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London, Ont., soccer club enters partnership with top European training academy

The London St. Thomas Croatia Soccer Club says it has reached an affiliation agreement with GNK Dinamo Zagreb Academy, the youth team of Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb.
The London St. Thomas Croatia Soccer Club says it has reached an affiliation agreement with GNK Dinamo Zagreb Academy, the youth team of Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb. Submitted photo

A London-area-based soccer club is entering a partnership with one of the top youth academies in Europe.

The London St. Thomas Croatia Soccer Club says it has reached a two-year affiliation agreement with GNK Dinamo Zagreb Academy, the youth team of Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb.

Michael Mastrandrea, president of the local club, says the partnership is a tremendous opportunity for both players and coaches.

“Learning from their systems, understanding what is working on their end then trying to implement that here in Canada.”

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Youth players with the local club will have a chance to be invited to open trials for Dinamo and participate in summer camps organized by the European Club.

“These camps will include bringing academy coaches to London to train local youth players, educate coaches and provide select players with the opportunity to train in Croatia,” said Mastrandrea.

“It could be very exciting for someone in the London and surrounding area who is selected to go there and get a trial run.”

The academy was founded in 1967 and is currently ranked the second-best youth soccer academy in Europe and 13th in the world.

“It provides our coaches with the training and education they need, coming from such a well-respected training program, it gives us that proper player pathway,” said Mastrandrea.

“It opens a lot of doors at a professional level, there is a lot of good things happening in Canada, with pathways through the MLS or other leagues, our young Canadian talent is starting to get some recognition.”

Read more: OHL to get $2.35 million for Ontario post-secondary scholarships as part of initiative

Mastrandrea says the partnership will benefit both boys and girls in their program and ​stresses that anyone is eligible to join the London St. Thomas Croatia Soccer Club

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He says although the agreement is for two years, the hope is that they can continue the partnership beyond.

Dinamo Zagreb is coming off a big win over Tottenham on Thursday, advancing to the semifinals of the UEFA Europa League.

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