LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The world famous FC Barcelona is hosting its first ever soccer camp in Southwest Florida this week.
The camp for 6-14 year-olds runs through the end of the week at JetBlue Park, with 160 kids enrolled.
Pablo Adorno, Lee County Parks and Recreation Stadium Manager for JetBlue Park says the facility is used a lot more often than people think. He says, "a lot of folks think we're only open for 2 months during spring training. That's farthest from the truth. Last year we had 349 days of use of the facility. We're getting unbelieveable use out of this facility, just by the name and the new-ness of the facility, everybody wants to be here."
That's exactly what drew soccer camp organizers to the location. Marcel Bombonato says, "the quality of the grass, how well everything is maintained, the organization, the management, when we work together with a professional group like the Red Sox, we understand their values as well and for us it speaks volumes. So we feel priviledged and honored to be welcome at JetBlue Park."
He says a lot of people from Southwest Florida have attended the camp in the past, but had to travel to other parts of the state. "Our former participants really requested this. Please come to us, come to us and it's tough when we have to have someone go a long distance so we prefer to make it more accessible to everyone."
Bombonato says it's great to see how much the kids are learning in just a few days. "They are little sponges running around absorbing everything we're teaching, so we're very excited to see everything they are learning in such a short amount of time."
There are five FC Barcelona coaches at the camp, and one FC Barcelona head coach. They worked with local coaches through the weekend so they could teach the kids unique soccer techniques. Bombonato says the club has a different way of teaching the game. "The player development system instead of just purchasing players. Our program is developing them to be human beings most important and integrating the technical developments of soccer," he says.
It's good for the local economy, too. Mike Lyons is vactioning in Southwest Florida from Washington D.C. and he's thrilled he can send his son to camp while in town. "Barcelona is the best team in the world and our son is a huge fan of the program and team so when we saw it was coming here, we jumped on it, no brainer. He can't even sleep at night because he's so excited about coming the next day."
Of the 160 kids participating, 40 families are from outside of Florida and 10 are from outside the U.S. The club also gave out 5 scholarships to kids who otherwise wouldn't be able to attend the camp. Organizers plan to come back next year.