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Global Jun 30, 2011

Virginia-bred Moravek duo making progress in Fulham FC’s youth academy

By Charles Boehm

Winchester, Va. natives William and Michael Moravek recently concluded their first season in the youth system of English Premier League side Fulham FC, and have been invited to remain in the program for the 2011-12 campaign.

The two brothers and their parents, Bill and Cheryl, relocated from Virginia to south London at the beginning of the year when William was offered a spot in Fulham’s highly-regarded academy, while his younger sibling Michael enrolled in the pre-academy development program.

Despite the challenges posed by a midseason arrival, cultural adjustments and a rough welcome from some of his fellow prospects in the extremely competitive system, William’s performances earned positive reviews from the coaching staff and he will continue his development with at least another year at Fulham.

Despite the Moraveks’ short tenure, this was far from assured: The pursuit of academy spots at top-flight clubs is nearly as competitive as at the senior level, with many young prospects routinely dropped at the end of the season.

“It has been quite an adjustment of course,” Bill Moravek told Potomac Soccer Wire earlier this month. “Coming in mid-year with kids that have been in the club for a while, and the same for school – and being from a different country is not easy.

“The amount of football is so much more than in the USA that it has taken time to adjust to the workload. But they have both done remarkably well and are thriving in the professional environment.”

According to his father, William has played some 25 matches since arriving in London, along with four training sessions per week. He was selected to represent the club’s 2002-birth-year squad at a major international tournament in Holland and Germany at the end of the season.

“They actually fly out together as a club to the tournaments and parent involvement is very much limited. These tournaments can have as many as a couple thousand people watching the games with people playing music, wearing face paint – very much like a world cup atmosphere, but for kids,” explained Bill Moravek. “It’s a good test to see how players deal with fans and pressure – part of the development for possible professional life in the future.”

William and the rest of Fulham’s ’02 team flew to Venlo, Holland to face off against their counterparts from elite European clubs like AC Milan, Sparta Prague, Sparta Rotterdam and Schalke 04.

The English side reached the tourney’s semifinals before bowing out 1-0 to German side Borussia Mönchengladbach, who went on to defeat AC Milan 3-1 in the final. Scoring three goals and playing a variety of roles in attack, midfield and defense – part of the club’s holistic development philosophy –William was named as one of Fulham’s top performers in the competition.

More importantly, the trip provided the youngsters with a true taste of life as professional players.

“It was the first time away from home for all of them. To be able to travel to a different country to play against top pro academies in a tournament representing one of the top academies in England is amazing,” said his father. “Traveling together as a team by plane, staying in a hotel as team, doing everything together as a group at the age of 8-9 is truly a unique experience.”

Meanwhile, Michael has been playing for Fulham at the U-7 level, including two tournaments closer to home in England.

The family will return to the United States for a few weeks this summer before Fulham’s preparations for the new season begin on August 13.

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