The Journey to Becoming a Soccer Player | Teen Ink

The Journey to Becoming a Soccer Player

November 13, 2018
By BoidN04 GOLD, Charlotte, North Carolina
BoidN04 GOLD, Charlotte, North Carolina
16 articles 0 photos 7 comments

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I remember the first time I got called up to the U15 national soccer team. I can’t describe the feeling. It reassured me that my work and training all these years were not for nothing. I have been training for 8 years now, 3 of which under a professional training program. Millions of children across the world fight for glory to achieve their dreams. Little do they know how lucky and ruthless the football youth system can be.  Reaching the highest level of professional football, takes hard work and dedication, a good training regime, and most importantly luck.

Currently, I play for one of the top teams in Albania with one of the best coaches, in one of the best training facilities. We are the reigning champions of our age category and train very competitively, but are no match to  Europe’s top youth categories and teams. In our team there are about 20 people competing within the team for 11 places of the starting lineup. The selection process at Lazio’s youth academy, one of Rome’s most prestigious academies, for example,  comes from a 5-10 million people pool from the whole Lazio region. I remember going for a trial at Lazio’s U14 last year and learning all about the structure of their academy. When I reached the training facility I saw some boys who seemed considerably older as my dad told me jokingly, “Imagine if they are your age.” Then we all gathered in the field as the coach called us to begin the training session. Those boys we were joking about were my age after all. After the training my dad had found out about the selection process and turns out there had been a very specific selection of all the best players from other teams in the region. Their selection was based on the best of the best, out of so many people that tried out. It leaves you thinking how many other good players could have been left out.  Knowing I did well we leave Rome with a better impression of where I am compared to players playing at an international level. After experiences like this you truly realize how tough it is to break into the youth system all the way up to earning a spot in a first team in the first division.

My recent call up to the U15 Albanian National team was another example where the youth system can be very ruthless and competitive, where thousands of Albanian Football players compete for 23 places in the team sheet. 3 days into the call up, one of my friends expressed he had some pain in his thigh. As soon as the coach and staff found out about the mild injury, my friend was sent home and his replacement was there a few hours later. Just something as simple as that send him home, and shocked all of us still eligible to play. Later that week I felt a very small pain in my back and I panicked, something small like that could send me home. Thinking back about that week we were under so much pressure to perform and were requested to do everything well, one small mistake could get us out. I remember giving a wrong pass and all of a sudden I hear my coach shouting, “Is that how you want to play? You can never play with a terrible pass like that; such a disgrace, you need to make your place count.”  It made me realize how worthless I am and how replaceable I am in the eyes of coaches or scouts. You realize how many other people want your spot and how many other people are willing to do anything to replace you. Of course you can be very good and get noticed and make it up all the way up to the top class, but only about 20 people in the world make it to that level out of hundreds of millions who play football. Realizing the numbers and how the system works a young athlete needs to be smart and always do what he thinks is going to take him further, because sometimes there is nothing you can do to break the system. You need to be lucky, in the right place at the right time, and to benefit from anything you can.

The biggest step a footballer takes in his career is his jump from youth academy to signing his first contract as a professional. Making it to the last youth teams such as U19 or U21 is a already a great accomplishment but the biggest step is yet to come, and it’s the step where you make it or break it. I have had many experiences when many players from my academy, have tried to make it to a professional team. Signing a professional contract and landing a deal can be very hard. One of the guys who was thought to be one of the best in U19 category never got an offer from a good professional team and started playing for a mediocre team in Albania. Some others who were thought to not be as good went to top clubs in Europe. So sometimes it comes down to what positions the teams need and how they judge your playing style. Until U19,  players get paid a symbolic amount. Even in the top U19 teams they get paid something that does not even reward them for all the effort they put in. The reward is that there is a 25% chance you might get the contract that gets you an unimaginable amount of money; which comes once you sign the contract. Once you get to the professional world stakes are very high; there are sponsors, advertisers, managers, fans, and all attention is on you. One bad game and you lose all your status. To become professional you need to dedicate all your life to training and have started at a very young age, as the lifestyle of a professional footballer is not for everyone.


To become a top class footballer like, Messi and Ronaldo, you need to be extra dedicated, need to work extra hard, and also need to have a lot of luck. All the youth footballers compete for one goal; to reach professional. We all compete against each other in a system where one second we are worthless and another second we are worth millions. One wrong move can cost you your career, that move can be the difference between becoming a professional footballer or not, the stakes are very high and sometimes it is not up to you.

The author's comments:

I have been practicing soccer for 8 years now and am thinking about going professional in the future. This essay is just to give people with not a lot of sports background and people who want to start playing sports(in this case soccer) the insights of how to get to the top. It is a realistic description based on experience on how you can make it professional. 

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