Sporting CP Visit 2017

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From Left: Terence, Pedro, Rui, Paulo, Andrea, Nuno, Terry, Joseph

Earlier in May, we spent 10 days in the capital of Portugal – Lisbon. The 17 hour flight from Singapore – Amsterdam – Lisbon was all exhausting but well worth for one main reason…FOOTBALL!  Spending every day either at Sporting CP’s main ground Estádio José Alvalade, or its youth training facility known as Academia Sporting in Alcochete, or visiting its various soccer schools, we had undoubtedly the best footballing experience and the greatest educational trip of our lives. In this blog, we will be sharing with you our amazing experience relating to the people we met and the things we learnt over the ten days. We have also included videos to help reader better visualise the sights and sounds of our experience.

 

Estádio José Alvalade

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Here is a view of the pitch from the VIP box we were seated in.

The home ground of Sporting CP, Estádio José Alvalade is iconic for many reasons, and one most fondly remembered was its official opening on the 6 August 2003 when Sporting played and beat Manchester United 3-1. That day also introduced the club’s most iconic modern footballer to the entire world, Cristiano Ronaldo. He would later go on to win multiple awards, both team and individual, and the opportunity to be present in the stadium where he introduced himself to the world was an incredible experience by itself.

We were at the stadium on the second day and was blessed to be able to catch Sporting’s last league game against Chaves. Terry and Terence were also invited to perform freestyle football for the 40,000 people in the stadium, an experience they would never forget. Unfortunately, the game was played in a trivial mood with both teams already securing their league positions regardless of the result. Sporting won the match 4-1 eventually but the warmth and friendliness Rui, Pedro, Nuno, and Andrea embraced us with from the very moment we met completed the pleasant evening.

On a separate day, we were taken on a stadium tour by a guide, walking through the media area and down into dressing room just like the players would do before a game. After which we were guided to the museum and it was there where we really understood how massive the club is. It is one thing to read the club’s achievements in words on the internet and another to physically witness the countless amount of trophies, cups and medals the club has won over the years. Memorabilia of their graduates who made a name for themselves on the international stage were neatly arranged in glass cabinets. There was also section dedicated to the 10 players who were involved in Portugal’s win over France in the Euro 2016 Final, all of which were also Sporting Academy graduates. Players include Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Moutinho, Jose Fonte, Cedric Shares, Rui Patricio, William Carvalho, Joao Nari, and Adrien Silva.

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Ronaldo memorabilia at Sporting CP’s museum
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Figo memorabilia at Sporting CP’s museum

Through the tour, as foreigner visitors detached of the club’s history, we learnt of an interesting fact that while Sporting CP is mainly associated to as a football club, it also played a major role in Portuguese sport with a section of its museum celebrating its achievements in track and field, tennis, basketball, cycling, among other sports, truly establishing Sporting CP as a sporting club.

 

Academia Sporting in Alcochete

On the third day, we headed 40km east from Lisbon to Academia Sporting in Alcochete where we spent our next four days watching training sessions and attending lessons. The academy was surrounded by farms and huge lands with cattle roaming free with the nearest mall or town square a 20 minute drive away. The academy was located in an extremely tranquil environment devoted to the housing and training of players and teams, U13 and older.

Upon arriving, we went past security, through the carpark and into the main building where we were greeted by Rui Reis, the Technical Director of Sporting CP Football Development. We shook hands, exchanged greetings before walking us to the main corridor where there was a wooden antique cabinet consisting of trophies won by the academy in local and international tournaments. There were also certificates and awards which were framed and mounted onto the wall. One of which was the ISO 9001:2008 certification, awarding the academy for its excellence in developing its students both athletically and academically. Academia Sporting was also the first and only sports academy to be awarded this prestigious certification, and in March 2016 received a stamp of renewal, further validation to the academy’s project.

In the same corridor consisted a glass cabinet which housed a Portuguese National Team jersey signed by the ten academy graduates who featured in the 2016 Euro Cup Final. It was at this moment that we realised how blessed we were to be able to live and learn from probably the best academy in the world. That moment was surreal.

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Rui showing us the certificates Academia Sporting have received

 

From there, Rui brought us to our accommodation which shared a common corridor with the rooms housing the academy boys:

 

Soon after we headed to the cookhouse for lunch. We were told by Rui that the meals were prepared by dieticians and the food cooked by the chef were specifically catered to meet the demands of football. From there, we got our food and seated at the table, we also began noticing that the boys were required to scan their cards at a machine to retrieve a slip of paper before queueing to receive their food. We asked Rui what was that all about and he explained that each player is provided a personalised diet to appropriately support their growth and development. Who would have thought that a football academy would go to the extent of managing the players’ diet at such a young age! We were amazed!

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Breakfast
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Lunch
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Dinner

 

A typical day for the academy boys would be to wake for breakfast before the academy bus brings them to school. Depending on the day, the boys will return in the afternoon for lunch before they rest for training. Training  is conducted from 7-9pm in the evening (summer). After training. Academy boys would then shower and head for dinner, while boys who live with their families in Lisbon will return to their own homes. Academy buses are arranged to bring these boys to training. Generally, most boys whose families are living in the other Portuguese cities will be housed in the academy (e.g. Cristiano Ronaldo who was from Madeira). As for us, we spent our mornings playing football in the sheltered pitch, having lessons with Rui in the afternoons before spending the evenings watching training sessions of the different age groups.

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Lessons with Rui
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Lessons with Rui, Nuno, and Andrea. We spent 2 hours discussing to create an exercise.             We were taught how to think.

 

Here is a video of the sheltered pitch which on a separate day we had the opportunity to meet the Sporting CP B Team:

 

Videos of Training Sessions in Academia Sporting:

 

 

 

 

Videos of a U11 friendly game played at Estádio Universitário de Lisboa which was located right across Estádio José Alvalade. This is also where the younger teams have their training.

 

In summary, the trip opened our eyes to realise how serious and dedicated Sporting CP takes in their development of youth players. It is no wonder they have played a huge role in developing the many players who are playing in Europe’s top leagues. We hope to bring what we have learnt back and implement it within our academy. This will be a long term project , it will take time and we know that our journey ahead will be a challenging one, however we know that we are moving towards the right direction! Trust the Process!

 

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