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Youth Boys Nov 24, 2015

Cincinnati United Premier players experience snapshot of German pro soccer, courtesy of Puma

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The six young players were taking a tour of historic Signal Iduna Park, home of German Bundesliga powerhouse Borussia Dortmund, when one of the players looked out at the massive stands and told his coach that it reminded him of Columbus Crew Stadium.

“You understand,” his coach replied, pointing to the north end of the stadium, “that this one end zone here holds 6,000 more people than all of Crew Stadium?”

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The six players, all between the ages of 12 and 13, were in Germany as part of a partnership between their club team, Cincinnati United Premier, and German sportswear company Puma. In fewer than five full days, the boys would train with a Dortmund coach, experience the Futbonaut, watch a Europa League match and meet U.S. U-17 international Christian Pulisic. And all of it was completely paid for by Puma.

“For me, one of the highlights was having a young American who is on our youth national team [Pulisic], who’s playing over in Europe, and is playing out the dream of every boy that’s there,” Scott Bower, CUP Senior Boys Director of Coaching told SoccerWire. “[He’s] a young man who’s moved half-way across the world away from family and friends – his dad is there – but he’s moved away from everyone else including his mom and his sister.”

“We have still in our country most boys who continue to miss whatever their next hobby is, whether it be band practice or basketball practice to go to training on Wednesday but they’re telling us at the same time that they want to be a professional soccer player one day.”

For the six young boys who had been chosen for this trip, here was an introduction to the difficult and often cutthroat world of international soccer. Here was a chance to measure themselves against some of the best players their age in Germany.

It was also a chance to learn about a new culture; for most of the boys it was their first-ever opportunity to leave the country.

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“Big things like going to a Borussia Dortmund professional league game? Yeah, that’s really cool,” said Bower. “But the cultural side is a neat thing to pick up on as well and encouraging them to try things and going through that process as well is cool.”

Some of the CUP players loved the experience so much that, according to Bower, they were prepared to skip the flight home and give it a shot in Germany. Those players learned that there were others out there just like them, players who were different, more driven to become professionals than some of their other peers.

“Everyone wants to be a pro soccer player … but to develop and accomplish that above everyone else you have to be willing to make sacrifices and not worry about upsetting your friends on a particular team or in another sport or whatever it is,” said Bower. “For them to see boys that are actually doing that, I think was really cool [and] to see that they’re not that abnormal.”

Bower pointed out, however, that the German model is not easily replicable here in the States. Most youth teams here are unaffiliated with a professional team. The same kind of community spirit and passion evinced by the parents and fans in the stands of youth games in Germany cannot be channeled towards players development here in America. Still, it’s not entirely different.

“For us, what we’re trying to build at our club is the club culture where we’re looking up at least at the players that are older than us,” Bower explained. “So if we took 13s and 14s, they’re looking up to the 16s and 17s and the 15s and 16s are looking up to the 18s and 19s. But we don’t have that pro piece where we’re all going towards one goal and that’s to play for this one team, where [the Germans] do.”

The partnership with Puma has so far been a fruitful one for CUP. Later this month, several CUP teams will travel to Disney World as part of the Disney Junior Soccer Showcase, presented by Puma. Bower hopes that it will give his teams the opportunity to test themselves against ever higher competition, including youth teams from Arsenal FC and Borussia Dortmund.

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For now though, Bower hopes that those six young players from the Germany trip can bring some of what they learned out onto the pitch.

“It’s important that we bring these experiences back, and make not only ourselves stronger as players and as coaches, but also make our club stronger, our team stronger, our buddies,” Bower said he told his players.

“Just by sharing our experiences with them and talking about the things that they got to go through and help the rest of the guys back at home who unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to go this year, to help give them some insight on the things that they learned.”

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