THREE international footballers are kickstarting their careers with the help of Sunderland College.
Andreas Kokoska, Dimitri Limbo and Mohab Elmarakbi have all travelled to Wearside to train at the college’s Elite Football Development Centre.
The trio have enjoyed soccer success in their home countries and have now joined the college’s specialist footballing centre to take their game to the next level.
Mohab, from Egypt, represents his country in the under-18s team, Philippines forward Dimitri is part of the national youth squad, and Czech-born Andreas, from Tenerife, plays in Spain’s under-19 divisions.
The promising young players are the first international students to join the Football Development Centre, which combines an elite soccer training programme with academic study.
Housed in the college’s state-of-the-art Sports Academy at Bede Campus and a second hub at South Shields FC, the centre is made up of six of the most highly qualified and experienced coaches in the North East and more than 90 male and female players.
Dimitri, 18, who plays in midfield, said: “I’ve joined the centre to enhance my footballing skills and get better at the sport. I’m really enjoying it so far and I think it will help my career in the future. I want to play professionally but if not, I would like to work as a coach or physiotherapist – anything that involves sport.”
Goalkeeper Andreas, 19, added: “I really love it – the classes, the training and the facilities are all amazing. I did look at other colleges but I chose Sunderland College because it allows me to study and play at the same time. It is a big change from home but I’ve been welcomed by everyone, although I’m still trying to understand the accent!”
The college has teamed up with Improtech Soccer Elite Academy, run by former SAFC star Martin Scott to deliver the dedicated footballing hub. The academy has an impressive track record of coaching players up to professional standard, and counts Liverpool AFC captain Jordan Henderson and Sunderland AFC footballer Ethan Robson among its alumni.
Martin, a UEFA Pro Licence coach, said: “We’re proud of our track record of improving young players and we’re excited to use that expertise to benefit 16 to 19-year-olds at Sunderland College. We can promise young players of ability that they will become the best player they are capable of being.”
Andreas, Dimitri and Mohab are now accessing high-quality football training from UEFA Pro Licence coaches through the development centre programme, which offers strength and conditioning support, physiotherapy sessions, technical analysis, individual performance plans and athlete development mentors.
It also gives players entry into the highest local and national competitions, use of SAFC’s facilities and opportunities to develop their coaching and leadership skills, while allowing them to study a full-time academic programme of their choice.
John Rushworth, the college’s faculty director for sport and health and wellbeing, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome our first international players to the centre. The fact we have students travelling thousands of miles to be part of the Elite Football Development Centre, illustrates how well-thought of the programme is on a global scale and reflects the calibre of training we provide.
“Andreas, Dimitri and Mohab are very skilled players, and we’re looking forward to nurturing their talents and bringing them on even further. They have already shown an exceptional aptitude for the sport and I’m sure with the level of specialism we offer in our development centre, we’ll be seeing good things from them in the future.”
The college’s reputation as a leading light in sports education has been cemented in recent years, and has attracted partnerships with various sporting bodies, including semi-professional club South Shields FC to help deliver its youth academy programme.
It has also invested millions of pounds in its facilities in recent years, including the opening of the Sports Academy in 2014 which boasts industry-standard equipment, a fitness suite, physiology lab and a strength and conditioning studio.
John added: “We’ve been building on the success of our sporting offer for many years and with the introduction of more specialist staff with industry experience, coupled with our first-rate facilities, we really are at the top of our game.”