Auck­lan­der bound for FC Barcelona

Central Leader - - HEALTH & BEAUTY - SAMHEWAT

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.’’

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