Sunday, October 1, 2023

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Burlington youth soccer team heads to London for international soccer experience

   By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

More than a dozen teenagers from Alamance County are heading to England for what could shape up as a treasured experience.

They’re representing Burlington’s CityGate Dream Center Soccer Club, gaining this honor after winning an event last fall in Florida.

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“The kids are going to play against four local teams,” GateCity Dream Center athletics director Armando Camacho said. “They will be trained by some Premier League teams. It’s pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the kids.”

The trip runs from June 12-22. It will include four days in London and four in Chester.

As part of the trip, the team will see an international-level game and have stadium tours of facilities used by Liverpool and Manchester United, Camacho said.

The 14-player boys’ team is comprised of students largely from Broadview Middle School, though Western Alamance Middle School and Turrentine Middle School are also represented.

The CityGate Dream Center group went on the fast track since forming as an under-14 team.

“We started last year at the end of June,” Camacho said. “We had tryouts and we went to a regional qualifier in Winston-Salem.”

A July 30 victory in Winston-Salem led to a November 19-20 tournament in Auburndale, Florida. There, the Burlington team outscored opponents by a total of 37-5 in the tournament.

“We got an invitation to play in Europe,” Camacho said.

Camacho said some club members had never played outside of Burlington, so the Winston-Salem experience was special. Then it was off to Florida and now Europe.

“We’re able to take these other kids and expose them to the rest,” he said.

Fundraising for the trip has been a challenge and late last month the group was still seeking about $30,000.

“We knew the funding was going to be the struggle,” Camacho said. “We’re actively looking for sponsors.”

Meanwhile, Burlington’s elected leaders have extended their best wishes to the team during a city council meeting last month.

Citing the team’s Florida success in the national title competition, mayor Jim Butler encouraged the team on its forthcoming trip. “This success earned the youth soccer team an even more prestigious invite to a tournament in England taking place in June 2023,” Butler went on to declare at the May 1 meeting, “[where] players will compete with overseas teams and have an opportunity to train with Premier League clubs.”

On hand to receive the mayor’s kudos on Monday, May 1 were CityGate Dream Center team members Sebastian Vargas, Iann Maya, Franky Maya, Adrian Espidia, Aurelio Jesus Figueroa, Jessy Perez, Justin Lemus, Henry Garcia, Junior Arellano, and Justin Hernandez. Also present for the occasion that night were coaches Armando Camacho, Alexandra Versace, and Masih Sandi.

The soccer club, which uses fields at Fairchild Park for training, had about 100 participants last year and more than 200 this spring.

“We’re expecting to have around 300 by the end of the year,” Camacho said, pointing out that the youngsters are required to have at least a C average as their school grades. “We hold them to a high standard. Kids that want to be part of this team, they have to be held to a higher standard.

“We do a lot with the community. They participate in everything that we do. We expect them to be leaders. Soccer and trophies and all that is nice, but it’s what they do in the community.”

The boys set for the trip are Franky Maya, Iann Maya, Eamon Hipps, Junior Arellano, Jessy Perez, Henry Garcia, Alexis Osorio, Adrian Espitia, Gabriel Navarrete, Jerson Hernandez, Justin Hernandez, Aurelio Jesus Figueroa, Justin Lemus and Sebastian Vargas.

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