Aucklander bound for FC Barcelona
A 12-year-old Aucklander has been selected to train at one of the world’s most iconic football clubs in Spain later this year.
Balmoral School student Artur Semmkeneto has been invited to train at the FCB Escola in Barcelona, the flagship FC Barcelona school aimed at boys and girls between six and 18 years of age.
The Escola is a popular pathway to La Masia, Barcelona’s youth academy which has churned out some of the world’s best footballers including Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Cesc Fabregas.
He was given the opportunity after Barcelona coaches came out to New Zealand to run a training camp in conjunction with Auckland City FC’s Player Development Programme (PDP) - now in its second year.
They liked what they saw, and invited Semmkeneto to train with the Escola for two weeks later this year - an opportunity which matches his passion for the game.
‘‘The first day I saw a football I said ‘this is my sport’,’’ Semmkeneto said.
‘‘It’s my dream to play professional football and to play for Barcelona.’’
Semmkeneto’s family moved from football-mad Brazil to New Zealand in 2015, where he joined the Auckland City PDP.
It was the first time Semmkeneto had played proper football outdoors - with most Brazilians playing the indoor game of futsal when they grow up.
Auckland City’s PDP head coach Simon Richards said they immediately saw Semmkeneto’s talent.
‘‘For somebody of his age, he has incredible technical ability and now it’s just a question of developing that,’’ Richards said.
‘‘If it was a chess game, he’d be one or two moves ahead. His vision and awareness, he’s thinking ahead of the other players.’’
Auckland City’s PDP players train twice a week with games on Sundays during the off season. They aim to develop the next breed of Auckland talent at a club that’s won six national championships and seven OFC Champions League titles.
But it’s not just about football, and Richards said there was an equal focus on life outside the game.
‘‘He’s still a 12-year-old boy, and we need to treat him like that and not a 12-year-old prodigy,’’ Richards said.
‘‘We want to make him a good person as well as a good footballer.’’