ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Admitted soccer junkie Sergio Rivas, a sophomore at Cibola High School, has been selected to participate in the Real Madrid Select Training Program in Madrid, Spain.
“I was very surprised when my coach told me,” Rivas said. “I said, ‘Oh my God. Real Madrid is the best club in the world. I was very excited.'”
Rivas, a midfielder, will spend a week in August at the club’s training facility under the watchful eyes of Real Madrid’s top coaches.
Only 36 players from around the world were selected for the program, two of whom will be invited to stay an additional week and will be considered for a professional contract.
“First of all, it’s going to be very competitive,” said Rivas, who plays locally for NM Rush’98, as well as the Far West Region Olympic Development Program.
“Playing under the auspices of Real Madrid C.F. Academy coaches at their world class training facilities, you will experience the commitment and excellence that creates some of the greatest players on the globe,” wrote John Parker, marketing manager at Adidas International Training Program.
The Rush soccer club next season will be sponsored by Adidas, which has a working agreement with Real Madrid.
What makes Rivas such a strong player is he is constantly working on his game, said Rush coach Justin Sells, a former star forward for the University of New Mexico.
“If he’s not training with our team, then he’s training with the U-18 team or with the U-16 team,” Sells said. “He’s a kid who’s playing every day. I’m not sure how many kids are really doing that these days.”
And when he’s not training with a team and a professional coach, he’s knocking the ball around with his younger brothers at a nearby park, which is how he first got discovered in the first place — at the age of 7.
“I was in a park playing with my brother and there were two coaches there,” Rivas said. “We played them two on two and then they said they had a team and asked me to be on it.”
That inauspicious beginning has led Rivas around the country — and now the world — as he pursues his dream of playing professional soccer.
“When I’m playing soccer, it’s like I’m a little kid,” Rivas said. “My imagination rises when I’m playing soccer. I’m always working to get better.”
The all-expenses-paid trip will include training at the state-of-the-art Real Madrid training grounds, individual assessment, an exhibition match against the Real Madrid youth team, visits to Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and its museum and chaperoned sightseeing, shopping and cultural visits, according to the Real Madrid website.
It’s also a chance for Rivas to compare his game against the world’s best, Sells said.
“We’re so isolated here in New Mexico that we don’t really know what else is out there,” he said. “This is the opportunity for him to measure his himself against the best players his age in the world. It’s a good opportunity for him. It’s an experience he’ll never forget.”
And it’s an experience he plans to use to grow as a player.
“I’m a very competitive guy,” Rivas said. “I want to be the best.”
— This article appeared on page 28 of the Albuquerque Journal