'Dont tell me i have potential" is the insight behind Nike Football's "My Time is Now" campaign which celebrates the hunger and impatience of young players ready to make their mark on the elite game. It also reflects the type of players Nike is looking for at "The Chance" national finals which are gaining pace across the globe, as 55 countries around the world bid to find the Final 100 young footballers who will make it to the global finals at FC Barcelona's famed youth academy this summer.
No more so than in Europe, which has recently played host to three national final events held in France, Germany and Holland respectively, in events that saw hundreds of young footballers prove themselves on the pitch and impress the Nike talent scouts to get spotted and selected for the global final.
The French National Final was held at the iconic French Football Federation training academy of Clairefontaine, to the south west of Paris. In attendance were fifty aspiring young footballers who were put through their paces on the pitch under the watchful eye of Laurent Blanc, Christophe Dugarry, Bernard Diomède and Renaud Longuèvre. Three from fifty players were selected to represent France in the Global Finals.
Eighty young footballers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland went head to head at the National Final’s of Nike’s ‘The Chance’ in Munich on May 17 and 18 – all battling it out for two places in the Global Final’s.
Thomas Schaaf and Klaus Allofs from Werder Bremen acted as head scouts on the day and Italian football legend Marco Materazzi was given the honour of announcing the two winners live on stage.
Werder coach Thomas Schaaf said: “Thanks to ‘The Chance’ young footballers have the opportunity to present themselves under the most professional conditions. And who knows, maybe one of them is a future professional footballer.”
In the run-up to the final in Munich, scouts travelled around 7,500 miles, visiting over 500 teams in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to find the eighty finalists.
Meanwhile Holland and the KNVB in Zeist played host to the Northern European Finals, which took place May 18 - 20. Ninety young footballers attended the weekend event; forty from the Netherlands, twenty five from Belgium and twenty five from Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
As part of the scouting process, each participant was taken through Nike SPARQ testing, played small sided games, a 7v7 tournament and had tactical training sessions; to be given the ultimate professional footballer experience. Nine players from Northern Europe were chosen to represent the region at the Global Final’s in Barcelona later this year.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst, The Chance ambassador for Northern Europe, visited the event in Holland and said: “It’s fantastic for these guys. The event in Zeist was great and it’s amazing for the players to really get an idea of what it feels like to reach the top.”
‘The Chance’ was first launched in 2010, and has since seen thousands of talented footballers participate in coaching at the very best level. And this year’s programme promises to be the most global and competitive yet.
The final 100 players will take part in an intense training and competition schedule in Barcelona, while being evaluated by a world-class team of coaches and scouts. Players will be assessed through training drills including Nike SPARQ, a training and conditioning system that helps build better athletes.
The best 16 footballers from the global finals in Barcelona will be chosen by Nike to experience the ultimate training tour as their reward; facing some of the most renowned academy teams in world football, including Manchester United and a U.S. Youth National Team during a once-in-a-lifetime four week tour, and one overall winner from the final 16 will be given a 3 month contract at the Nike Academy. Now in its second year of partnership with the Premier League in the United Kingdom 6 of the original 8 winners that trained with the Nike Academy full time have secured professional playing contracts.
With the National Finals from a host of other countries around the world scheduled to take place over the next couple of months it promises to be an exciting summer of football.