We are all products of our environment and this is no different for sixteen year old Carlos Ribeiro Junior who is chasing his football dream in Portugal. Recently, he joined FC Alverca’s Under 17 team – in the highest league in Portugal for his age group – but his journey started long before that with the help of his parents and especially his god parent, Pedro.
“I started getting into football knowing my father’s background being Portuguese and he had a background in football between him and his friends,” Carlos told Football Central.
“I set myself a dream and a dream that my dad and mum helped guide me with.”
Growing up in Faulconbridge, the then five year old joined his first club Springwood where he stayed until he was scouted as a ten year old to play in the Nepean District Metro League.
“I played for three years at Mt Druitt Rangers where we were promoted twice in 2 years from Youth League 1 to Premier League 2 then to Premier League 1,” said Carlos.
“I also attended the Hills Sports High School for three years where I gained a lot as a player.”
Former players who were friends of his fathers then organised for a fourteen year old Carlos to go for a one week trial in Portugal with Lisbon giants, Sporting Clube de Portugal.
“I trialled at Sporting for one week and then I was invited back for the next year,” revealed the winger.
“Luckily enough in that same year in 2014 I went on a tournament tour in Portugal where I actually played against Sporting.
“They could get another look at me and then five months later I was trailing again at Sporting for 2 weeks.
After not being offered to stay, the club advised me to stay in Portugal where a one-month trial at feeder club S.G Sacavanense was arranged by the coach of Sporting’s youth team, Tiago Fernandes. This was where I spent my first season in Portugal.”
The soon to be seventeen year old did not have a grasp of his father’s native tongue when he first moved over. Coupled with living away from his family and friends for the first time meant the initial stages were tough going. He remained focus on the football dream and this has seen him remain in Portugal despite the ups and downs, the uncertainties and challenges he has faced.
“But I was always focused on the goal ahead. When I started at S.G Sacavanense it was very hard, I was a new kid that didn’t speak too much Portuguese and I was in a very good team,” said Carlos.
“I was lucky to come across a great coach in Filipe Pereira, who still helps me to this current day. I had limited game time at Sacavanense but trained a lot, three times a week with the under 16s and once a week with the under 17s.
“To learn my trade I needed to learn the Portuguese style of play and adapt to the speed of the game. I now have the challenge of stepping up to the National League.”
Carlos is faced with the prospect of playing against the juniors of such clubs as Sporting CP and Benfica but also the pressure that comes even at that level from a football mad country.
“Football in Portugal is the main talk in all the newspapers, news channels and people are all about football. When I walked down the street I was stopped all the time in Ericeira and asked questions about how my football was going, the results, scores, about the goals, etcetra.
“In Portugal they are known for producing some of the best talents in football, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Figo. It gives me high hopes and goals of reaching but I know that with that there comes great competition from other players and a lot of hard work.”
Speed and technique with some deadly set pieces are the weapons Carlos brings to the fight for his dream but the attacking player understands that these alone aren’t enough. Since being in Portugal he has been working on the physical and mental side of his development to give himself every chance of making it.
“I have lived by myself now for 16 months and I’ve matured a lot, not just as a player but as a person. I have also changed my way of thinking and style of play. Gaining more weight and becoming physically stronger and fitter means I can withstand the European game.”
His new club that he joined officially a week ago has been in the top flight and also seen some big names come through their ranks such as Portuguese internationals Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and Maniche to name but a few. It was a string of impressive performances in a Lisbon youth league with Ericeirense that caught the eye.
“I joined FC Alverca from Grupo Desportivo Uniao Ericeirense. I had been at Ericeirense for about four months, playing in eleven games and was in good form in the Lisbon 1st division when I received a call from ex-Sacavanense coach, Filipe Pereira.
“I had to make a decision as I had an offer to trial at GD Estoril another great club, as well as having an option for me to have a trial at FC Alverca.
“FC Alverca is a great club in the National Championship and being the highest level for my age, it was something I could not reject. The club has a great history of producing many good players and spent many years in the Portuguese First Division.
“What impressed me were the conditions they offered me to stay and the high standards of the club. But I also wouldn’t have reached here without the help of Filipe Pereira and Ruben Franco, my two coaches in the past year at my former clubs Sacavanense and Ericeirense.”
Carlos is now looking to establish himself at his new team with some impressive performances while continuing to improve his game. The ultimate goal for the young man from Western Sydney is to sign a professional contract and go on to “bigger and better things.”
He might not be alone for long though with his younger brother who at just ten years old is eager to join Carlos in Portugal. Carlos said his younger brother – a left-footed midfielder at Blacktown Spartans – has experienced training at SG Sacavanense and CD Mafra and now wants to trial in Portugal.