Local soccer wunderkind to play for academy in Spain

Claudio Reyes accepted an offer to play for an academy in Spain after completing a training session in England.
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FILE: Claudio Reyes balances a soccer ball on his shoulder in an undated photograph. Photo by Matthew Keys

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after the Express profiled the soccer prodigy in late June. The Reyes brothers attended the combine in Tamworth between Aug. 2 and Aug. 12. In an interview with the Express shortly after Reyes returned to Winters, the soccer player said the training and competition he experienced in Tamworth was more challenging than what he was used to because the players there were a bit more experienced. Toward the end, Reyes said the players were given an overview by training staff outlining their strengths and weaknesses. He was asked specifically what he wanted to do going forward, and his plan at the time was to play for a university team in England. “They wanted me to stay for six months, and they were going to track my progress,” Reyes said. But those plans changed shortly after he arrived back home. Reyes said he quickly received an invitation from two different soccer academies to live with, train and play for them: One in Spain and another in Italy. Reyes chose to play in Spain. “An academy team is a little bit below the club level,” Reyes said. In some ways, an academy is to a soccer club what a minor league baseball team is to a major league team, or a college football team is to a pro football team: A way for athletes to continue to refine their skills while showcasing their talent in a very big way. The academy Reyes will be playing for, based near Valencia, is affiliated with a professional soccer club in Portugal. “Their coaches will be monitoring in Valencia to see if they can bring players over,” Reyes explained. Reyes will be playing for the academy for at least 10 months out of the year. His academy career could go as long as three years, though Reyes explained that after the first year he could be drafted into a professional club; he’s guaranteed at least three trials with either a professional or semi-professional club while he’s competing at the academy level, Reyes said. While he’s training with the academy, his living expenses will be provided for. He is scheduled to leave for the academy in October pending the outcome of a background check and a visa application. Reyes said his chance to train in England and subsequent invitation to Spain would likely not have been possible if he hadn’t found the courage to ask for help. Once he did, members of the community pulled through for him, raising more than $2,300 for his training. “Without them, honestly, I wouldn’t have made it,” Reyes said. “To be able to gather that much amount of money in that short amount of time would have been impossible for my family.” Reyes, who says his family is Catholic, said for now he’s keeping those who supported him in his prayers. But to paraphrase John 2:17-18, the truest sign of faith is prayer followed by action — “show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” Reyes plans to show his faith by deeds once he makes it big, and that means an eventual return home. “My general plan in the future is to hopefully come out successful in my soccer career, and then being able to come back to Winters and help the community,” Reyes said. “I want to be able to help the homeless, help a lot of the programs that are associated with Winters, with Winters High. I want to be able to do so much for this town, because they did so much for me.”]]>

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