vaca. "This is the first time the two federations are working on a joint project aimed at improving opportunities that these kids might have, both in Mexican soccer and for the United States national team and the academies or scholastic teams of the United States as well as in Mexico," he explained.

Competition in both countries is healthy since in the end it is the players themselves and their families who make the decision about which country they will play for.

"The player and his family must choose whether to play for Mexico or for the United States. My job is to make sure that this opportunity is there for them," said Perez. "Obviously, we want the players to stay here, but it is the families who decide."

The most eagerly anticipated moment was at the end when 115 invitations were made. 27 players received some sort of invitation with Jonathan Gonzalez getting the most, receiving 16 invitations making him the standout player of the initiative. Luis Arreola was another of the standouts receiving interest from 11 different teams. A total of 115 invitations were extended that night.

These kids will have the opportunity to improve their soccer skills and in many cases with their preferred teams. They have a long road to travel and there remains much to be learned. However, what is certain is that these 27 players now are closer to realizing their dreams.

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