Georgia Soccer and Sporting Clube de Portugal Forge Developmental Partnership

by Jen Johns

If you’re like me, you think Sporting Lisbon right? No, I’m gently corrected… It’s Sporting Portugal. Members of the media consistently miss the mark, including our friends at CNN, Fox Soccer and ESPN. But, Sporting Portugal is not just another European-based Soccer team… they are a Champions League caliber club, member of the "Três Grandes" in Portugal having raised talent such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Figo to the world’s stage.

And now one of our own is wearing the green… Oguchi Onyewu. Our big 6’4” US National team center back who having been named US Soccer athlete of the year in 2006, has played in England (Newcastle), France (Metz), Belgium (Standard Liege) and Italy (AC Milan). Then, having recovered from patellar tendon rupture suffered during National team duty, returned to Milan, was on loan in the Netherlands (Twente). Finally, last June 2011, Oguchi signed a 3 year deal with Sporting Clube de Portugal.

Now the same coaches who have recognized Gooch's talent and leadership, who brought Ronaldo to the stage have their eyes on Georgia. In a ground-breaking agreement, Sporting Clube de Portugal has joined forces with Georgia Soccer to enhance coaching education and player development in Georgia.

Sporting CP is one of the first European clubs to build a state of the art youth academy and has received many accolades for their player development system. The Sporting CP youth academy is ranked second only to Barcelona by UEFA for their player development structure and production. Their academy has nurtured and provided the Sporting CP first team a continuous stream of quality players, enabling the team to remain at the top of Portuguese soccer and win a few European trophies to boot. The current Portuguese National team that qualified for the 2012 European Championship contains no fewer than 8 players developed in the Sporting CP Academy.

Paulo Cardoso, Sporting CP Chief Scout sees this as an opportunity to expand the vision of Sporting CP and leave a legacy beyond the borders of their small country. They have a vision of being world leaders and doing this from within the boundaries of Portugal is too limiting. While in Lisbon, SCP is one of the premiere academies in the world, with 50 youth living onsite and 320 as part of their club teams, the goal is to take their message on the road. Develop and recruit talent from outside of their boundaries and give them chance to develop within their academies.

So they have. With academy programs in Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Canada, they are expanding the reach of the youth development program. Coaching coaches, training players and inviting elite players to Portugal to continue the process.

On January 20-21, Georgia Soccer and SCP take the first steps in a long-term partnership by hosting an advanced coaching course entitled: Elite Player Development Seminar at the Georgia Soccer Headquarters. Renowned coaches, Paulo Leitao, Sporting Clube de Portugal International Head Coach, as well as Nuno Figueiredo, Sporting club de Portugal international Development coach focused the two day seminar on tactical fundamentals for each individual aspect of the game, based on the game phases, player behaviors and actions. The principals of attacking and defending, and simplifying the game and then building up from 1 v 0 to 11 v 11 were discussed over the two day intensive coaches training with on-field sessions held at Silverbacks Park. The training program was sold out with 80 coaches as all Georgia soccer coaches learned of the caliber of training held here in Atlanta. Those lucky coaches left with new perspectives on the game.

In the next step of the partnership, Sporting Club de Portugal has invited a group of Georgia Soccer ODP all-stars to travel to Lisbon for training and competition in March, 2012. Tremendous exposure and training opportunity, you can’t help but hope one of our boys will be ‘discovered’ and trained for greatness.
This fall, club coaches will have another opportunity to experience Sporting Club Portugal’s methods as they are invited to Lisbon to observe training and games at the Academia Sporting – Centro de Futebol… (Soccer center… Training Ground and Soccer Academy.)

Founded 105 years ago, legendary Jose Alvalade announced the clubs intention was to become a “big club, as big as the biggest in Europe.” They are the color green… the color of HOPE. Sporting Portugal was founded as a social club with sporting activities… initially Football (soccer), fencing, tennis, running, and jumping to name a few. By 2012, they have won championships not only in their core business of Football, but have elite teams competing in Handball, Table Tennis, Hockey, Gymnastics, Boxing, Martial Arts, Judo, Swimming, Futsal, and Athletics (Track and Field).

While we talk mostly about football and sports, SCP is a social club as well united in support of sport and their teams. Membership in Portugal and worldwide is a family tradition. Pedro Cunha Ferreira, chief legal counsel, admits that his 88-year-old grandfather was the first to join Sporting. His mother and father are members. His wife and daughter are also members. Ferreira wears the green proudly and sits on the board of directors.

With more than 100,000 registered club members, Sporting Clube de Portugal has more than three million fans on all continents with up to 300 supporters' clubs, offices and delegations, as well as more than 150,000 affiliates.

As Georgia Soccer joins the tradition of Sporting Lisbon, we join a program of excellence, loyalty, tradition and hope that was born 105 years ago.