Filipino teen footballer Rafael Garcia joins LaLiga Academy

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Filipino teen footballer Rafael Garcia joins LaLiga Academy

PROSPECT. Rafael Garcia trains at the ESC LaLiga and NBA Centre during an immersion last April.


Rafael García, a 16-year-old defender, becomes the first Filipino football player to be part of LaLiga’s sporting and academic program in Spain

MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino teen gets a unique chance not only to hone his football skills but also pursue his studies in Spain.

Rafael Garcia, a 16-year-old defender, becomes the first Filipino to join the LaLiga Academy during the 2023-2024 season. 

“I love football because it teaches me how to work hard, how to work as part of a team and, above all, about the passion of the game. It has a lot of values that I can transfer to my daily life,” said Garcia, who will participate in the exclusive training program at the ESC LaLiga & NBA Centre in Madrid. 

Garcia, who can play center-back and right-back, trained at Makati FC, GOM Fotball Center of Excellence, Southampton Academy, and Stallion Laguna FC.

“Football is a way of life. Everything you learn on the pitch you need off the pitch,” he said. 

The prestigious LaLiga Academy project, aimed at athletes between the ages of 13 and 18, focuses on both the academic and sporting spheres. Young athletes study at a school integrated into the Centre, and at the same time, hone their football skills while training under the LaLiga Methodology for a whole season. 

Garcia was already able to train at the ESC LaLiga & NBA Centre during a few immersion days in April. 

“What I like most about the ESC LaLiga & NBA Centre is probably the football pitch: it’s where the magic of football happens,” the Filipino footballer said.

“At LaLiga Academy I will be able to enjoy meeting new teammates from different countries. I will discover new cultures. I’m looking forward to playing football and studying with them.” 

The academy’s unique complex now has a residence with a capacity of 450 people, two football fields, a gymnasium, a clinic and an international school equipped with a library, laboratory and study rooms. In this first season in 2022-2023, 36 players of 24 different nationalities joined the program. 

“The development of interest in football in Southeast Asia is evolving exponentially, especially in the Philippines, helping to reach new profiles of young players from all over the world,” said Juan Florit, head of LaLiga Football Department.

“It is therefore a privilege for LaLiga Academy to have Rafael, who has shown great promise and we hope that next season we can help him develop a series of skills and values through a unique sporting and educational experience.”

LaLiga Academy was the first annual program launched by LaLiga in Spain, and joins the more than 550 grassroots football sports projects in more than 43 countries. It has been implemented since 2015, brought together within LaLiga Grassroots, the project launched in 2021 to promote global grassroots football. 

LaLiga is a pioneer among the major competitions, creating a network of permanent academies based on its own training system and Spanish grassroots football programs. –

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