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AC Milan may be here to stay

Justin Marville

AC Milan may be here to stay

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BARBADOS’ upcoming AC Milan experience might not be a short-lived one.
Hinging on the success of October’s historic junior camp, Barbados could be the site of the Italian club’s first permanent soccer academy in the eastern Caribbean.
Director of AC Milan’s operations in the Americas, Eddie Marles, revealed the possible initiative during yesterday’s press launch for the highly-anticipated Milan Junior Camp at Kensington Oval.
“Strategically, Barbados is one of the places that we would like to be in for this area,” said the Colombian-born Marles.
“What we’re hoping with this excellent organisation that we will have here in Barbados is a permanent programme where we would be able to have an AC Milan Soccer Academy that would be overseen by an AC Milan technical director that would come directly from Italy and be placed here throughout the season.
“We will go as far as St Lucia and that will be it for the Caribbean. We don’t want to saturate [because] it’s not a supermarket product.”
The junior academy would be the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean for the historic European club which originally made links with Barbados through the exploits of local club Pro-Shottas.
This was after Pro-Shottas’ impressive performance at AC Milan’s Continental Cup competition last year in Cleveland, Ohio, where the local club reached the semi-finals of both the under-14 and under-16 age groups.
Marles, who was present at that tournament, then expressed an interest to the club’s director, Greg Castagne, to have an AC Milan camp in Barbados.
“Previously we’ve always had the talent, often we had the dedication, but more often than not we failed to provide the opportunity, [but] we believe a camp of this quality can solve that problem by providing the vital missing link,” said Castagne.
“I share a dream with Sherlock Yarde of seeing a young Bajan on the European soccer stage and I hope this camp provides the opportunity to fulfil the talent and dedication required to make dreams come through.”
The camp, which runs from October 16 to 22, will expose about 100 children aged between six and 17 to the top-level training used at the club.
But Marles explained that this camp is just the first step in the programme, which could see the best local talents flying to Italy to participate in the Milan Junior Camp at the San Siro ground.
Spots for places on a couple age-grouped elite teams in Milan’s international junior tournaments might also be available for local players who impress.
It all ends with the junior college showcase, where the top American colleges come to scout the talented players that make it that far.
“We’re very fortunate to have this because it goes beyond AC Milan,” said Marles. “When we talk about the youth programme we talk about a series of elements we’ve created to provide opportunity to children and to provide continuity to the processes that they can get.
“In the last six years I’ve spent time formulating and articulating this network which allows me through all my international connections, FIFA agents, universities and different organisations to pick up my phone and tell them that ‘I have a player and I need you to come and take a look at him’ and it gets done.”
After his presentation, Marles handed out AC Milan insignias to the Pro-Shottas club, the Barbados Football Association, management of Kensington Oval and the local coaches’ body, before presenting an autographed Clarence Seedorf jersey to Castagne.