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RCD Espanyol, the first LaLiga club academy in SA, attracts over 5 000 players to its first trials

Part of the over 5 000 youngsters who attended the RCD Espanyol Academy trials in record numbers at St Stithians College. Photo: Supplied

Part of the over 5 000 youngsters who attended the RCD Espanyol Academy trials in record numbers at St Stithians College. Photo: Supplied

Published May 5, 2022

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Johannesburg — The recent trials for the RCD Espanyol Academy Johannesburg has broken all records — attracting over 5 000 junior male and female players — and has immediately placed RCD Espanyol de Barcelona on the map as an international brand in South Africa.

The RCD Espanyol Academy is the first academy of a LaLiga club based in South Africa and over the past two weekends from 23 April to 1 May the trials, attracted an extraordinary amount of trialists in the under 8 to under 19 age groups.

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Albert Saus, head of RCD Espanyol’s International Projects, was blown away by the huge turnout for the first trials held by the club in South Africa.

“The first days are a clear example of the club's impact in the country and the potential of this Academy in Johannesburg. We will keep on doing everything from our side to consolidate this project and ensure its success,” said Saus.

Bafana legend, Siphiwe Tshabalala, addressed the youngsters who participated in the RCD Epanyol Academy trials in Johannesburg. Photo: Supplied

The RCD Espanyol Academy is a partnership with local partner IBERCUP, an expert in the international youth football sector, responsible for hosting LaLiga Camps around the country and the Ibercup International Youth Football Tournament, with Vumatel as its headline sponsor.

“The support of players and parents has been overwhelming and a complete revelation for us. We had players arriving from Gauteng, the Western and Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Free State, and from as far afield as Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. With over 5 000 players going through the trial process, it proves this kind of initiative is desperately needed in South Africa. The talent pool was beyond exceptional, and we truly believe that given the rest of this year to develop the talent we will be in a strong position to compete as an Academy at the Ibercup in Portugal and at the Annual RCD Espanyol Tournament and make South Africa proud,” said Michael Bender, Chief Executive Officer of the RCD Espanyol Academy Johannesburg and Ibercup SA.

Former Bafana Bafana, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper, Brian Baloyi, has joined the Espanyol Academy as Head Goalkeeper Coach and is excited about what the academy could achieve for South African football.

“The interest in the Espanyol academy has been unbelievable. We’re getting highly skilled and talented youngsters coming from all walks of life. This is the first step of many to come. Personally, being involved in the academy of a LaLiga club is a big thing and a responsibility I do not take lightly. It’s brilliant, a real honour. More so in that one of my goalkeeping icons, Cameroon’s Thomas Nkono, is a former Espanyol player and is involved with the goalkeeping department of the club. He has helped provide many opportunities for young Cameroonian goalkeepers and I look forward to going to Spain to meet him. There is a lot I can learn from him and I am hoping to also develop young talent like he has. I am eager and can’t wait for this academy to really kick off,” said Baloyi.

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Michael Bender, Chief Executive Officer of the RCD Espanyol Academy Johannesburg and Ibercup SA, with some of the trialists who attended the academy’s successful trials in Johannesburg. Photo: Supplied

A major issue facing the selection process is providing for disadvantaged players who do not have the resources to attend.

Vumatel, the headline partner of the academy. provides for a bursary program which will see a large percentage of players who will have the opportunity to follow their dream thanks to their sponsorship.

“Vumatel was approached to provide support for these kids due to Vuma’s shared values with the academy: specifically creating opportunities that have the potential to change lives for individuals and communities. We understand the difficulties faced by many of these talented children, who — while fully deserving of the opportunity — simply do not have access to funding or resources to make their dream a reality. We are proud to be enabling children from all across South Africa, and Africa, to participate in this first-of-its kind international youth football tournament, and we look forward to seeing the long-term positive impact as the journey of our ongoing partnership continues into the future,” says Lianne Williams, Head of Marketing of Vumatel.

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The methodology of the RCD Espanyol academies are values, game play and learning model.

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On this foundation, RCD Espanyol de Barcelona fosters football talent while creating flexible and adaptable players and coaches, both in life and in the game.

IOL Sport

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