While he missed out on getting onto the scoresheet in the final of the Subroto Cup, Loren Romulado with eight goals in all was still the highest scorer of the tournament. Romualdo is Santo Antonio’s No. 9, the jersey number often worn by centre forwards. And while Romulado has been one of the mainstays of the tournament for the Brazil-based team — unsurprisingly he was named player of the tournament –it isn’t his only high profile assignment thus far. The 17-year old is also an important member of the Brazil Under-17 team.
Santo Antonio is the school team of famous Brazilian club Fluminense which has produced stalwarts like Thiago Silva (Paris St. Germaine), Marcelo (Real Madrid) and Rafael (Manchester United). “It’s good to play for a famous team, I feel good that I play for a major team and a major league,” said Romualdo, who wants to keep the Brazilian football legacy intact. He also admits that he is fancying his chances in the national team.
“I am a striker, and strikers are in demand in the country. So I expect very soon I can make it to the senior national team.”
Fluminense is currently captained by Fred, who represented Brazil in the FIFA World Cup. “I used to play for a small team, once I played against Fluminense the scouts liked my style of play and invited me,” said Romualdo.
Romualdo’s typical day begins in the gym and ends with a mini training session on the field. “The club has a good structure and this structure filters a player at the under-14 and under-17 levels. So among all the top four clubs in Rio, its Fluminense which stands out for its structure.”
‘ONE FOR THE FUTURE’
Gustavo, head coach of Santo Antonio, praised the striker and said he is one for the future. “He came from a small team named Bangu. He is with us for 2 years now and has developed a lot. He has grown physically and mentally during this time.”
Gustavo, who has seen stars like Marcelo and Rafael at the academy very closely said, “those two players grew together and were groomed together, they got the opportunity to go outside and play; the rest is history.”
“Fabio and Marcelo started to play futsal when they were 8 or 10-years old. All the neighbourhoods and schools in Rio have a team in futsal, it is the biggest in Rio. Kids start to play in futsal when they are 5. So when they become 10 they can play on the pitch,” said Marcel, who is the football project coordinator at Fluminense.
Futsal is an improvised version of street soccer and is an equivalent to the tennis-ball cricket tournaments in India. The scouts of the academy keep a close tab on these tournaments to recruit fresh talent.
CHURNING OUT PROFESSIONALS
Before admitting anyone into their academy, Fluminense test the players on their IQ after which the scrutiny moves on the physical and technical aspects of the player. “The most important thing in today’s football is that you have to be intelligent as the game today is very fast. So the one who thinks fast, the one who knows how to create opportunities, will always win,” he added.
Giving an insight into how the academy had churned out quality professionals in the recent past, he said “we have 300 players, 100 live with us. They have a school to study, place to stay and its like a big family. They have the training facilities, and the rest of 200 who stay with their families are ferried to the academy by our own buses.”
He added since every kid can’t be turned into an international player, the academy has plans for every player. “We give them a career plan. We have players in China, US, Ukraine and Belgium. We give them a chance to be professional player, and if they don’t become one, we help them get scholarship to US universities, and after their study we hire them as our staff.”