A football-mad Kiwi kid is now even more in love with the beautiful game after being given the experience of a lifetime at an FC Barcelona training camp in Spain, all thanks to New Zealand Football’s partnership with MILO.
Zara Harris, nine, from Forrest Hill Milford United earned the opportunity after showing her commitment and passion on the pitch during the junior football season.
“I loved football before I went to Barcelona and after my experience I have the feeling that football is even more special to me now,” Zara says. “I feel like I will be a better player because of this, it feels like football is in my soul and blood now.”
Zara is one of over 50,000 Kiwi kids who enjoy football across the country every Saturday morning in winter, many of whom had the chance to enter the MILO competition by showing their commitment to the game. All children aged between six to 12 years who received a MILO Committed Player of the Month certificate, issued by New Zealand Football and handed out by junior coaches all over the country, were eligible to go into the draw.
Zara was entered by her mother Jane, who accompanied her to Spain.
“It was a truly outstanding experience – challenging, rewarding and beyond expectation,” Jane says. “Her highlight from the trip was meeting all the other kids, particularly the girls from Thailand, and of course playing football! I have no doubt the trip will have a positive lasting impact on Zara’s life.”
Among other perks, Zara enjoyed a two-day training session with professional coaches from FC Barcelona and learned the main values of the world-famous club – heart, team-work, effort, humility and ambition. The focus of the training was on improving ball skills but fun and camaraderie were also at the forefront.
“Our coach taught us to pass when you’re defended and dribble when you’re free. We were also taught that each time we scored a goal we should celebrate with our team, sometimes we hugged and clapped. We do this in my team a little bit now but I will try and do it more next season.”
The New Zealand representative was joined by other MILO winners from all over the world, including Thailand, Sri Lanka, Barbados, Trinidad, Indonesia, Australia, Panama, Guatemala and Guyana.
“So many of the other kids were amazingly skilled and they have inspired me to also be better. I trained with the best kids and feel like this has given me some extra confidence,” she says.
“Even if we didn’t speak the same language, it was easy to make friends because we were all happy to play football. On the first night, I was actually a little bit nervous to meet everyone, then when I slept in the same dorm with the girls from Thailand, we laughed and had so much fun I knew the training camp would be great too.”
Zara also loved the opportunity to take in some of the sights of Barcelona but there was one in particular that took her breath away – the club’s massive stadium.
“The Camp Nou is so big and can fit so many people. It was so impressive and it was then that I realised how incredible it was to be there at a Barca training camp,” she says.
“There were so many amazing times – singing on the bus, having dinner together as a team, the mini tournament, all the training, and the night we had a party and the entertainers taught me a trick with the ball. This was the most amazing experience of my life and I will always remember it.”
Also attending the Barcelona training camp was fellow Kiwi kid James Harrison Uren, eight, who plays for Pukekohe AFC and was entered by his father Tim through a MILO consumer promotion.