TUKWILA, Wash. – Most young soccer players can only dream about the prospect of sharing the pitch with Lionel Messi – or any member of Argentina’s star-studded national team.
But with Argentina in Seattle ahead of its Copa America Centenario group stage matchup with Bolivia at CenturyLink Field on Tuesday, that dream became a reality for some current and former members of the Seattle Sounders FC Youth Academy.
Argentina trained with Sounders academy members on both Sunday and Monday at Starfire Sports in Tukwila, going through possession and shooting drills and even playing a light scrimmage, giving Seattle’s crop of young prospects a chance to test their skills against FIFA’s current No. 1-ranked team in the world.
“I can’t even describe it,” said U-18 midfielder and Renton native Connor Noblat. “Imagine the most happy moment of your life … and then multiply that by like 10.”
“One of the coolest things I’ll ever do in my life,” added U-16 midfielder Cameron Martin. “So far in my life, it’s probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done, just being on the same pitch as some of my idols. ”
The practices were closed to the public, but that didn’t stop scores of fans from packing the parking lot in an all-around festive scene Starfire. Some ran after the Argentina team bus when it arrived chanting Messi’s name. Others climbed the fence surrounding the practice field, trying to poke their heads over to try and catch a glimpse of the iconic superstar.
For former Seattle academy member and current UCLA standout Seyi Adekowa, the chance to practice with Messi represented an obvious chance to soak up some knowledge from a world-class source.
“I wanted to see how he trained, how he acted, the little things that he does,” Adekowa said. “Not just the way he plays, but the way he carries himself and the way he gets into every tackle and doesn’t worry about what’s happening on the field and just plays the game.”
Noblat and Martin also said that the experience has given them more appreciation for the amount of work that went into Messi achieving his current status.
“It was a kind of a behind the scenes look about what we talked about in the locker room,” Noblat said. “How do you get to be the best? You have to work hard. You see in training, he’s working his butt off, getting in tackles, defending. He’s just amazing to watch.”