AS Roma Academy New York is opening its doors for youth soccer players in the Westchester and New York City region starting this spring. The Academy will be directly linked to AS Roma’s Academy in Rome and La Voce spoke with NY Academy Director Dino Hamzic about his personal connection to Italian soccer and his plans for the NY Academy.
What is your connection with Italian soccer?
“It all started for me at a very young age when I saw the Italian National Team ‘gli Azzurri’ play in the 1990s. At that time, Serie A was easily the strongest league in the world – full of world soccer’s biggest star players and was very exciting to watch. As a Bosnian national myself, I have closely followed the progress of Bosnian international players in Serie A where many of them have done well. It’s fair to say that many Bosnians are fans of Italian clubs, especially AS Roma where current Bosnian national team striker Edin Džeko plays. More recently, I had the opportunity to see the Italian National Team play a Euro 2020 qualifying match in Italy. The atmosphere was incredible and the soccer was exceptional. Forza Azzurri!”
How about your connection to AS Roma?
“I have been a ‘Romanista’– an AS Roma fan – for at least 20 years. Like many European youngsters at the time, I admired and followed Francesco Totti – voted best Italian player in Serie A five times – who led the club to the scudetto in 2001. In 2011, one of my favorite Bosnian players, Miralem Pjanić, joined AS Roma and played for the club for five years where he became one of the best midfielders in the world. In 2015, Bosnian star striker Edin Džeko joined the club and has become a legend there with the 3rd highest number of goals in an AS Roma shirt. Like every Romanista, I try to watch every AS Roma match.”
Where did the idea to open an AS Roma Academy in New York come from?
“There are over 2.6 million Italians and Italian-Americans that live in the greater New York City metro area and are the largest ethnic group. There is an established supporter base in New York for many Italian soccer clubs and one of the largest supporter clubs is Roma Club New York. What has been missing in the New York region is a real Italian soccer academy where young players can learn to play ‘the Italian way’ with European qualified coaches.
In Italy, AS Roma is known as having the best youth academy of all the Serie A clubs, with more professional players coming from AS Roma’s academy than any other Italian club. Bringing the very best of Italian soccer to New York has to mean bringing AS Roma Academy to NY. This is the dream that we are bringing to New York youth players.”
Tell us about how AS Roma Academy New York will work.
“AS Roma Academy New York is the official youth soccer academy of AS Roma in New
York, dedicated to boys and girls, ages 5 to 17 years old. NY Academy Technical Director, Richard Knox is working closely with AS Roma Academy Technical Director Alessio Fazi in Italy, to bring the same training methodologies and player experience that players get in Italy. The AS Roma training system has been developed and refined over many years and has produced many of the stars of Italian soccer. It is very comprehensive and includes a full year curriculum that is focused on producing complete soccer players that can ultimately progress onto the college or professional level.”
What should parents who are interested to know more about the academy do?
“Interested parents should send me an email to email@example.com to join our mailing list. We will be finalizing dates for tryouts for our academy teams in April and communicating with them via the mailing list. Those teams will then participate in league play starting this fall for the 2021-22 season.
Our academy teams will be playing out of Westchester, and we will have clinics and camps throughout the year in Westchester and Manhattan. We will participate in the regional/national league for our ‘Academy PRO’ program (U11-U18) and the local league for our ‘Academy’ program (U9 to U12). For our ‘Pre-Academy’ program (U6-U9), we will have an internal league where players will have a safe, fun and competitive environment to grow.”
And lastly, is there anything unique that AS Roma Academy NY players will have compared to other local clubs or academies in the New York area?
“Actually, I think that there are a lot of differences between us and the other clubs in the New York area. However, one difference that I expect players and parents will appreciate the most is having the opportunity to play at AS Roma’s Training Facilities in Rome, Italy. This will include training with official AS Roma coaches and playing against official AS Roma youth teams and other local teams. For the parents, the experience will include a culturally unforgettable time visiting and touring Rome, attending an AS Roma first team match, and many more activities that both parents and players will love.”