‘A good place to grow’


Shirali Ibragimov, summoned by Turkmenistan’s under-21s’ team after adapting to Spanish football.

The arrival of Shirali Ibragimov to Barcelona was not an easy one. “At first I thought I couldn’t live in Spain. I was suddenly in a completely different culture, with another kind of food. Everything was different from how it is back in Turkmenistan. I could just about manage to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in Spanish, nothing more.”

The winger had come to Marcet in September to stay for the whole season. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. There were times where Shirali questioned his place at the academy and whether the experience was worth the lengthy adaptation process. “I wanted to go home but my brothers convinced me to stay in Barcelona because they knew it was the right place to develop as a footballer. Everyone wants to play in Spain now and I guess that helped me make the decision to stay“.

Shirali not only endured the change but took matters into his own hands and moved out of his uncle’s place to make a place for himself at Marcet’s High-Performance Academy residency. “[Technical director] Carlos Rivero told me that I had to spend as much time with my colleagues as possible if I wanted to learn Spanish. “In a few months, I started to speak Spanish well enough and ended up staying at Marcet for two years.”

Shirali Ibragimov durante un partido con la Academia de Alto Rendimiento Marcet.
Shirali Ibragimov playing a match for the Marcet High Performance Academy.

While getting used to the new context, Shirali’s ball control improved, as this video shows. “Before coming to Marcet I didn’t play like I do now. Training here twice a day has brought me close to measuring up to teams like Barça, Espanyol, Villarreal, Girona, and Real Zaragoza. In all, I’ve gained a lot of experience.” So much so that Shirali received a call from the U-21s Turkmenistan national team. But before that happens, he will travel to Greece, where he will participate in tryouts for several local teams.

After leaving the Academy, the young Turkish athlete also had the opportunity to train with teams like Sabadell, Palamos and Burgos. Quietly waiting on the prospect of playing at a club and wondering where he’ll end up, he now focuses on his work with his National Team in prep for this August’s major Asian Football Federation tournament.

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