Soccer talent factory helps Ecuador side for World Cup

The pitches at the youth academy of Ecuador’s Independiente del Valle, a rising force in South American soccer, are always busy. As the 12- and 13-year-olds play informal games, the older ones practice in shorter games under the supervision of academy coaches.

Around 150 youngsters are training at the club’s headquarters in the city of Sangulki, the second most populous city in Pachancha province and also known as the “heart of the valley”. That’s where Ecuador’s national team has found an important source of players as the team makes its return to the World Cup after missing out on the tournament four years ago.

Of the 28 players selected by coach Gustavo Alfaro for two friendlies on September, 12 were from the youth division of the 64-year-old club that won the Copa Sudamericana for the second time this year. Players such as Bayer Leverkusen defender Piero Hincapé and Brighton midfielder Moisés Caicedo, both 20, and 21-year-old Real Valladolid winger Gonzalo Plata, are among them.

Alfaro, who took over at Ecuador in mid-2020 when Jordi Cruyff stepped down without a match in charge, took advantage of the star factory of the country’s youngest club in the first division. Independiente has been on the rise since 2007, made the Copa Libertadores final in 2016, and has recently won two Copa Sudamericana titles.

Independiente prioritizes the education of its players, many of whom at least finish their high school program.

“We want a stamp of quality, we want this DNA not only on the pitch but also in our tours, hotels, their training,” Independiente’s sporting director Roberto Arroyo told The Associated Press. . “We always want in the youth division. The best dressed, the most punctual, the one who cleans the dressing room after use.”

As many of the Academy players arrived for their high school graduations on Aug. 18, 13-year-old Jefferson Camacho was their master of ceremonies in an impeccable suit and black tie — and he performed his duties with confidence.

Juan Martinez, coach of the club’s under-19 section and co-ordinator of players joining the senior team, said, “We teach the kids that their results are entirely their responsibility, that there is no excuse for not being their best. There is no excuse and no one can be blamed.”. “Our players must accept our rules and regulations, we are giving them the best foundation through values.”

When a young person has difficulty adjusting, psychologists, teachers, and coaches work together to help them overcome their difficulties.

Arroyo said the club is now selling players between the ages of 18 and 19, and will no longer sell players 25 or older. In August, Independiente allowed 18-year-old defender Joel Ordóñez to move to Bruges and 19-year-old midfielder Anthony Valencia to Royal Antwerp.

Group A features Ecuador alongside Qatar Netherlands, and Senegal, and hosts Qatar. It will open the tournament on November 20 against the host nation with a team with an average age of just 25.3, which is lower than the average for independent youth players.

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