This tournament is unrestricted. Teams registered in good standing with any U.S. Soccer Federation affiliate are eligible to apply.
This tournament is unrestricted. Teams registered in good standing with any U.S. Soccer Federation affiliate are eligible to apply.
The second weekend here in Portugal was a great soccer experience and an eventful two days.
Saturday started with another early breakfast so we could get out to Obidos and tour the castle. Obidos has many different things to offer. It is famous for its castle way up on the mountain and the ability to walk all the way around the castle at a high height. The kids were safe and understood the danger of some areas but being able to walk around gave the opportunities for some nice photos! Obidos is also known for chocolate ginja shots and pao com chourico.
After a few hours in Obidos, the next destination was Porto de Mos for a great lunch and preparation for a scrimmage with the club in the late afternoon. The scrimmage was not the best competition as the boys were younger and not at the same level of our boys but it was good to see the facilities, meet the mayor of the town and receive some medals as well as giving them our pennant.
The surprise finally came after the scrimmage with Porto de Mos ended. I receive a phone call from my brother in law letting me know that I am an uncle! My nephew Leo James Francini was born at 10:01am NY eastern Time on August 27th 2016. It is an amazing feeling and I am very happy for my sister Danielle and Brother in law Justin. They will be great parents and we are excited to welcome another young baller into the family.
I cannot wait to see him when I get back!
Speaking of coming back, we return home tomorrow at 8:00pm. Today wrapped up with our final training session with Benfica in the morning, lunch in the stadium and a visit to Cascais which is one of the nicest vacation spots here in Portugal. Beautiful scenery, shops, restaurants and people. A place to return to for sure!
The trip was a success in terms of soccer and Portuguese lifestyle. Soccer or Futebol is not just a game it is a way of life here. We already knew this but I am happy to see many of the people on the tour witness just how real the passion is!
I would like to thank everyone who was involved in organizing this trip starting with Joe Palumbo the founder of the academy and the support he has had to make this trip a reality.
Christine Arraiano has been absolutely incredible in her commitment to making this first time Portugal experience a great one. From Benfica club negotiations to hotel accommodations to bus coordination to food preparation and sights to see, she was the backbone of the trip and why we were able to make the trip memorable. Planning and organization is very important to creating fun, food and laughs on this trip.
Marcos and Rui Arraiano on communicating with Benfica coaches and organization while being present here in Portugal for the week. Translating and communicating to all parties was vital to the trip running smoothly. Reaching out to clubs to organize friendly matches in between training sessions in a difficult time of the year are all things that are noticed and appreciated.
Finally I would like to thank all of the tour participants who came here to Portugal with the Palumbo Academy to experience soccer in the Portuguese culture.
To the parents:
Your support of the tour and flexibility was necessary for the week to run accordingly. You all understood the purpose, the mission of the trip and believed in us to make the experience great so I thank you for that.
To the players:
Thank you for your cooperation and dedication throughout the week. You were a mixed group who came together and looked out for one another on the field and off. It might be difficult to recognize and be grateful for all that you did this week because you are still living in the moment. When you get back home and spend some time to reflect on the trip, I am sure you will be proud of yourselves and feel lucky to have gone on such a memorable tour. Think about the technical stages at training and if you were able to complete them. How is your technique going to improve? Get to work when you arrive home and if you take anything away from this experience is that you have a lot of work to do to become a great player. Don’t hold yourself at your friends standards hold your self at the standards of the best! 7 or 8 minutes and all 4 stages are complete…..Remember that!
Thank you and I look forward to coming back home to NY and beginning the Fall season right away!
A day free of training but the soccer education continues!
The 7th day of the tour is a day of rest from the training grounds for the boys but packed with sights to see and information to gather.
The day began at 8:15am with breakfast in the lobby and the bus departing at 9:15am to visit Belem. Belem is a nice town close by Lisbon with many historic monuments and plenty of small shops and restaurants. Pasteis de Belem was the pastry shop to go to in Belem. Pasteis are a famous Portuguese dessert and know for being crated at this specific shop and in Belem. They were extremely tasty and the wait was well worth it!
Belem had some nice things to offer as far as picture taking and buildings to see but the final 45 minutes of the tour was spent playing pickup in the park. The game was 6 on 5 with one goal being a tree and the other a piece of wood on the ground. It was fun to play with the boys and watch their excitement playing.
