Alix Varchol was in soccer heaven.
She was among three females who joined the under-14 Pinnacles FC squad that spent 10 days training at Real Madrid’s soccer facility.
While there, Varchol and the rest of the team took in two professional games and played three games. They also received valuable training sessions while there from March 16 to 26. The trip was set up through the Adidas International Training Program.
“It was really cool. The vibe of everyone there was amazing,” said Varchol, a striker for the under-16 girls’ rep team. “I learned about how high the level is compared to Canada. I’m hoping to become a professional soccer player.”
Varchol couldn’t believe how good the players were with their ball touches at such a young age.
“They know how to play soccer,” she said. “Just seeing how much better they were compared to us, it was cool.”
Pinnacles FC took part in six, two-hour training sessions with Real Madrid coaches. They also had games against academy teams, losing 5-0 twice and earning a 1-1 draw. Coach Tony Trovao said the speed of those players was unbelievable.
“We hung in for three-quarters of the game, but they were just too much for them,” he said.
Trovao said that Xavier Araujo and Varchol were two players that stood out to the Spanish coaches, who were impressed with their skills.
“He thought she was quite phenomenal,” said Trovao of what the coach told him. “The coach saw something in them.”
“It made me really excited that I have potential,” she said. “He told me that the coaches were impressed with my skill level and that they had their eye on me.”
Varchol loved the training sessions and the atmosphere of the centre.
“Having a coach work with us, that is something I never thought would happen,” she said.
The 15-year-old described herself as a player that likes to set up plays and score goals. Her favourite players are Canadian Christine Sinclair because of how she plays and American Alex Morgan, who possesses speed and is a good player.
Varchol said she gained knowledge of how much work she has to do to get to where she wants.
The sport isn’t the only thing she enjoyed. She soaked in the culture visiting Toledo, castles and cathedrals, which “was really cool.”
“It’s totally different,” she said.
The trip for the Pinnacles started with them taking in a game between Real Madrid and Malaga. They blended in Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, which was sold out with 85,000 spectators.
“As soon as we found seats, they just looked around for 15 minutes and said nothing,” said Trovao, impressed by what could silence teenagers so easily. “The kids, they were awestruck. It was just unbelievable.”
The group also took in a match between Gatafe CF and Valencia CF. The Pinnacles were impressed by the size and strength of the players.
“The games made a huge impression,” said Trovao. “They saw the passion.”
During the training session, the Penticton players were using the same field that retired players get together to kick around on. One of them was French player Zinadine Zidane, who one played for Real Madrid. That group is refered to the Old Boys.
“As we were leaving the Old Boys were coming in,” said Trovao. “Security is very tight. You don’t just get to bump into these people.”
The trip was everything and more for the Pinnacles. Trovao said everything was over the top.
“It was a perfect mix of culture and sports,” he said.