Local soccer players are getting a taste of European-style soccer this week during a training camp at Liberty Independent Troop Park.
Atlanta Calcio Academy head coach Gavino Asteghene, a native of Italy, and assistant coach David Sexton have 60 years of combined experience training the top soccer prospects in the nation and working as international scouts. This week, the duo — along with former professional Italian soccer player and goalkeeper Francesco Macri — have been putting campers through drills encompassing the footwork and kicks traditionally used by European players.
The camp came together after Asteghene reconnected with his longtime friend, First Presbyterian Christian Academy and Hinesville Gators coach Tom Sukaratana, in February. At that time, the FPCA soccer teams were preparing for the state tournaments, and Astegehene brought in his specialized training and worked with the athletes.
The FPCA girls went on to win a state title, while the boys were the state’s runners up.
Asteghene said he saw great things during February’s training and wanted to offer local kids an opportunity.
“After I did the training session for (Sukaratana’s) high-school students, I felt that there was a lot of talent here, so I told Tom I would come and would set up professional training here in the summer … I hope to find maybe five players that I could take to Europe and showcase in the spring,” Asteghene said.
He holds several specialized camps throughout Georgia and recently completed a camp in Cobb County.
“And I already got a team of 15 players, plus their families, roughly a group of 50 people, already committed to go to Europe in the spring of 2014,” he said. “I would like to take a few extra players from here and maybe combine them with that group and create a major talent team that the Italian scouts will be pleased to see and know there is enough talent here for them to look at and recruit.”
Sukaratana said he is thrilled that Asteghene came to Hinesville. He said the coach has watched a few of his Gator and FPCA players throughout the years, and the possibility of being selected to go to Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“We talked last night, and he already has a few kids on the list,” Sukaratana said. “He saw Brooke (Standard) play with the boys a few years ago in Alpharetta … and he is looking at some of our up-and-coming 14-and-under players.”
Sukaratana said Asteghene also discussed the possibility of making the specialized camp an annual event, with Hinesville as the host city. The annual camp would invite players from Vidalia, Richmond Hill, Jesup and other area cities that already have expressed an interest in participating.
“I don’t know why it took us this long to do something like this … I’ve known him for 30 years, but we are looking to use Hinesville as a central location to hold yearly camps,” Sukaratana said.
The campers received one-on-one instruction from Asteghene, while Sexton worked with a group on the fundamentals of basic touches and powering through turns and kicks.
It was Macri’s first time visiting this area of Georgia. The former pro is in his second year touring the United States with ACA. Back home in Italy, Macri coaches at the youth academy of the professional team in Sienna.
“Gavino gave me the opportunity to come here and work with American boys and girls so I can show them Italian-style soccer techniques here in the United States,” Macri said, adding Sukaratana gave the coaches a tour of Savannah on Monday. “What a very beautiful city.”
Sukaratana said in addition to hosting an annual summer camp Asteghene offered to come back to Hinesville in January and train the FPCA team again.
“His technique in coaching is similar to mine, but this way the kids can learn the different styles — Italian, British and American,” Sukaratana said.
Asteghene said he would like to see the kids play, and not just in college
“Colleges do offer scholarships, but I feel that if a player really wants to push themselves, they can also become a professional player,” he said. “It’s all about being dedicated.”
The camp continues until Friday.