YOUNG football fans across the world will be glued to their TVs as they watch the top stars fight it out for World Cup glory this month.
Many will be hoping to emulate their sporting heroes one day, and there is one football school on the Costa del Sol which is gunning to make this possible.
The Arsenal Soccer School in Sotogrande has been giving budding footballers the chance to learn how to play like today’s world beaters for almost three years.
Some 200 children – both boys and girls up to the age of 17 – are coached ‘the Arsenal way’ on a weekly basis.
Not only are they taught basic football technique but also mental and moral values.
“We teach respect, how to play in a team, think for themselves and make decisions. It is not just about football but also aiding their personal development,” explains the school’s Commercial Director Sara Rodriguez Blanco.
“Anyone can join and everyone is taught to play the Arsenal way with just three touches and lots of movement. We want to coach a fast way of playing football.”
And the young upstarts certainly receive every chance to put their finely-tuned skills into practice in the many competitions and matches arranged by the school.
Last month four lucky players were awarded the chance to flaunt their skills at a prestigious tournament in London.
“I was extremely proud of the side, it was such a brilliant experience for them – one I’m sure they will never forget.”
Members of the U10s team played at a three versus three event held at the sparkling Emirates stadium, home to Arsenal.
And the talented quartet surpassed all expectations with their dazzling performances.
Competing against 50 teams from the likes of Bahrain, Denmark and Greece, the Costa del Sol’s starlets managed to reach the final.
“The boys did ever so well,” says Sara. “I was extremely proud of the side, it was such a brilliant experience for them – one I’m sure they will never forget.”
Unfortunately, after rescuing a draw with a late equaliser, the talented crop lost because of a rule stating that – in the event of a stalemate – the team which scores first, wins.
But, in Easter, the boys achieved glory by winning the Iberian Trophy for Peace held in Castellar de la Frontera.
Teams from Gibraltar, Israel and Denmark competed at the popular three-day tournament.
Sara add: “It was a great success and we have already received interest from Italy, Portugal, Norway and Sweden for next year,” says Sara.
Yet emphasis is not only placed on the football-loving boys, but also on trying to encourage local girls to give the sport a go.
Despite women’s football growing in popularity in the likes of England and Germany, Spain is still lagging behind.
“The Arsenal women’s team is one of the best in Europe,” explains Sara.
“Compared to England and other countries there are definitely not enough girls playing football here in Spain.
“At the moment we train 30 girls on a weekly basis and programmes are run at the Sotogrande International School and the Puerto Blanco school in Algeciras.
“Sometimes the girls are better than the boys, it is important that we establish the game for girls at grass roots down here because the girls here can really play.”
Training sessions take place on Monday afternoons and the club runs schemes in another school in Algeciras.
Plans are afoot to extend projects with schools along the coast in Marbella and Cadiz, which are estimated to take member numbers up to an impressive 500.
And the expansion of the successful school looks nigh-on certain to breed further success.
For, according to Sara, a few lads have already received interest from no less than the champions of Spain among others.
“Some of our boys have had trials at Barcelona, Arsenal, and Wigan,” she reveals.
“Whatever comes of it, it is a great experience for them.”
No doubt about it, the future looks bright for the school, just as it does for Spain’s World Cup hopes in the coming weeks.
“Spain has a great chance of winning the trophy, they are the reigning European Champions,” explains Sara.
But the former UK resident of five years is less positive about England’s chances of glory.
“They are extremely inconsistent, and don’t seem to have an established pattern of play.
“I think they could learn a few things from our boys!”
You certainly wouldn’t disagree with her.
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