The Digicel Academy is a week-long elite training camp which takes place in Trinidad from November 1st to 7th under the leadership of top Barclays Premier League coaches, Kevin Ball and Carlton Fairweather, from the Sunderland Academy, assisted by John Barnes. The Digicel Academy will also host a ‘coach the coaches’ seminar in which coaches from across the region will get expert training from Sunderland AFC’s finest teachers.

Becoming a world class footballer is a dream that many young boys aspire to, and winning a place at the inaugural Digicel Academy in Trinidad could be a step in that direction for the 37 boys who this week are training under top coaches from the Sunderland Academy.

However, for one 16 year-old, spending a week training like a professional footballer at the Digicel Academy is a dream come true.

Ivan Dario Murillo Mayoma was born in Colombia – the youngest of three children. When he was 14, his mother forced him to leave the country in order to avoid the dangerous and often life-threatening circumstances that many young Colombian men fall into – including his older brother.

Ivan’s mother had to rescind her rights to her own son in order to have him legally move to Panama under the guidance of a friend – who suggested he play football. At 14, Ivan left his mother and his home and went to Panama in the hope of a better life. In Panama, Ivan signed to play with Chorillo Football Club where he has lived ever since. Of his US$100 monthly pay cheque, he sends US$70 back to his mother in Colombia to assist her.

Eighteen months later, Ivan applied for the Digicel Kick Start Clinics under the leadership of England and Liverpool football legend, John Barnes. Of the 749 boys who tried out, Ivan was one of the last four chosen for a place at the Digicel Academy and is this week training under the watchful eye of Sunderland Academy coaches, Carlton Fairweather and Kevin Ball.

Speaking about the opportunity, Ivan said; “I was very nervous when I went to try out for the Digicel Kick Start Clinics. I am not from Panama and I was worried about the standard – I had never seen so many boys play at such a good level. But when I went out to show my skills and I took control of the pitch, I began to gain confidence in myself.

When I was chosen by John Barnes for the Academy, I could not believe it. I felt like I had something, I felt like I could compete.

This week has been great, I have learned so much about different training styles and while it’s been tough with the long hours and the physical pressure, I have loved every minute of it.

My dream of becoming a footballer in the English Premier League is now clearer than ever before. With God’s help, I will get there one day and maybe even go on to become a coach and give to children what the Sunderland coaches are giving to us,” he finished.

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