In an effort to chase his childhood dream, senior Yonatan Ligator moved to Spain this past August and joined a soccer academy with hopes of one day playing professional soccer.
The chances of being a professional soccer player are slim, but Ligator is pursuing his dream at Malaga City Academy, leaving everything behind in the US to do so.
According to SportsLingo, a soccer academy is defined as a camp or training program focused on developing players’ soccer skills which prepares them to play for a specific club.
Malaga City Academy is an elite soccer academy located in Almuñécar, a small town close to Malaga, Spain, Ligator explained. Some players and coaches at the academy have trouble speaking English when communicating to him, but, luckily, Ligator knows Spanish, so he can communicate and understand most of the things coaches and players are saying, he added.
“It is a very diverse environment and will take some getting used to,” Ligator said.
The opportunity to attend Malaga City Academy opened up for Ligator over this past summer when Ligator saw a former teammate at his soccer practice, he explained. Ligator said he asked his former teammate what he had been up to, and that’s when he was informed that his ex-teammate had attended Malaga City Academy. He added that he was able to obtain the coaches’ contact information through his ex-teammate.
“I went home and sent him a long paragraph and even created my own highlight tape to show him,” Ligator explained.
Because Ligator had done all of the contacting and research on his own, he said his parents were unaware of this opportunity. Even a few days after the opportunity was given, Ligator still did not tell them, he added. Ligator explained that this was a big decision to make for his parents, so they were hesitant at first, but after a lot of convincing, his parents ended up being very supportive.
He is living in a hotel, where he has a room to himself. Ligator not only participates in soccer practices but also academic practices as well, he explained. Ligator said on weekdays he is completing school though an online program.
Ligator said that he is attending the academy as a first step to a pro contract and would love to be noticed by the scouts and coaches who will be watching him play.
“Whether it’s for the best team in the world, or one of the weaker pro teams, I would be grateful for a chance anywhere,” Ligator said.
Soccer academies allow for players like Ligator to play other kids their age who attend other professional academies, he explained. He also said that his academy will be playing against other professional Spanish teams’ academies soon. Because it has only been a month since the academy started, Ligator said that he and his teammates have only trained and had a couple scrimmages against a women’s team. Ligator added that he has already noticed a difference in competition, as he said that the players he was surrounded by were faster, bigger and stronger.
“The play is at a much higher level,” Ligator explained. “It’s much more of a possession-based game, like club soccer, rather than high school soccer.”
Not only is the environment going to take some getting used to, but out on the field it is different too, he said. In high school soccer, games are usually played on turf, whereas in Europe, fields tend to be very nice, grass fields, Ligator said. The field that Ligator plays on even gets watered every day and is very well-treated, he added.
“It is more narrow, but nice to not have to look at football lines,” Ligator said.
Ligator has been playing soccer since the age of 2, he explained. After playing recreational soccer for two to three years, Ligator said that he joined the soccer clubs Gahanna Revolution and Reynoldsburg Alliance, where he played for about four total seasons. After spending his whole childhood playing recreational and club soccer, Ligator started playing for Barcelona United and the Bexley boys soccer team his freshman, sophomore and junior years.
Now, Ligator said he finds himself one step closer to achieving his dream of becoming a professional soccer player. The academy is a great chance for Ligator to show off his skills in front of many professional scouts, he said. And after 15 years of hard work and dedication to the game of soccer, he said there is no going back.
“There is [no backup plan],” Ligator said. “I want to become a pro soccer player.”