Oliver Muran of Upper Brookville; and Justin Dehaan and Alex Smith of Manhasset embarked on the soccer experience of a lifetime when they traveled to England to play against the famed soccer academies of Liverpool, Manchester City and Fulham this week. Oliver, Justin and Alex Smith are members of the Long Island Junior Soccer League, Long Island United academy program that selects the top young players from each club on Long Island and trains them under the guidance of college coaches from St. John's, Hofstra, Adelphi and Stony Brook University.
The LIJSL is one of the largest youth soccer leagues in the world. Thirty-two players from the Long Island United under 12 age group flew out to England on April 8. During their visit they were scheduled to train with the Premier League coaches of Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers and Fulham, as well as, play three representative games against the clubs academy teams.
Liverpool Academy manager John Owens who nurtured Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler to international soccer stardom and mentors today's crop of rising talent said. "We are absolutely delighted to host the LI United players. Liverpool's relationship with Long Island soccer and the LIJSL is unique and means a great deal to the club. We hope that our English lads will also gain from the experience and that in later years we will bring our teams to Long Island for a return game."
The trip will also allow the players exclusive access to see the team's professional players train - another highly rare opportunity. The players will be guests of honor when watching two top-level English Premier League games - Liverpool versus Blackburn and Manchester City versus Fulham. There will also be time for the players to take in a personal behind the scenes tour of the famous Anfield stadium in Liverpool and Old Trafford the world-renowned "theatre of dreams" at Manchester United.
When not involved in the soccer side of the tour the players will have time to take in the scenic culture of the ancient town of Chester, plus the magnificent Warwick Castle and all of the sights of London.
"This is a quite unbelievable experience" said LIJSL technical director Gary Book. "I do not think the players are fully able to comprehend what it all means at the moment. The access that Long Island United has been provided is totally unheard of; it requires special dispensation from the English Football Association to play against a Premier League Academy team and to be allowed play against three speaks volumes for their respect of Long Island Soccer. This will be an experience that will impact and last these young players forever."