What separates the players that make it from the ones who talk about what could have been? It’s the moments you don’t see, training whilst no one is watching. Getting up every time you get knocked down, turning the negative moments into fuel and continually chasing your dream no matter how far it seems away.
LOCALFC caught up with WSW new boi Emilio Martinez before the Nike Most Wanted Global Trials 2016. A turning point in the young footballers careers only a short time to ago. Too small, not strong enough and you’re not what we are looking for, are just some of the setbacks Emilio heard early on. A self-belief in his own ability and a desire to achieve his goals, Emilio saw The Nike Academy as the chance for the underdog to succeed. His pathway to becoming a professional footballer became his Most wanted journey.
Before he graduated from the Nike Academy, he watched YouTube videos of the Socceroos Tom Rogic (who has gone on to create his own journey) being inspired by a fellow Aussie who had not been able to get through the normal path of Australian football for his break. Rogic a fellow Nike Academy Alumni has gone on to forge his own destiny post-Most Wanted, playing on the international stage with the Socceroos and in the Champions League versus Barca and Man City.
It is now Emilio’s turn to take charge of his next chapter, The Academy has prepared him for this moment. There is a Lil kid out there watching him now waiting to be inspired. Balls in your court Emilio.
CHAD: Thinking back, what was that moment like when you were selected at the Global Showcase to become a part of the Nike Academy?
EMILIO: Overwhelming, that’s the one way I can always describe it, even now I still get overwhelmed thinking about it. It was an amazing time and something you want to expect but you’re not sure you should because obviously you don’t want to get your hopes up – anything in football can always change. So it was just a sense of ‘wow, hard work pays off.’
How did you knowing trialling out for Nike Most Wanted was the right thing for you?
I was always the undetected one; I was always the one who never got through to start as a youngster. That spurred me on, that’s how I knew that this one was for me, because this one was really for the underdogs; the ones that haven’t always been the ones to always sign that first contract as a youngster. I knew that this was for me, that this described me as a footballer, that this was who I was, and I knew that I was going to take this chance. I even told my parents when I went to the trials that I was going to win. I knew. I knew before I flew to Melbourne to trial, I said to myself, this is it. There was an ultimatum given to me by my coach that if I went I wouldn’t start, that I’d get my jersey number ripped from me, so I knew that this was my chance and I was going to take it. I knew if I came back, it would just be the same story all over again. So I took it with both hands and I just knew from the start.
Is that what you think the Nike Academy is about, the underdog, the guy who the system has missed?
Definitely. Yeah, that is what it’s about, the people the systems have missed in every country. I mean, I’ve played with some of the best talent, even watching the best youngsters in the world, I’ve trained with better players who went undetected but are now signed at clubs. The Academy is all about finding those players and bringing them to the professional game, because there are so many good players who can get missed because they weren’t there at the right time. This is like an extra-time for them to show what they can do.
The Australian football sydtem seemed to miss Tom Rogic. Was he an inspiration to you to go in as a fellow Australian?
I actually watched those videos when he was first there, watching it from the 2009 season. As a kid I was watching it because I felt a connection to it, that I was always the underdog, and that it is about finding the best unsigned talent. I knew I had something special and a technical ability that not a lot of players had, but I never got to show that because I was never on the pitch. In Tom, I saw what he had and how he got missed, I felt such a connection to that, that I said to my parents: “When I’m 16, I want to do Most Wanted.” When my time came I knew straight away that I could be the next Tom Rogic. That’s what they called me when I was at the Academy, ‘The New Rogic.’
What was that like for you though?
It’s awesome to feel that way, I mean I respect him so much as a player, but also as a person. The Australian public and the football community don’t realise what he had to go through or what that Academy is about, now you can see him, he’s one of the best we’ve got and he’s killing it overseas. I definitely felt that connection from the beginning with Tom.
Was there ever a point before that when you felt, maybe football isn’t for me?
You can have days where you do think that, where you think: Oh I don’t know, maybe this isn’t right for me because I didn’t get picked, or things like that. But whatever it is in life, you always think negatively before you think positively. I always overcame those negative thoughts with positive thoughts because I could never see myself doing anything else. So I knew I would make it as a footballer. I didn’t know how, so I had to work on where I was first and just try every avenue and opportunity that came my way, to do everything that was in my control – getting faster, getting bigger, keep practicing on things that I was already good at to become the best at that. It was tough being a kid being told you’re not good enough, because you’re not big enough, you’re not fast enough, you’re not strong enough. In that sense, that made me the player I am today, that is why I am where I am today. And I don’t care what anyone says, you know what, when people tell me I’m lucky, I tell them that’s wrong. I like to tell them straight that it’s not luck, I created my own luck and I was at the right place at the right time because I was ready for that opportunity.
What were you doing to get yourself ready before the trials?
I found somebody that was in the strength and conditioning department helping me with all types of things from acceleration, deceleration, all those little details that no one thinks about, I was doing. And everyday I was up early training by myself, working on my technical ability, working on my passing, working on everything that I could. I was getting prepared physically, but also away from football I was preparing mentally for it. I was preparing for the flight. I was working out the time zones that I needed to sleep on the plane so when I got there I knew I was ready to go. Because you’re there for three days, you get there the day before you start and you need to be 100% ready. So I was sleeping during the day and took a few days off school, staying up at night watching re-runs of the EPL, just getting myself ready. So it was a lot of hard work. People don’t see that, but I don’t mind.
You said before the Australian trials you knew, going into the Global Showcase, how did you feel?
Ready, prepared. When I got to the airport we were travelling with the Nike rep, Andy, and you have to tell customs how long you’re going to be away and the other contender I was travelling put 3 days, Andy put 3 days, but I knew that if you win, you stay there until the Academy goes home for the off-season. That was 18 days away, so when I filled out my form I wrote 18 days. Andy asked me, what are you doing? And I told him, I want to win! I don’t know about you but I know I’m going to win. So I went in there with that mindset, that I would win. Not because I thought I was better than everybody else, but because I knew in myself how ready I was and that I wasn’t going to let this chance slip, I wasn’t going to let it go all this way then let it go to rest because I would get overwhelmed by the gear, the facilities, my end goal was to become a professional and I knew I had to go through these steps to get there, that this was my way.
What was the journey like for you at the Academy, what were the highlights?
It was amazing. Playing at Wembley, playing at Trigoria in Rome, playing at PSG’s training ground, it was all amazing. To see how professional they are, and to see the players that are there also, to mix and mingle with them and being at St George’s Park, to mingle with Premier League players and Championship players, players from all of those leagues. Everything that I experienced at the Academy is memorable in a good way. So I will only have fond memories.