The future of Australian football has long been in doubt. With the end of the so-called “Golden Generation” that included Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Lucas Neill now gone many people have been left wondering, where next for the Socceroos? But with a new coaching system in place that has started from the grassroots up, on top the recent Asian Cup success, it seems that a new list of top talent are not that far away from making their mark on the world game.
12 year old Zak Gilsenan could well be one those stars. The youngster was spotted by a former Barcelona player while attending a boot camp that had been organised by EPL club Tottenham Hotspurs in 2012 and was instantly asked to go on trial with the Spanish giants. After an impressive display in which Zak scored seven goals in one game he was instantly offered a place in the most prestigious football academy in the world with father Stephen excited to see his son walking the same steps as many of footballs greatest ever players.
“I know Zak is young to be doing this but kids are like a sponge at this age. People say we are mad but in Barcelona he will be educated in the best footballing techniques. All we can do is go and see how it develops,” he told the Irish Sun.
”We know it’s ruthless over there. We don’t want him turned into a machine, we just want him to enjoy it. We were living in Australia when Zak was spotted by Spurs, who were running football camps over there. We came home with the intention of letting Zak go to Spurs, but in the meantime we had a call from Barcelona. One of their former players saw him playing in Oz and recommended him. They offered Zak a trial in May and it was a great experience. It consisted of over 400 boys from all over the world. He was asked back in June when it was cut down to 90. Then in a match between the top 16 players, Zak just ran riot and scored seven goals. He was phenomenal. Then we heard back two weeks ago and they offered him a spot.”
While taking in his Spanish adventure Zak became something of a YouTube sensation when he was filmed honing his silky skills on the Streets of Barcelona while wearing his Australian shorts no less.
It was an adventure that saw him rub shoulders with the likes of Neymar and Messi and one that also made him one of the most talked about prospects in the game. So when the Spanish giants decided to release the young Aussie after an investigation in to their youth recruiting policy there was no shortage of suitors. In December 2014 it was reported in the British media that Zak had signed for one of the most prolific youth academies in England, Liverpool FC.
This is a great news for development in Australia and we should all be excited that such a talent could be produced on these shores.