Barcelona skipper and former Brighton and Hove Albion youngster talks about coronavirus despair

Talented Eastbourne young-ster Ethan Stapley has spoken of his despair after the coronavirus Pandemic halted his plans for global tournaments and top-level football training.
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The former Brighton & Hove Albion academy star, who also had spells with All-Stars and Eastbourne Borough, moved to Spain with his family over three years ago and continued his passion of playing football for his local team in Tossa de Mar in Costa Brava of Catalonia.

It was not long before he was spotted by Barcelona scouts and invited for trials and, after many gruelling sessions, he passed with flying colours and joined the Spanish giants’ academy in 2018, on the eve of his ninth birthday.

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Ethan StapleyEthan Stapley
Ethan Stapley

In his first full season, he impressed his coaches so much he was duly rewarded with the captain’s armband.

He won his first trophy – the Catalonia Challenge Cup – but the best was yet to come when his team won the much-coveted Barcelona World Cup at the Mini Stadia beating the Polish team on penalties later that year.

At the end of his first season he travelled with his team to Paris to participate in the world famous LAR Cup 2019, without his parents for the first time. His team reached the quarter-finals but wentout to eventual winners Ajax 2-1, the toughest opponents he had ever faced.

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The tournament included the hosts PSG, Man City, Benfica and Inter Milan and other European giants with Stapley grabbing six goals in the competition.

Ethan with Gerard PiqueEthan with Gerard Pique
Ethan with Gerard Pique

Soon after he went to Belgium and met the same fate as his team crashed out at the same stage again, this time at the hands of Galatasaray, Stapley netting five times in the run-up to the quarter-finals with Juventus eventually claiming the Belgian Cup.

His second full season at Barca started brightly.

First he grabbed a brace in the friendly season opener against Toulon’s of France at the famous La Masia. He went on to realise his lifetime ambition of playing in an exhibition match at the Camp Nou, scoring the only goal of the game late on to reach a new milestone, becoming the youngest player to achieve this feat – rounding up a special day for Eastbourne’s young superstar.

He told Herald Sport: “The philosophy at Barca is clear, – the ball has to come to your feet if you are in the right position, but if you start to chase the ball you must be doing something wrong and the system collapses, the emphasis being on technique and skills."

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In March the season came to a premature halt because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stapley said: “I was devastated when I heard the training had to stop.”

Worse was to come when his planned tournaments in Italy, Croatia and Japan were cancelled.

Stapley added: “It’s surreal when you see the likes of Messi, Suarez and Pique watching you play football but I try to focus on the game and blank it out. I am living the dream here but I miss England, especially my family and friends. My motto is never to give up and follow my dream and that is what drives me forward.”

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At the tender age of 10 he is way ahead of the curve but he won’t rest on his laurels. During quarantine, Barca’s utility player has been keeping busy.

He has been training hard and been active on social media. He has become an ambassador for FB Project which encourages future footballers to achieve their goal. He is also the athlete’s face of the worldwide football equipments com-pany Football Flick.

Stapley has set up his own YouTube Channel, which already has attracted almost 300 subscribers.

He said: “My aim is to inspire young players like myself to learn new skills and entertain them with trick shots and training drills making it fun to watch.”

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He wished everyone well during these hard times and prays for their safety, expressing his sorrow for those who lost their life. To follow the FB Project visit ethan_stapley10 and you can subscribe to his YouTube Channel at Ethan S04.