Christian Sanchez couples football and academic studies in the US thanks to sporting scholarships.
The combining of sports and academic studies is one of the fundamental pillars and, hence, objectives here at Marcet. Christian Sánchez is a living example of this. The Venezuelan centre-back arrived in Barcelona in time for the 2015-16 season, and three years later he finds himself finishing his career in Sports Physiotherapy in the USA, where he competes in the university league with the Midlands Warriors.
“I discovered Marcet back in 2012, when I attended a summer campus,” Christian recalls. The experience he had on the campus was a deciding factor in his enrollment to the Professional Program two years later. The challenge was anything but easy. “I had problems leaving Venezuela because of national problems, I wasn’t able to travel out come end-of-2014 so I stayed in Venezuela and began to study Medicine in a difficult environment. Making football and school work together was very complicated in my country.”
The following year ‘Tato’, as his friends and teammates know him, finally managed to join Marcet’s High-Performance Academy. He was 18 years old at the time and that first season was very positive for the Venezuelan defender: “I matured a lot in his time away from home. One goes with the idea of learning football, but ends up learning so much more.” Residence managers, coaches, recovery specialists… Everyone chipped in and made a difference to who I am today. Marcet has been a key step stepping stone, forwards, in my life.”
“[Technical director] Carlos Rivero sat me down and we went through what my situation was and what my possibilities were for the future. He told me that there was the option of applying for a sports scholarship in the United States,” Tato tells us, whose parents always considered academic education an essential part of becoming an adult. They were very clear on their position: if Christian wanted to dedicate himself to football, he also had to get himself a university degree. “The US was ideal given what I was looking for. So I accepted the challenge and Marcet put together a video-portfolio on me for American university teams”:
This is how Cristian found his place at Laredo Community College, in South Texas, to study Sports Physiotherapy. “College athletes can’t earn money, but they do get a chance at a very good scholarship. It was a great experience, they treated me very, very well. In the US, university leagues fill stadiums and you can’t help but feel a bit like a star. People actually started recognising me on the street“, Christian says, struggling to hold back a modest smile.
“In the US, university leagues fill stadiums and you can’t help but feel a bit like a star”
‘Tato’ spent a year in Texas. He then moved on to study at Lakes Community College of Iowa, where he was one of the captains of the team. Unfortunately, a stroke of bad luck saw to it that he stopped playing for almost a year due to an injury to the cruciate ligament of the knee, only it didn’t stop him from getting on with his studies while he was recovering. All the while, his parents managed to leave Venezuela to settle in Galicia. There, Christian met Ernesto Vieito, a physiotherapist at Celta de Vigo. A “lucky charm” for both his injury and his studies.
Now, ‘Tato’ has just climbed another step up in the American university system, having moved to Midland University, in Nebraska. “I have a year and a half to finish the race and I’ve been able to get back on the pitch as a centre-back.” A position he’s been playing since his arrival in Barcelona. “I came to Marcet as a winger but, after the first practice, they changed my position. Since then I’ve never gone back.”