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A stepping stone to the dream of professional football: National team debutant and NF Academy player Alexi Hughes says the scholarship program has helped his development.
A stepping stone to the dream of professional football: National team debutant and NF Academy player Alexi Hughes says the scholarship program has helped his development.

Help to reach the dream of a professional career

There are several roads to success, but some are easier than others. NF Scholarship helps young players achieve their dreams of becoming professional footballers.

The 14 years old Trelleborg FF player Alexi Hughes, who received NF Academy’s International Scholarship last year, recently reached one of his biggest goals – getting his debut for the Chilean U15 national team.

Representing Chile was an unforgettable experience. I could almost not believe my own eyes when I put on the kit and saw myself in the color of my parent’s home country. I found it hard to believe that I, an ordinary boy from a small town in Sweden, was going up against Brazil. I was proud, Alexi says.

During the stay with the national team, Hughes and his teammates played three games. In the last game, against the Chilean team Cobresal, Hughes scored the decisive 2-1 goal.

The Sweden born boy, who applied for Chilean citizenship to be eligible for the national team, thanks to his club Trelleborg FF for his progress as a player. He also has nothing but good words about NF Academy, who he feels play an important role in his current progression.

Being an NF Academy player is an honour, and it helps me develop as both a footballer and a person. I have grown with the feedback I have received.

National team selection: Alexi Hughes recently got his debut for the Chilean U15 national team.
National team selection: Alexi Hughes recently got his debut for the Chilean U15 national team.

Professional help to become professional.

Hughes was one of ten players who were selected for NF Academy’s Scholarship program last year, and more players will follow in 2020. All players born between 2004 and 2006 are qualified for application, but to be considered, the player must have participated at one or more NF Academy events during the year, so that the coaches can get to know him or her.

Read about the NF scholarship program here

The players selected for the Scholarship program will receive a fully financed package, which gives them the experience and consultation they need to optimize their development. Our goal is to help the players become good enough to be offered professional contracts with a European top club when the scholarship program is done.

One might ask the question, how is this possible? What does the Scholarship Program contain? During a scholarship, we will make sure the player receives match experience on an elite level. The selected players will be part of the NF Academy elite team that participates at RigaCup, MIC Football Barcelona and High Performance Camp in Portugal. NF Academy will also organize for at least two weeks of training at a European top academy.

SPORTING TRIAL: Alexi made a good exhibition during a training trial at Sporting CP in November 2019
SPORTING TRIAL: Alexi made a good exhibition during a training trial at Sporting CP in November 2019

Additionally, they will be given individual follow up every second week with NF Academy’s coaching team. The coaches will go through training activities and customize training programs for each player. Each month, the players will receive an analysis of the games they have played and have an individual follow up session with detailed feedback.

In other words, the players will receive a follow up that is mostly reserved for professional players. The reason for this, is that we think it is important to live up to the professional standards early on to achieve the goal of becoming a professional footballer.

And again, except for transportation, all of this is free of charge.

 

READ ALSO: WE WILL GIVE MORE PLAYERS THE OPPORTUNITY AT THE BEST EUROPEAN ACADEMIES

 

Mentality and talent

Gonçalo Nunes, who is responsible for NF Academy’s scholarship program, has taken his UEFA A-license coaching badge. The Portuguese have worked with player development for 26 years, since he was 18, and has previously been employed by S.L. Benfica and Sporting CP.

He has also worked closely with the former head coach of Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team, Carlos Queiroz. Queiroz’s former business, Football By, worked with Manchester United’s department of development. In this period, Nunes was one of Queiroz main men, and he learned a lot from the inside of one of Europe’s biggest talent factories.

Many perks: The scholarship program, which Goncalo Nunes is in charge of, is a program for top talents aiming for a professional career abroad.
Many perks: The scholarship program, which Goncalo Nunes is in charge of, is a program for top talents aiming for a professional career abroad.

In his work for NF Academy, Nunes has a clear opinion on what he looks for in talents.

Players need to have the potential to develop further, but they also need the right mentality. They need to be focused and disciplined. It is when they have the right mentality that we can really get something out of their underlying talent.

 

The best of the best

Nunes says the program will have a high level, both individually and collectively.

Our goal is to attract players from different countries. We wish to create a culture where everyone is eager to perform to their best and everyone push each other to take further steps. It is important that young talents get international references early on, and that they play games at that level. We provide them with this opportunity.

Many up and coming players from smaller football nations wish to one day play in the top five European leagues. Nunes has convinced the preparations for a future like that should start early. NF Academy is, therefore, an important, and to some necessary, stepping stone.

When the players are between 16 and 19 years old, we think it is time for them to move on to one of the top academies in Europe. We think they have much bigger chances of becoming top players if they develop there. At an academy, the seasons are of optimal length, their training environment is highly competitive and they have experienced coaches and staff in developing top international players. Additionally, both their diet and mental health is looked after. The academies are also good at making sure players focus on their schoolwork in addition to their careers. All of this is very important, and it has to start early, Nunes says.

Trelleborg and NF Academy player Alexi Hughes’ personal ambitions overlap with the goals Nunes and NF Academy have for him.

I want to reach the highest level possible in football. This has been my dream since I was three years old. I will work hard to achieve this. My passion for the game is so big I will never give up.

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