Special to The Morning Star
All Daxton Podollan cared about as an eight year old was kicking a soccer ball.
Now, eight years later, that passion along with hard work and dedication on the training grounds has transformed into an opportunity for the young Podollan to get a first-hand taste of what it takes to become a professional footballer.
Courtesy of his Brazilian coach Thiago Menezes — himself once a professional player in South America and Europe — Podollan will be travelling to the European hotbed of player development, Portugal, to train for five weeks with professional club Portimao FC.
Menezes, head coach of Okanagan futsal club Da Rua FC, prides himself in being able to recognize potential and believes the young Podollan has what it takes to succeed in the rough and tough world of professional soccer.
The eight-week program consists of three weeks of one-on-one work with coach and player during which time the player’s potential is assessed and vital “insider” information on the world of a professional soccer player is shared.
Following the initial “preparatory stage” the player is assigned to a Portuguese professional club for five weeks of high-level training and competition.
While Podollan can expect many challenges, not the least being instruction in another language, he will also be coached at a level that he would never have been exposed to before. A typical week would consist of two field training sessions, morning and afternoon from Monday to Friday along with regular gym and classroom sessions.
As described by Menezes, this is not a “try out” as understood by most soccer followers but an opportunity to train with a professional football club and get a taste of what it would take to make it to the top of the sport.
Depending on performance and club situation, the player may receive an offer to stay or an invite to come back at a later stage, but at a minimum the player has had an opportunity to assess their own worth and get a view of the sport that up to now very few Canadian youth have had a chance to experience.
While such an opportunity may at first seem like a dream for most soccer players, it is not focused on the exceptionally gifted player, but more importantly geared towards those that have the ability, passion and work ethic to succeed. Something Podollan has shown he has plenty of.
While it’s been a wild ride, from being identified and nominated for the program by Ian Murphy at Da Rua FC to being evaluated by Menezes before being recommended to Daniel Fernandes of True Player Athletic and Arlesio of Portugal Sports Camps, Podollan is excited about the prospect of showing what he can do while finding out what he still needs to learn to become an even better player.