Juan Ignacio O’Neill and Mario Oronoz have been called up to Puerto Rico’s national squad after being scholars at Marcet for 2 years.
Mario and Juan got to Barcelona in Abril 2014. Their objective was to take advantage of the easter holidays to see what Marcet’s High Performance Academy had to offer. After a few days of intensive training sessions they went back to their country, Puerto Rico, where they assessed their experience in Europe and realised that they had to come back to Barcelona in order for them to get to a higher level in football. They came back in September of the same year, when they started their path as scholars in Marcet’s Professional Program (MPEP).
Two seasons later, Mario and Juani are leaving Barcelona for a second time, but this time with their objectives completed. Their names have been selected for Puerto Rico’s U-20 squad, who are preparing to compete in the next World Cup in South Korea. This news puts the cherry on top of the cake for their two years of high level football training, with all of the sacrifices that it has implied.
“I wasn’t expecting it, it was a great surprise because one of my dreams has always been to play for my country”, Mario Oronoz tells us. For the goalkeeper from Guaynabo, who started playing age 6, the first couple of months in Barcelona were hard. “I wasn’t used to being away from home, but with time I got used to my new life and thanks to that I’ve been able to progress in all of the sporting aspects. I improved in my decision making and positioning. My level has risen a lot, and I don’t think I would have ever been called up if I hadn’t of come to Barcelona”.
In the beginning it wasn’t easy for Juan Ignacio O’Neill either, the playmaking midfielder who started off as a winger. “It was the first time that I’ve left my family. I was scared, nervous. I wasn’t sure if everything would work out”. Also in his case things didn’t take long to change and they didn’t have to wait a long time for the results to show. “In these two years I’ve learnt a lot… Now I know what I’m playing for in each training session. I know how to read games, what I have to do in each given moment. I lacked these qualities before”.
Both of the players found in Spain what they couldn’t find in their own country. “Marcet has been an opportunity to move forward. Without this learning phase in my career I wouldn’t have the same footballing ideas nor the same the same leadership qualities I have now” points out Juani. “The level of football in our country is growing now, basically because players have started to go abroad to train and improve”, Mario Adds.
The two young Puerto Ricans don’t see the call up to their country’s national squad as an arrival but as a starting point for better things. “It’s a huge reason to carry on working hard towards other dreams”, assures Mario. “Not just for my dreams but for all other Puerto Ricans. It’s time to start getting into big tournaments and working hard to win an important one as well”.