IN what can only be described as the opportunity of a lifetime, three Dubbo representative soccer players have recently returned from Brazil where they “lived the dream” training and playing at world-class facilities.
Dubbo’s Kobe Rapley and Jarrod Miller and Peak Hill’s Cameron Kopp, who attends St John’s College in Dubbo, were among 10 players from the Bathurst-based Western Mariners club who accepted an invitation to train and play in Rio and Sao Paulo.
The boys, aged from 12 to 14, were invited to attend a four-day camp at Oscar Inn Academy, about 200km from Sao Paulo, where they trained under leading Brazilian coaches and played with some of the best young talent in the soccer-obsessed country.
The academy is owned by Oscar Bernardi, who played for the Brazilian national team in three World Cups and was captain of the 1982 team in Spain. At the end of his playing career he coached several top teams in Brazil and abroad.
The training facility offers accommodation dormitories, indoor and outdoor pools, sauna, weight room and official size soccer fields. The academy focuses on youth development and currently has up to 100 players aged 14-21 in its regular training program all vying to secure lucrative contracts with leading teams from around the world.
For many of the Brazilian players soccer is a “need”, not just a sport, as it is their only way out of the dire poverty which is an everyday part of their lives - a real eye opener for the local boys. After leaving Rio the tour group was hosted by famous Rio-based club Botafogo, where the boys were again privileged to be trained by the Botafogo coaches and played games against their teams.
At the end of each game the western area boys were mixed with the Brazilian boys and played one another - another wonderful experience for them which showed language was no barrier to friendship and good fun. Fourteen-year-old Kobe Rapley described it as the highlight of his two-week trip.
“Kaide did a great job. Nobody would have known he wasn’t in the team - he just fitted right in,’’ Cameron said.
“The training was very intense and, combined with the heat, certainly tested us but there was no way you would miss an opportunity like that.
“The coaches were really great and it was really exciting to play alongside the Brazilian players.
“Many people have asked about the results of the games and while we did have a 10-0 win, a draw and a couple of losses it wasn’t about the score. It was about the friendships formed, the training and the opportunity to live our dream in soccer-mad Brazil.
“When we went to a big game we were told not to wear any team colours as the supporters are so passionate about their teams that it may cause trouble. However the fans we sat near at the game were totally enthralled in the game, singing and chanting and religiously supporting their team.’’
Cameron said it was a bit daunting to see police outside the soccer stadium with semi-automatic weapons, police on horseback and police cars on the field.
“But there were no problems. Everyone was very friendly and they even tried to teach us their chant so we could join in. The noise, the crowd - it was an awesome experience.’’
Goalie Jarrod Miller, who this year played in the Western Mariners under-13 team, certainly had his skills put to the test in Brazil but also found it a great learning experience.
Upon their arrival back in Australia the boys were gutted to find out Western Mariners had not been included in the revamped Football NSW Sydney-based competition.
The club has appealed the decision as it effectively robs talented country players of a pathway to greater things unless they relocate to Sydney.
The appeal was due to be heard this week and it is hoped the many talented country players who have committed to his competition in the past will still be able to play the game they love at an elite level.