This week, IMG Academy boy's soccer teams are training abroad in Lisbon, Portugal. It is a chance for them to experience international soccer, and to be able to observe and train with one of Portugal's premier clubs, Sporting Lisbon, and to compete against some of the top youth soccer players in the nation.
Forty-five IMG Academy players, accompanied by their coaches, made the journey. Each team is chronicling their experience, and our U19 team has checked in with their report on their first four days away. The U19 squad describes their accommodations, the elite competition they’re experiencing and much more.
IMG Academy U19 team, Days 1- 4:
Day 1: Traveling
There was an air of excitement when we stepped onto the bus to head out for the Tampa International airport. Although many of us on the U19 Portugal team have never had the privilege of playing together, we immediately got along well despite any language or cultural barriers. We flew from Tampa, Fla. to Newark, N.J., then from Newark to Lisbon, Portugal. Most of us rested on the plane, while others caught up with school work.
Day 2: First Day in Portugal
Because we arrived at 8:00 a.m. in Lisbon, our first and second day’s seemed to blend together. We checked into our hotel and scoped out the accommodations, which were quite nice. One of the better features of the hotel are the doorbells which when pressed, emit an earsplitting ringing that is great for waking up sleeping teammates. Later that evening, we visited the Sporting Club of Portugal’s futbol complex and had the pleasure of watching their U19 boys team beat another U19 team from north of Portugal, 1-0. The goal came in the closing minutes of the game. The sporting U19 team had recently beaten the boys from the U19 Liverpool team, 4-0. So what we were watching was truly the top tier of boys soccer for our age. How often do we get to see that in the United States?
Day 3: Getting to meet the coaches
After some much needed sleep, we awoke to a nice breakfast and then hit the books for our mandatory study hall. We then drove to Sporting’s complex and watched their U15 team play a local club team, who they dominated completely, passing them off the pitch without mercy. This was an eye-opening experience for the U17s as well as the U15s team, having a chance to see what play is like at the pro level for kids their age. After that, we took a tour of the facilities, which included a game room, a weight lifting center, a pool, incredible fields which rivaled our own, locker rooms and so on. Then we laced up our boots and trained for the first time on the trip. We met our two Portuguese coaches from Sporting Lisbon, who were both world class mentors of the game. The first training session went very well, and the players wasted no time getting comfortable and familiar with each other’s styles of play. After the practices we hit the showers, then drove straight away to see Benfica thrash Braga 3-0 at the stadium in Lisbon. The crowd was electric and we al had a great time. We retired right upon our return to the hotel to rest up for our first game.
Day 4: Game time
The morning kicked off with a good breakfast and study hall, quickly followed by a short, intense practice. We got some time after that to relax and rest up before our first game, which built up quite some excitement. The game kicked off and we scored and early goal, going up 1-0. After that, we scored again to make it 2-0 and looked as if we were on our way to victory. Unfortunately, we gave up a couple critical goals and ended up losing the match. However, we have practice again tomorrow and are looking to refine a few tactics and techniques.