Saturday, December 08, 2001

Academy going on field trip

December 8, 2001 - Academy going on field trip - By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

No one really knows if somewhere in the group of 16 London Soccer Academy players heading to England tomorrow, there will be another Tyler Hemming.

The players and English First Division side Grimsby Town certainly hope so.

Hemming is the 16-year-old Londoner who played for London City of the Canadian Professional Soccer League. He's also a member of the Academy. He turned heads with Grimsby Town when he attended a tryout in October. He is expected to return to Grimsby in March, when he may be offered a contract.

Grimsby has a working relationship with the Academy, which under the tutelage of London City coach Jurek Gebczynski, works with players of all ages from all teams to improve their skills.

Ian Knight, Grimsby's director of youth development, has made several trips to London looking for talent. On one, he found Hemming. What was a dribble has become an open tap. This time around, he's focused on eight individuals.

"He identified eight younger boys he wanted me to get over," said Cam Vassallo of the Academy. "The idea is that they can't make any promises to 13- and 14-year-olds right now. But they wanted them to get a taste of what it's like to prepare them for the future couple of years down the road. (Knight) is very interested in the young ones.

"We aren't under any illusions. Younger boys will go over and find it tough. Hopefully they will impress them enough to ask them to come back."

Grimsby also allowed the Academy leeway in bringing other players it felt had potential for the purpose of scrimmaging. Eight others will go. The 16 players will leave tomorrow and return Dec. 21.

The boys will pay for their flight to England, while the eight invited by Knight will have their accommodations paid for.

"Our idea is to develop them to the standard of European players," Gebczynski said. "Our problem is the highest competitive league we have is the CPSL. We have to bring up those kids where they can easily play in the CPSL at the age of 15, 16, 17. Then we are pretty sure they might be able to compete."

Gebczynski believes the trip is important not only for the development of the players, but also to give them an idea of the standards in Europe. It's one of the reasons he's going as well.

"This is a good arrangement for us because everybody is looking for good players in Europe and with everyone looking, it's difficult to sign them," Gebczynski said. "That's why they look here for players."

Gebczynski is realistic about the possibility of a large group of players making it.

"Some kids will have a hard time over there," he said. "Some might be surprised at how difficult it is to be a professional. If they have potential, they'll be able to work on it. So the trip's a good thing. We want to see how those guys perform in a pressure situation."

Making the trip from North London Soccer Club are Michael Pereira, 12, and Tyler Carey 13. Going from London United are Fidel Villanueva, 14, Sergio Lesik, 14, and Angus Gordon, 14. The Greater London Soccer Club has four players going: Anthony Vassallo, 14, Adam Trevitt, 15, Anthony Mavrikkou, 16 and Brian Yanful, 16. Two players from Forest United, Arnold Kostkowski, 12, and David Kwiek, 13, will be heading to England. Geordan Moogk, 13, of Nucleo Sporting; Dan Barreiras, 16, of Southend United and three 16-year-old players from Windsor, Ryan Mendoca, John Grigorakis and Adrian Jaworski, round out the group.

Putting players in the ultra-competitive and intensive program of professional soccer in England is one way of finding out not only if a player has potential but if he has the desire to work for success. Gebczynski believes that to make it at that level, soccer has to be "in your blood." Skills are great but skills die without dedication.

"This trip might give kids the additional push because they see there is something at the end of the tunnel," he said. "They see the commitment is there. It's what I'm looking for. Cam used to call all those kids to come out to practice and I said, 'Cam, don't do that. If they don't want to come that's fine.' "

And he holds up Hemming as an example of exactly what a player can do with the right combination of skills, attitude and dedication.


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