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Dreaming big: Virginia teen Sandor Bustamante prospers in Barcelona youth academy

He isn’t your ordinary U.S. soccer prospect. He isn’t at a top academy in the United States or traveling around the country to battle in the toughest youth leagues.

Instead, he is learning his trade at a young age in arguably the top soccer nation on the planet. Sandor Bustamante, 14, is a Virginia-born soccer phenom. The talented attacker, who can play striker and all over the midfield, is currently in the youth ranks of UE Cornellà, a club in the suburbs of Barcelona, Spain which produced Jordi Alba, the star left back for reigning La Liga champions FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team.

Born in Fairfax, Va. in 1999, Bustamante made the move over to the Iberian Peninsula nearly two years ago and has been living there ever since with his parents. His goal is to be a professional player. He played club soccer locally at Lee-Mt. Vernon SC before he was noticed by coaches and brought to Spain.

The child of Honduran parents, Bustamante possesses tremendous quality with the ball at his feet and has shined at his Spanish club thus far.

“Soccer is a passion for me. It’s not a job or an obligation. I just love it,” he told this week.

His current club has a relationship with Barcelona, who have first option to sign players out of the Cornellà academy.

One of the reasons Bustamante aspires to make it as a professional soccer player is to return the favor to his parents and provide for them, give them a life of tranquility that he feels that they deserve.

“It’s a big motivation,” he said. “My parents worked all their lives to [take care of me]. It motivated me a lot. It makes me realize that they work, so now it is my chance.”

According to Dio Bustamante, Sandor’s father, the player also has a good relationship with West Ham United of London, where he had a trial. The main issue is that his son hasn’t fully grown and is still short compared to the other players. They are hoping a growth spurt hits soon.

In the meantime, he continues to shine in the richly technical environment of the Spanish game. In his last game, he scored two goals and assisted on three more.

“We’ve been here for almost two years,” Sandor said. “It’s been good. Training is really hard … On the field, I do my job … It makes you mature and responsible.”

Aside from the struggles of getting used to a new school, a new city – a new world – it’s been a completely different game on the pitch.

“The soccer is a lot different,” Sandor said. “It’s a whole other level. They kick the ball [and run in the States]. Here they like to play the ball. It’s a different environment. The players here are taken care of like professionals. That is why I came here. It’s a better environment. The coaches try to show you better soccer, not just kickball.”

Now, the main dream is to sign a professional contract once he turns 16. But he must continue to improve as a player each day.

“I think it is going to happen,” the determined teenager said. “I’ve worked on it all my life. I know I’m going to sign one. I really can’t express in words [what that would feel like].”

Sandor said he hasn’t thought about what country he could potentially represent down the road, be it the United States (his birth nation) or Honduras. He doesn’t care about that right now. He has more immediate goals in mind.

“It’s always been my dream to be in Europe, fighting to reach my goal,” Sandor said. “It’s a dream come true. The other half is to sign a contract and be playing professional.”

For his father, life couldn’t be sweeter.

“When Sandor started growing and playing soccer, everything started changing,” he said. “That is when he started getting invited to Europe [he has played in Europe and had trials several times since he was seven]. God was building his plan. I never wanted to do anything that he didn’t want to do. I wanted him to grow.

“It’s beautiful to see Sandor come from a place where soccer isn’t strong to competing with some of the best youth players in the world. It fills me with joy.”