Juniors put to the test by former Real Madrid player
SOCCER: Over a dozen keen junior footballers were put through their paces at the weekend when former Real Madrid youth player JC Hernandez held a training clinic at Clinton Oval.
The training was held over two days and allowed players an opportunity to be exposed to the Tiki-taka method - a Spanish style of play focused on short passing and movement, working the ball through channels and maintaining possession.
Hernandez is head coach at Sydney-based Tiki Taka Elite Soccer and was brought to Gladstone by Chris Engelbrecht of LS Talents Qld.
Kids ranging from Under-11s to U16s came from far and wide to take part in the sessions.
"The idea was to get some pro coaching in for the kids in the Gladstone region," Engelbrecht said.
"People flew up from the Gold Coast and came down from Rocky."
Engelbrecht said some of the kids who attended the clinic will fly to Spain for July's Donosti Cup - a massive youth tournament featuring more than 300 teams.
"Being involved with the Donosti Cup was how I met JC because he was born in Madrid. He was there when (former Brazilian striker) Ronaldo was there," he said.
"He's involved in the Sydney University women's league and said he'd love to see the rest of Australia.
"He wants to get involved with the touring part as well and is connected with the technical directors in Spain and they are looking for kids.
"In July there is scholarships up for these kids which is something different. Would any of our kids get it? I don't know but they said the kids have to be eager - eager to be there and be super fit - if you're not fit and bringing the effort they will see it immediately.
"I've seen this training in 2017 in Madrid - this is what they do and it blew my mind the intensity they train at.
"The one thing we look at the clinic is if the kids can keep up with this pace.
"If they take one of them they can give them a 100 per cent scholarship because it's not how they are now, they are looking for that something in them so they can train them for four years then sell them to the clubs - it's all about money."
Hernandez, 31, has fond memories of his time during Spain's youth systems and was at Real Madrid when the likes of Brazilian stars Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos were in the senior squad.
"In Real Madrid I played when I was 12 and 13 and it was amazing," he said.
"I tried twice to get in - there is 200-300 children trying to get in so it was pretty hard.
"When they told me to come and train I couldn't believe it."
Hernandez was eventually let go for being "too small to play for them".
"I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot there but I kept pushing. When you are 13 and they say you aren't the player they are looking for after two years you think you are not a good player," he said.
"You just have to trust in yourself."
He continued to play in first division youth sides and then third division for senior side Getafe when he was 18.
"I was there for about five/six years semi-professional... I played as a midfielder because I loved controlling the game," Hernandez said.
"Then my coach wanted me to play the left side so I played left wing."
Hernandez was injured prior to playing Division 1 in Cyprus, which eventually forced him into coaching.
"I injured my knee twice and was really down and thought that I must leave soccer," he said.
"After that I kept playing less than semi-professional and in 2008 during the crisis teams stopped paying you so I needed to find another thing.
"I started coaching, went to England to learn English and was an assistant coach in London. I couldn't understand the language but wanted to help.
"I then came to Australia in 2017 and started coaching on the Gold Coast... I moved to Sydney because of love, got married and then I got in touch with Chris via Facebook.
"I talked to him and we got along."