After pickup lunch was in Belem followed by some more pickup and juggling competitions before heading out to the national training center for the Portugal National teams. This training facility isn’t opening until October for outsider visits but Benfica really push for us to get in to see it and it was an experience the boys won’t forget. Sitting in chairs of where Cristiano Ronaldo sits. Being in the locker room, the weight room, The hydrothermal training spa, The medical area, the cafeteria, media center and out next to the 3 full size fields was incredible. They welcomed us in and wanted our experience to be as good as possible. We got to see everything that is at the players and coaches accessibility while preparing for their upcoming friendly or qualifier. We even left with a picture of the entire European champions team with all of the players signature on it along with a European booklet outlining their memorable run to the finals and winning their first ever major tournament trophy. We left the facility feeling fortunate to have experienced a new project that was built in the timespan of 1 year and 6 months. Quite the impressive job that was done and will be utilized to its maximum for the best of the best that get selected to be a part of the national team.
Returning to the hotel early was a good plan as some of the boys needed some rest before dinner and final meeting before their 2nd game. The game is tomorrow against Port De Mos and the boys are looking forward to winning the scone game of the week and leaving Portugal on a high games wise but understanding they must improve technically if they’d like to be considers a baller around the world.
The days are winding down but they seem to be getting better and better. Today was a special day for any soccer fan to witness the professionalism and pride that Portugal have for their soccer.
Today had many memorable moments for all of the participants in the tour here in Portugal. The first memorable moment for some is that extra sleep was granted and we started the day a little later with breakfast at 9:30AM. So those sleep lovers enjoyed the eggs with their eyes a little bit wider this morning! We took off around 10:30am to head to the Benfica Museum!
The best museum is a soccer museum!
The Benfica Museum is one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. I am not a Benfiquista but I still had some emotional moments as I walked through history of such a huge club. From the players that have gone through the club and the trophies won to the togetherness and spirit of being more than just a sporting club. They have all sports but they remind all who enter the museum that they are very much a part of the history by supporting them on the field no matter what sport is being played. When they succeed, the fans succeed and the club goes the extra mile to recognize the fans as the real reason they are able to attack their championships with bravery and pride.
I could write an entire book on the museum experience today and it’s crazy that I only spent about 2 hours in there. I could spend an entire day there studying and reading up on legends who played. Championships that were won and how they were won. Watching videos of how the club progressed from playing in Belem to Estadio Da Luz!! It was fascinating to see and would recommend any true soccer fan to visit the museum for themselves. The boys of course loved the final part of the museum which is a speed shot to see how hard you can hit the ball. Brandon got the highest speed…..Until I made my way to the end of the museum of course! 😉
Caixa Futebol Campus!
The boys were in for a treat in the afternoon as they attended a tour and training session at Caixa Futebol Campus. Benfica has a specific training facility for their teams of u13 up to the first team and Benfica B team. The facility consists of 9 regulation size grass fields. 2 turf fields and an artificial surface technical training area. Inside the buildings there are areas for the youth with gyms, classrooms and study lounges. Then there are specific locations for only the first team such as the spa, cafe, locker room, and gym. Finally Benfica B (reserve team) has their specific locations inside the buildings as well. There is also a full hotel on the campus that is strictly for the players of the academy and Benfica B and first team players when needed to stay there. U13 to u17 the players stay at the hotel and train every day.
The parents of the tour were not allowed into the complex and only players and coaches. Their is a 12 foot fence around the entire complex to block out any interference or spying that may occur. The goal is to keep all of the training methodology and focus on Futebol for the players and make them feel like this campus is their home. They have enough lime light, problems, and distractions outside of the campus from fans around the world so it is important they have a place for them to stay tranquil and feel relaxed to focus on their job!
The first team training field was a jewel that is only used a maximum 15 hours a week so the field looks in perfect condition daily. The boys finished the tour of the fields and began training with the head and assistant coach of the u14 academy team at Benfica. The session was very technical and they really pushed them to the maximum for their level.
Highlights of the session:
– Ladder work and coordination
– dribbling with no opposition but performing a skill move half way through the dribble
– Dribbling with opposition. If you beat the guy you passed ball off of you lost it the defender passed ball to next guy and followed out.
– 1 v 1s and 2 v 2s to two goals.
– Skills challenge! Crossbar. Wall volleys. Juggling to half and back both feet. Corners with bending the ball in off one bounce. Hitting the net on opposite side in the air on the fly.
– Boys complete maximum 2 stages.
– The top 3 Benfica players in similar age group will finish all stages in 7 to 9 minutes.
Practice ended with myself and the head coach beating the assistant and goalie trainer in soccer tennis.
One of the top days of the tour and putting some challenging thoughts In the boys minds.
– Can I be a pro?
– Can I live on my own at 13 for 5 days out of the week and sacrifice it all to hope to be on the first team?
– Man I wish I could stay here was the thought of a few of them, which is a good thing to take away.
Seeing what you’re up against, evaluating your potential and desire are huge. This was a good taste of true professional development with REAL incentives and competition for all of the kids on the tour whether they believe they will be a pro in this game or not.
Tomorrow is a day of rest from soccer but still full of touring the city of Belem and visiting two national stadiums. One being the national stadium for the cup and the other is the brand new stadium that was built for the national team of Portugal….the champions of Europe.
