There’s no doubt that Europe as a whole is the soccer mecca of the world, hosting some of the best leagues, teams and players on earth. For many European football fans, a trip to Europe to watch a game would be a bucket list experience. To play and practice with a team in Europe, that would be something truly special.
Olivia Calderon will soon be living that dream. The W.F. West sophomore recently competed in a Real Madrid soccer camp in Vancouver and impressed so much she earned a spot to participate in a soccer camp with Real Madrid in Spain from Nov. 23 to Dec. 2.
“It was amazing. It’s just, I was very surprised because it was actually, they were teaching us the stuff we see on TV,” Calderon said. “They were teaching us very technical stuff, to react quickly. All the kids there, they were all pretty skilled too. So it was nice playing with them because it was a new experience playing with kids at a higher skill level and sort of like being all organized instead of cluttered.”
Calderon plays for Twin City Union FC year round and has been honing her skills with them ever since the team was established back in 2016. The Calderon family are fans of Real Madrid, and when they heard about the camp in Vancouver, they knew they had to sign up Olivia and Emilio Jr.
“There’s a couple of camps that we joined her to. We’ve taken her to a camp out in Arizona as well and then we had the opportunity to reach out to camp with Real Madrid, which we’re huge fans,” Olivia’s father Emilio Calderon Sr. explained. “We’re huge European football fans so we signed her up. It was a great experience. A lot of the coaches there are certified so you really get the full potential as far as the coaching aspect of it and she had a camp for five days. They trained her there, they did a lot of techniques that they don’t teach locally or in the U.S. It’s more of a European style type of game. I think it really improved her game quite a bit.”
Olivia and Emilio Jr. went through a lot of conditioning and drills designed by Real Madrid coaches during the camp from Aug. 5-9, with six hour camp sessions each day.
“I did learn to act quick. I had a better vision of the field and before the camp, I did panic a lot,” Olivia said. “Very panicky in some situations and I did have some teamwork aspects but I wasn’t the best but after the camp, my teamwork got better.”
There were players from all over the world that came to Vancouver to participate in the camp. After the camp ended, the coaches selected some players to invite to train in Madrid in the professional training facilities. Olivia knew this and worked hard to try and earn an invite, although she wasn’t expecting it.
“It’s kind of unbelievable because when I was younger, watching the World Cup and everything, around when I was 10 and then watching Real Madrid as I grow up and then finally getting the invitation to go to the academy, it is kind of unbelievable,” Olivia said. “I cried a lot at drivers ed.”
Emilio Sr. was equally as shocked and excited when he received the news.
“I remember she was at driving school. There was a text you’re supposed to receive and I got the text and my mouth just dropped,” Emilio said. “You think of it. I’m like, it would be great but it catches you off guard because you’re not planning a European trip and I’m like ‘wow.’ It’s such a once in a lifetime experience that you get chosen by Real Madrid. That’s big, that’s like the biggest club in the world. It does not get any bigger than that.”
While there, Olivia will stay in a dorm and will be training in Valedebebas, which hosts Real Madrid City, one of the largest professional sports training facilities in the world. According to Olivia’s mom Julie Calderon, she will also have the opportunity to watch two La Liga games along with tours, class time and training time.
With her new opportunity, Calderon’s dreams after completing school have changed to becoming a professional soccer player.
“I thought it was kind of unrealistic for me but since I got this opportunity, yeah, it’s like my ultimate goal now to play in Europe,” Olivia said.
Real Madrid is starting up a women’s team in 2020, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. After the US women’s national team won their second straight World Cup, Olivia hopes to be playing for the red, white and blue some day. She was able to attend a couple games during the 2015 World Cup in Vancouver, Canada.
“I remember when I went to Brazil and Japan and then U.S. and Australia and just watching them,” Olivia said. “It was unbelievable because they’re women and they’re winning all the world cups and everything and since I got this opportunity, I could be that some day.”
Emilio and Julie are planning on traveling to Spain with Olivia in late November.
“When your child has an opportunity to go to the academy and live there and eat there and interact with different players from around the world,” Emilio said. “The great competitiveness and you really get a chance to learn the technical aspect of their game in Europe itself in their land, it’s amazing.”
Until then, they will be trying to plan out their trip and hopefully do some traveling and catch a European football game themselves.
The prep girls soccer season started on Monday, but Olivia won’t be playing. She’s decided to take the next couple months to train and she will join the cross country team in order to be in top shape for her trip to Spain.
Even though they aren’t in school yet, Olivia is pretty sure her classmates know about her trip.
“I told my close friends, my two best friends and I guess they told like the whole high school team and I guess everybody knows,” Olivia said. “Everybody is happy for me. Even though I don’t talk to a lot of the boys that play soccer at my school, I’m pretty sure they all know too cause they’re fans of Real Madrid.”
She plans on returning to the Bearcats’ soccer team as a junior and plans on continuing to play with Twin City Union throughout the year. The entire Calderon family made sure to thank Twin City Union for the coaching and training they’re provided.
“The local club team, Twin City Union, we’re very thankful. I tried to join her in something that’s legit, as far as her learning the game,” Emilio said. “I think Twin City does a great job when it comes to that. A lot of the coaches that she’s been involved with Madi, Noel (Vazquez), Niko (Hammer), those guys and Henry (Gallanger), he kind of started the club. I give them a lot of credit to have her getting involved a lot more because they’ve actually given her an opportunity to display her skills.”
Emilio and Julie are “extremely proud” of Olivia for being able to earn this opportunity.
“To be a girl and be selected by a men’s team, at least their academy, I think that’s an accomplishment in itself,” Julie Calderon said.
All that hard work and the love for the game will hopefully pay off for Olivia at the end of November in Spain.
“I really love the game. Every time the world cup comes on, the finals, I’m always crying,” Olivia said. “Even when we went to the Sounders game, when (Clint) Dempsey gave us his jersey, I was crying and it was for him (Emilio Jr.). Taking a picture with Hayley Raso and the Australian team, I was crying too so yeah, I really love the game. I’ve been playing since I was around 4. I’ve never played another sport.”