Earlier this year we introduced you to a program we’re working on with PUMA and the Italian Federation (FIGC) called Il Viaggio. This program provides male players in the U.S. and Canada born in 2000 and 2001 the opportunity to be selected for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy to experience the Italian soccer culture. In April, three Regional Trials were held in Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto. From those three events, 30 players were invited to attend the National Trial held in Orlando, FL from August 5-7th.
The players arrived on Friday, August 5th, many of whom had never experienced the wonderful Florida heat and humidity – surprise! We stayed at Disney’s lovely BoardWalk Inn Resort, which served as a great host and a great introduction to the Disney magic for kids, the majority of whom had never been to Disney World.
Once the players arrived and settled in, we held our first team meeting of the weekend to go over the days ahead. Following the meeting, the players received their PUMA gear for the weekend and we had a great barbecue dinner before settling in for the night and preparing for the first training session in the morning at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Following breakfast, the group departed for the first training session and were joined by Attilio Sorbi from the FIGC, who served as coach and mentor throughout the weekend.
The first two training sessions went well and focused first on technical play and short combinations, then 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 attacking/defending.
On the field, the kids all wore the latest and greatest from PUMA, including the recently launched evoPOWER, evoSPEED, and evoTOUCHED boots.
Following the second session, we took the players to Disney’s Epcot and walked around the park. One of the bonuses of Il Viaggio is that it exposes players from the U.S. and Canada to different styles of play, different players, and different cultures. There’s no better place to celebrate culture and diversity than Epcot. Once we got to the Italian section of the park, the kids were elated when they realized we had a private, outdoor dinner for them right on the lake with a perfect view of Epcot’s fireworks display.
Following the last training session on Sunday morning, anticipation was at an all-time high as we prepared to announce the 16 players chosen to attend the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy.
To make the player selection more memorable we created mock plane tickets for a Bachelor/Bachelorette-style rose ceremony.
At the end of the day, only 16 players could be chosen for the trip to Italy. Congratulations to the seven Canadians and nine Americans chosen!
The last leg of the Italian journey is two weeks away. Stay tuned for a full recap of our trip to Italy!