“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
8:30am was the start for the day with breakfast in the hotel before the group went to the stadium for the day. Training began at 10:00am and they did a similar training from the first day. Creating some familiarity and progression for the week.
Aspects of training:
– Protecting the ball
– 1 v 1 with option of 2 goals
– 10 v 2 in 4 boxes
– The awareness of where to play the ball and move into space took time for them to understand and they never quite found a rhythm of the exercise
– Moved onto shooting with balls coming towards you with both feet
– 4v4 games
– Penalty shootout
– Stretch and talk
Lunch was inside the stadium again. The view of the field from where you are eating lunch could never get old. Today was a lunch followed by a tour of the full stadium amenities. The stadium has many different uses similar to a small shopping mall with 2 Benfica stores, media stores, multiple restaurants and other add ons to increase revenue of the club and provide as much as they can to enhance the Benfica experience.
The tour was really well run giving history on the club and explaining all the destinations on the tour in detail. Visiting the locker room was enjoyable to see for the kids and imagining themselves being in a similar place in the future. The locker room was where the visiting teams go of course. Not even the tour guide has seen the first teams locker room. No one is allowed in. The best experience for the group was being able to walk along side the field and seeing how perfect the field was and the feel of the stadium around you down below. The tour ended back in the stores section and each participant was given a 20% off card for being a part of the tour. Some took full advantage of this and got some nice Benfica memorabilia.
Downtown Lisbon was the next destination. It is a nice location with many small shops, cafes, and statues. The boys were pretty tired by afternoon and started to get the itch to get back to the hotel. The hour and half spent in Lisbon was mostly filled shopping, sightseeing, and ice cream eating.
The day closed with a dinner back at the hotel and was one of the better meals. Pork meat mixed with pickled vegetables, potatoes, bacalhau, rice, pasta and of course the boys favorite here: plenty of bread.
Being back earlier today will help us all get some rest and enjoy the day tomorrow where the boys will be training at the Caixa Futebol Campus. This is where the First team trains. Benfica B plays their games. And the youth teams from u14 and up all train! It has dorms for he boys to stay during the week attend classes and train every day. Weekends they are allowed to go home to see family before and after games. It will be a great experience and will hope to encounter some surprises like possibly meeting some first team players. The Benfica Museum will also be on tomorrow’s agenda which everyone has been speaking very highly of all week!!
What a trip this has been so far!
The morning began again with breakfast at 8am. The boys are responsible for coming down and meeting at one table as a team. Once all of the players are present they go up to get food at the buffet that has been great so far this week with many different options. Depends on who’s in line for the omelettes ahead of you though. Some groups staying at the hotel are very particular about how they like their eggs.
The bus left the hotel around 9:10am for Nazare today. It was one of the longer rides of the trip so far but was spent playing the famous mafia game or others catching up on sleep or planning their touring destinations.
Nazare is a beautiful destination and a go to place if you are in Portugal. Famous beach for the waves as well as the shops and seafood restaurants. The boys had the option of going to the beach or staying up on top to shop and enjoy the view of the beach down below. Today the group split up to enjoy all of the many things Nazare had to offer and it worked out well for all parties.
The tour bus left Nazare around 12:15pm to head to Batalha for lunch at the restaurant called Americano pizza and see the small town of Batalha. The lunch was pizza salad and wings. It is a restaurant owned by a Portuguese American who has been in business for the past few years now making American food in the town. The pizza was pretty good along with salad and wings, no complaints! The boys left the restaurant, walked off the pizza, did some sightseeing and it was then time to play.
Thank you Batalha for all of your gifts and welcoming attitude towards us!
Batalha has a great facility for their youth academy with multiple turf fields in different sizes for training and games. They welcomed us with anything we needed as far as a locker room, water, pinnies, cones, balls you name it. We won the game 4-1 in the end but the game result or goals scored were not the hithlight. The greatest thing we take away from this experience is respect.
The club showed the greatest level of sportsmanship and graciousness in their loss and proceeded to give us gifts and praise for being in their town. The Vice President of the region was in attendance and greeted all of the players and coaches involved in the game. He distributed medals, 2 trophies, and goody bags with hats and a guide to the city to all of our players.
It doesn’t stop there however as we were all invited to their club house where they had all sandwiches made for the players along with drinks. The boys spent some time together interacting and socializing as best they could with the language barrier. It seems some of the boys hit it off well and exchanged social media connects.
Batalha were very excited to host us and hoping to make the experience a memory that we wouldn’t forget. They were successful in this mission and left an incredible impact on our lives. Today was the perfect example of how to accommodate for an academy from a foreign country.
