A Stamford soccer school is guiding Latino youth toward professional goals
Futbol, the king of sports for many Latinos from South and Central America, ignites a contagious passion. And for those who've migrated to Connecticut, that love for the game hasn't been left behind in their native countries.
People like Dayana Corredor and Julian Rubino, hailing from Colombia, kick-started Arrayanes soccer school in mid-2023, seeking to inspire a new generation of Latinos born in the U.S. to embrace the game.
Julian Rubiano, the mastermind behind Arrayanes as its founding technical director and owner, is leading the charge in molding Connecticut's young soccer scene. Delving into the meteoric rise of soccer’s popularity in the U.S., Rubino credits the likes of Argentenian soccer star Lionel Messi making moves in Major League Soccer with the Inter Miami team. He said the sport's global allure gives soccer a knack for bringing diverse communities together.
"I see soccer as freedom, as the option within the field to demonstrate your inner self that perhaps you can't normally show,” Rubiano said. “Soccer is equality, and we are all-inclusive.”
For those facing financial constraints, Arrayanes embraces all, offering volunteer options and support from parents and representatives to secure donations and sponsorships.
Rubiano's own journey in soccer, spanning over 15 years, has been diverse. From playing the game himself to working in various roles within sports clubs, he said he brings a wealth of experience to Arrayanes. His vision extends beyond training athletes; it's about instilling values, creating memorable experiences, and fostering a sense of belonging.
“Only those who live it, can feel it," Rubiano said.
With a focus on values, discipline, and respect, his school teaches a diverse group of three to 18-year-olds, including second-generation Hispanic and white children. They participate in bilingual soccer sessions, fostering social interaction and community cohesion, with 25 joining in winter and over 70 in summer.
Xavier Aguirre Santana, a guidance coordinator at Arrayanes soccer school, said he brings a wealth of experience and passion to the field. Hailing from Ecuador, Santana's connection to soccer runs deep. From his early days as a player to transitioning into coaching, he has spent over two decades honing his sports skills.
He said soccer coaching young children is less common in the U.S.
“Here, I see the soccer training for children as quite delayed, as it's not the number one sport in the country,” Santana said. “Which means coaches are not adequately prepared to lead a child."
Santana's background includes coaching youth and professional teams, fostering talent, and shaping the next generation of players.
"It's not the same to have experience playing soccer and teaching. You have to go through an academic process and improve yourself to teach,” he said. “I believe that Arrayanes will give the initial push so that the rest of the soccer schools try to improve and make their sports planning according to the kids' ages."
Reflecting on the state of youth sports in the United States, Santana acknowledges the challenges in soccer development, emphasizing the importance of fostering local Latino prodigy talent by implementing better coaching standards and structured training programs to pave the way for future professional soccer opportunities.
The next generation of U.S. soccer
Defying gender norms, Dayana Corredor, the co-founder and driving force behind Arrayanes, stands out as a trailblazer in a traditionally male-dominated realm. With a firm commitment to inclusivity and gender equality, Arrayanes proudly features mixed divisions, underscoring its conviction that individuals of all genders have the potential to thrive in the realm of soccer.
“I think the beauty of soccer is that it's universal; it includes us all,” Corredor said. “Historically, we women haven't had the [same] opportunity in this game. My role here is to support girls and their abilities."
Ten-year-old Brittany Abigail Rodriguez, from Honduran roots, said girls can excel in any sport.
“I like meeting new people and to learn new things,” Rodriguez said. “Girls can play soccer and play any sport. It makes me feel strong and powerful.”
She encouraged other kids to pursue their passions regardless of societal expectations, highlighting the importance of believing in oneself.
From Norwalk with ties to El Salvador, young soccer prodigies like Miguel Alfonso Carranza, affectionately known as “Miguelito” among his peers, are already making waves at just six years old. With an appetite for mastering new tricks and skills on the field, Miguel said he embodies the true spirit of the sport.
“It’s so fun,” he said. “It’s better when you use your head.”
Rubiano hopes in the near future to pursue partnerships with clubs like Hartford Athletic to foster a vibrant soccer scene in Connecticut, emphasizing the profound bond between local Latino youth and the sport. He said he aims to nurture their talent for professional success through holistic development.
“I'll be a soccer player if I want to,” said six-year-old Carranza. “If you work harder, you get more money.”