Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo: A Unique Partnership
Submitted by Teri Shall Goralski
July 24, 2012
It has been a hot and hectic journey for Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo, U17 girls from Aurora, Illinois, on their way toward Rock Hill, South Carolina and the USYS National Championship. Since capturing the Illinois State title on June 17th and the Region II title on June 27th in Saginaw, MI, in soaring temperatures, Botafogo came home to Illinois to host the Danish U18 National Champions Broendby IF.
The Danes were in the U.S. as a partnership between Team Chicago Academy and Broendby IF to enhance the international development of both clubs’ players. In an exhibition match last week on Botafogo’s home turf, the Danes displayed an intriguing brand of soccer, but Botafogo was equal to the task and won 2-1, showing their own beautiful style.
Earlier in July, with temperatures soaring near 100 degrees, the Broendby IF also met Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo Olympic Development Program (ODP) Region II players Gianna Dal Pozzo, Jenna Romano, Bryce Banuelos, Meegan Johnston, Rachele Armand, Megan Geldernick, and Zoey Goralski at the USYS Region II ODP training camp at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. They were coached by Marquette University’s Head Women’s Coach Markus Roeders,
The international experience was crucial to all players involved according Team Chicago Elite Academy Director, and Region II ODP Senior Staff Coach, Phil Nielsen.
“Our American players are rarely presented with the opportunity to play the cream of the crop of international youth teams, and the learning curve was steep for many players. In order to keep up with the progress that is being made in girls youth development around the world it is pivotal for our elite players to have a steady exposure to international competition. Our partnership with Broendby IF is an attempt to assure that our Team Chicago Academy players get the most advanced international development in the country, and in the process we also want to help the USYS Region II ODP program players get a similar exposure,” Nielsen said.
The two clubs were linked because Nielsen is a Danish national with strong ties to the elite soccer environment in his home country.
Broendby IF’s team includes four U19 National Team players who just won bronze at the European Championships in Turkey, three U17 National Team players who also just won bronze at the European Championships in Switzerland, and two U16 National Team players who just finished fourth at the Nordic Cup, the most elite U16 tournament in the world.
The Danish provided a high-level international challenge that Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo needed in order to prepare for the stiff competition awaiting them at the USYS National Championships this week. In addition to the seven Region II ODP Team players, Botafogo also boasts three players with National Team experience: Zoe Swift, Jenna Romano, and Zoey Goralski.
With the level of talent between the clubs, there is a good chance that the players will meet again at the international level or at the NCAA Division I level. Several of the Danish players were offered scholarships to play Division I soccer upon being seen on their visit here.
The common journey will continue for the two teams immediately after the National Championships. Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo players and their families will make a quick return to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Sunday to board a plane to Copenhagen, Denmark, where the team is to participate in the prestigious Broendby Cup against some of the top Danish and German U18 teams.
Botafogo will reside and practice at the Danish National Training Center. In addition to participating in the Broendby Cup, the team will be trained by the Broendby IF Women’s Professional Team Head Coach Peer Lisdorf.
Lisdorf guided the outfit to both the Danish National Championship and the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League last season before falling to the eventual champions Olympic Lyon from France. Finally, Botafogo is scheduled to play an exhibition match against the Broendby IF pros.