The day ended with a nice dinner on the way home from the game as it was a long bus ride home. The meal was delicious and the boys got to spend some time celebrating their victory and reflecting back on one of the best days of the trip so far.
It all starts again tomorrow with a training session with Benfica Academy and a tour of the entire stadium.
Hopefully Rui Costa will be roaming around somewhere….
Media conference visit!
Before the boys began training, the entire tour was welcomed into the Stadium to visit the media conference room where Rui Vitoria (manager of Benfica) addresses the media after games like we witnessed on Sunday night. Here, we watched a video on the history of the club of Benfica, Their trophy totals and the large following they have around the world. The head trainer then went a little deeper into the methodology of the school of Benfica, the structure of the club from top to bottom, and all of the programs that they offer in various locations around the world.
This was a great start to the day witnessing the pride all of the people who work for Benfica have for the clubs success.
The training session was held right outside of the stadium on a turf field. It was a hot day but all of the boys were anxious to go out and enjoy the session!
Key points of the session:
– Protection of the ball using your body, feints, and sharp changes of direction
– Working as hard as you can to win the ball back if you lose it.
– 1 v 1s to goal and finishing with power and placement
– 3 v 1 with two touch mandatory and then one touch only
– Movement off the ball. Awareness and proper technique when passing and receiving.
– Dribbling with feints at a stick and finishing with no defensive pressure.
– 4v4 round robin small sided tournament.
The training session wrapped up with a speech about self discipline and understanding that it is important to develop the person so he or she can be the soccer player they would like to be.
Lunch with a view!
After training, lunch was waiting inside the stadium in the presidential suite. Out looking the glass doors was a full view of the field and the full stadium empty however compared to the 55,000 that were in attendance the night before. Lunch was great and ended with a few pictures outside in the stands of the stadium.
Sintra was a site to see!
Sintra mountains are about 25 minutes from the stadium and it was quite the bus ride to get there. Weaving around people and narrow streets we safely made it up to the park entrance to visit the palace. We were able to get the whole tour up there to see the main attraction of Sintra which is the palace. Very cool architecture and some spectacular views of the city of Lisbon down below. People spend days on Sintra as a resort location, we spent a few hours that went by quick but the scenery was worth the visit!
Dinner and a talk!
The day ended with dinner back at the hotel and a meeting about tomorrow with the boys. Tomorrow they will be touring Nazare, visiting Batalha, and playing their first game of the week in Batalha.
Wish them luck! ⚽️
The opening two days in Portugal have started off great with meeting the President of Benfica. Having a training session with two coaches who work in Leiria, Marrazes Academy and Porto de mos and attending the first home game of the new season for Benfica!
A day at the Quinta
The Quinta was about an hour away from the hotel and is a beautiful villa on 10 acres of land with a pool and a futsal court for the boys to train. The parents were able to watch the training session or go for a run or walk for the first 3 hours. We had lunch, some pool time and of course more pickup soccer before leaving for the game at night!
First training session
The focus of the session was coordination, balance, agility and proper technique. They went through many different technical exercises working on passing receiving and moving and finishing with shooting. They ended the session with a 4v4 round robin tournament which green won!
moving their feet quickly at each station before receiving the ball.
Looking up and seeing their partner to give a good pass.
Changing their speed after playing the ball.
Attention to detail.
Using both feet to receive and pass.
Lunch and pool time!
Lunch was at the pool house with bbq chicken, rice, pork, salad, appetizers and enough food for another group! The boys ate, enjoyed some ping pong, Relaxed by the pool and started another pickup game before taking off for the game at the Estadio da Luz.
Benfica game against Vitoria de Setubal
The group arrived at the stadium early enough to enjoy some fun games outside of the stadium and get a glimpse of where they will be training on Monday with their Benfica Academy coach for the week. Highlights before the game would be taking pictures in front of the Eusebio statue and seeing who hard the hardest shot at the speed zone. Brandon won….
The group entered the stadium at 7:15 to chants and great excitement for the first game of the season. The game was every thing you expected for a first division Portugal league game. Very technical and tactical with a high speed of play, great intensity and REAL competition! Benfica are the defending Champions of the league and Vitoria de Setubal came in with a clear game plan. Defend like crazy, counter with speed precision and fearlessness and if get a goal continue to defend till the end! They had a plan and sticking to the plan made things difficult for Benfica to find a goal off the run of play. Setubal actually found themselves up 1-0 in the second half off a set piece that has been playing over and over on the television debating whether it was offsides or not. Benfica changed to 2 forwards putting on the Mexican Raul Jimenez and taking off the young promising Argentinian Cervi. Benfica pushed on the get a late penalty and tie the game 1-1 thanks to Raul Jimenez. They salvage a point at home and look to get back to their winning ways next weekend.
We look forward to a great Monday tomorrow here in Portugal.
– Stay tuned for more updates! –