Marco Di Lauro, Kevin Salazar and Gonzalo Balbi identified by Nike Academy Head Coach Jimmy Gilligan as outstanding talents following World Tour.
The top three players from Nike’s The Chance Final have been announced in Manchester this evening as the global tour draws to a close; after a six week journey that has seen the 16 finalists experience professional football and elite training at the very highest level. Marco Di Lauro from Italy, Kevin Salazar from Colombia and Gonzalo Balbi from Spain have been awarded well-deserved places in the Nike Academy, a full-time player academy based in England and supported by the FA Premier League, until the end of the season.
Nike’s The Chance is a unique global talent search that gives amateur footballers the chance to prove themselves on an elite stage and take their game to the next level. More than 100,000 players from 55 countries around the world participated in Nike’s The Chance 2012, culminating in the best 100 participating in a global final at FC Barcelona’s famed youth academy.
The top 16 players from the global finals in Barcelona last summer were invited to attend a global tour, under the watchful eye of Head Coach of Nike's The Chance global tour and Nike Academy Director of Football Jimmy Gilligan, visiting some of the world’s most iconic footballing institutions including Juventus Football Club, Manchester United Football Club, US Soccer and England’s National Football Centre at St George’s Park.
The players kicked off their global tour in January at Nike’s World Headquarters in Oregon, U.S., and went through a series of intense training and elite testing during their first week in preparation for upcoming games.
Players were assessed through Nike SPARQ, a training and conditioning system that helps build better athletes. Next stop was US Soccer in Los Angeles, which saw them enjoy a 4-3 win over USA U-17s, and take in the famous sights of the area including the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Universal Studios.
The tour then continued onto Europe, first stop Juventus Football Club in Turin, which saw the 16 young footballers welcomed to the city by Juventus and Italian international midfielder Claudio Marchisio and academy coach Gianluca Pessotto.
After Italy, the group headed to Manchester United, England, for a week of training and football culture immersion at the club’s Carrington training facility. There, the final 16 were put through their paces by Brian McClair, former United forward and current club Director of Youth, and Tony Strudwick, Manchester United’s strength and conditioning expert. Off the pitch, the group were treated to a guided tour of Old Trafford and a meet and greet session with senior squad players Tom Cleverly, Chris Smalling and Danny Welbeck.
The final stop of the tour saw the 16 young footballers visit England’s National Football Centre at St George’s Park. Nike’s partnership with the FA granted the squad with unrestricted access to the world-class football facility and saw the players receive an intensive elite-level coaching session from Head Coach of England U-21s Stuart Pearce and England Manager Roy Hodgson.
On the selection of the top three young footballers, Head Coach of Nike's The Chance global tour and Nike Academy Director of Football Jimmy Gilligan, said: “The global tour has afforded these 16 finalists the footballing opportunity of a lifetime. The commitment from the squad has been relentless and the standard of football highly impressive.
“Each of the finalists have given everything they have during their time with us at Nike’s The Chance, and each one can hold their head up high and know that they did themselves proud. It has been a pleasure to work with all of them and I wish each one of them every success for the future – I am sure this won’t be the end of their journey.
“I look forward to welcoming and working with Marco, Kevin and Gonzalo at the Nike Academy – as they continue to develop and take their chance to get noticed at the highest level.”
Throughout the tour the 16 finalists benefited from an extended team of elite coaches, nutritionists and fitness conditioners throughout the tour, to ensure they arrived at each training session and fixture focused and in peak condition. And each stop gave the players the chance to catch the eye of leading coaches in the game. Since the start of The Chance competition in 2010, 16 players have turned their participation into a professional club contract. The most recent, Tom Rogic from Australia, signed for Scottish Champions Celtic FC and recently played for the Australia national team.
Aspiring young players can follow The Chance global tour via Nike’s Football Facebook page and via @NikeFootball on Twitter.