Vurnon Anita (New Castle United). Gregory van der Wiel (Paris Saint-Germain). Jetro Willems (PSV). Hedwiges Maduro (Sevilla). All four have roots in Curaçao. All four were pre-selected by Coach Bert van Merwijk to feed into Het Nederlands Elftal (“The Dutch Eleven” also known as “Oranje”) in 2012.
Gregory van der Wiel made the starting line-up of the 2010 World Cup and played all the way to the finals against Spain. Young Oranje’s selection includes 2 players with Curaçao roots: Leroy Fer and Leandro Bacuna.
Pretty Awesome for such a small island, noh?
The Curaçao Soccer Academy (“CSA”), organized and solely funded by the Fundashon Bon Intenshon, has the ambitious goal of increasing Curaçao’s (already impressive!) number of professional soccer players.
On February 6, 2012, 136 star players with a voracious appetite for soccer representing most of Curaçao’s youth clubs — C-stars United, Hubentud Fortuna, Willemstad, Excellence, New Song, SC Atletiko Salinja, Mahuma, Tera Kora, Quick ’60, UNDEBA, Orguyo, etc — were selected to be part of the CSA’s “first class”. The boys make up U-10, U-12 and U-14.
The CSA is not a soccer club (the boys remain part of their local clubs), rather it’s an after-school program with holistic development in mind. CSA’s Director Hans van Elden, himself an experienced player and trainer – KNVB coach – with a career in education, believes talent development involves a lot more than soccer training: it takes personality development with a focus on mentality, discipline, endurance, openness to change and exposure to different social and ethnic circles.
The CSA provides this high-level talent development for free and eliminates other barriers to entry as it relates to parents’ work schedules and school. The CSA employs 17 professionals to this end: 4 school teachers, a senior head coach, 5 assistant trainers, a nutritionist, 4 cooks, a doctor, a publicist. The boys are provided uniforms, soccer shoes and recreational outfits. Transportation from their respective schools to the training center — and from the training center to their respective homes — 5x a week. Healthy balanced meals composed by a nutritionist. Homework and social development guidance from qualified school teachers. The CSA is proud to report that their entire “first class” progressed to their next grade in school and a number of parents remark that their kids’ grades have improved significantly.
But that’s not all. The CSA exposes their boys to new countries and cultures through international competitions: CSA’s U-13 (now U-14) came in second at the Torneo Hymno i Bandera in Aruba in April 2012 beating both Venezuela and Colombia, CSA’s U-11 (now U-12) won their June 2012 ABCS (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Suriname) tournament hosted by the CSA in Curaçao. And the U-14 selection is headed to Venezuela at the end of October 2012 to play in an international U-15 tournament.
“I can’t predict whether (the boys) will be playing in the Oranje team. But if the boys continue to develop well they will certainly be candidates for the Curaçao national selection. Hopefully some of them will succeed in building a professional career in soccer. In any case, they will be ambassadors for the island, and we will be very proud of them.” And this brings a smile to Director Hans van Elden’s face.
The CSA was born after Fundashon Bon Intenshon sponsored the Nijmegen Premier League Club NEC in 2008-2010. [Curaçao’s 6 (then-best) youth soccer players were admitted to training of NEC. Unfortunately, they missed the Dutch premier league level by a hair.]
If all continues to track according to plan the CSA will expand its program to include all age categories (U-10 to U-20) in the next few years… Keep an eye on CSA’s Awesome boys and catch them in action by “liking” their Facebook page!
Introducing 3 Awesome CSA boys: Yesias, William and Johan!
Yesias Ignacius (8) joined CSA in August 2012; he plays with club Excellence. He’s in groep 5 (3rd grade) at Marnix School and “only makes 9s and 10s!” He particularly enjoys playing on “the Computer!” at the CSA, “and soccer, of course.” Yesias’ passing has improved and his “shooting has gotten more powerful.” He dreams of becoming “an astronaut!”
Favorite soccer surface: “Grass, like in the Netherlands. Playing on artificial grass makes you bleed sometimes.”
Role model: “Messi because all he does is score!”
Favorite food: McDonalds!
William Plaate (13) joined CSA in February 2012 as goalkeeper; he plays with club C-Stars United. He’s in 8th grade at Radulphus College,“School is going well; all of my grades are above average!” He enjoys playing soccer at the CSA, “the pace is faster than at my club and I like that. I also enjoy spending (a lot of) time with the players on my team.” William’s soccer has improved and he’s “much better at communicating with people.” He dreams of “becoming a professional soccer player in Europe.”
Role model: His father; “he taught me everything I know about soccer.”
Favorite food: Pasta Alfredo.
Favorite soccer surface: Artificial grass, “I’ve played on real grass in the US, and it was nice, but I had to get used to it.”
Johan Petronilia (13) joined CSA in February 2012 as an attacker; he plays with club CVV Willemstad. He’s in 7th grade at Zwijssen College, almost all of his grades are fine,but he “struggles a bit with Biology.” He enjoys training at the CSA, “playing against each other is a lot of fun!” Johan’s technique and aim [at goal] has improved. He dreams of “playing professional soccer for Real Madrid!”
Role model: Christiano Ronaldo.
Favorite soccer surface: Artificial grass, “it’s all I know.”
Favorite food: Pizza!