From Gladstone to Madrid is Tiaan's soccer goal
SOCCER: Striker Tiaan Engelbrecht is one of four young hopefuls who have been offered an opportunity of a lifetime.
Tiaan, 14, can join Steven Borg (Bundaberg), Brisbane's Brandon McRorie and Marko Romero from Maroochydore to take part in the InterSoccer Elite Program at InterSoccer Madrid Academy and Elite Soccer School in Spain.
The scholarship, which will commence for Tiaan in September next year, came on the back of his outstanding performances in the recent LS Talents tour, participating in training in Madrid the first week and in the Donosti Cup 2019 International Youth Football Tournament in San Sebastian the second week.
The quartet will attend Colegio Montealbir, a Spanish private school, where students obtain official Spanish secondary program qualifications.
"During the week in Madrid we had three training sessions of 90 minutes each and two matches against local teams. There was a scout there from Real Madrid and he watched us train and play games" Tiaan said.
"He said that I was the one that played the hardest and he also that I was very good technically on the ball. He thought that I was tough on the field and that I wasn't scared to play and he said that my potential is very high as well."
Scouting manager Javi Torres kept a watchful eye on the talented youngsters. The scholarship could run for four years with the first 10 months effectively a 'trial period'.
Players aged 16 to 19 can then be selected based on performance during their time in the Elite Program, to participate in the Intersoccer Talents Program, where they will be assessed by scouts and investors with the opportunity to get contracts with professional clubs.
Tiaan said he was partly surprised to be offered the scholarship, but had put in countless hours of training. His father Chris Engelbrecht, who is the LS Talents manager, said Torres was an independent scout who did not know who the parents were.
"I just met him for five minutes in the conversation that we had and with these boys, we didn't give ages, names, nothing and they were under the impression that these boys were under 15," Engelbrecht said.
The four youngsters were given a number for Torres to observe and Tiaan was number nine, Steven as three, Brandon 11 and Marko 13.
"We had the manager of the InterSoccer Madrid Academy and Elite Soccer School, Lalo Fuentes, with Javi that I had just met for five minutes," Engelbrecht said.
"There was no connection and it was purely based on training and game evaluation."
While Engelbrecht coached the U12 team that played in the Donosti Cup, Joe Fenech looked after the U15s that competed for the LS Talents teams.
Torres' feedback to Fuentes was that Brandon and Tiaan were the two who stood out at practice and in matches.
"What they were saying to these boys were that they have got the potential to be great and that we give you the opportunity and see what happens," Engelbrecht said. "You make it or you don't make it. What they are doing is taking a very small percentage of the boys and allowing them to go into this program."
Engelbrecht was surprised that four were chosen and a lot of responsibility lay with Torres and Fuentes.
Tiaan said he was shown some training techniques in Spain that he otherwise would not have known and the playing surface was different to what he was accustomed to.
"I was shown how they train in Spain and all the different techniques they use," he said. "One thing that stood out for me was the synthetic turf fields and it was cool to play on that but I wasn't very used to it though."
The scholarships over the past five years have yielded professional contracts for eight athletes and Tiaan and his mates could be among them.