Rhiley Whitiora used to be a rugby player, but found learning ball tricks and moves was more his shot.

The 12-year-old country kid, near Morrinsville, has big ambitions and was recently selected by Academy SoccerPlus NZ to be apart of a football experience in Valencia, Spain.

He will join three other Morrinsville Intermediate students and 16 other players across New Zealand to be trained by Valencia CF, one of the top four football clubs in Spain.

"I was about 9 when I first started. I was playing rugby beforehand, there were really big kids and I didn't want to get smashed, so I gave soccer a try for a year, and I found that I was pretty good at it and enjoyed it," Rhiley said.

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"My favourite players are Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappé, and Pelé because Mbappé is one of the youngest players ever to become a professional, Pelé because he basically invented skills and Ronaldo because he's a beast.

"It's my dream to become a professional football player one day. I'm so excited to go to Spain. At the start I didn't believe my teachers. Me and my friends were all just in shock and some of them even cried."

Rhiley recently attended the Coast to Coast Sport Camp, which was held at Totara Springs Christian Camp. The sport camp was a week long event for football, futsal and spike ball players.

During the games a few scouts from Academy SoccerPlus NZ were present eyeing up new talent.

Rhiley's mum Hayley said Rhiley plays for Cambridge Football Club, but there are limitations playing for a country club. Camps like Coast to Coast Sport Camp offer extra opportunities for kids with natural talents in football.

"Soccer isn't a very popular sport at Morrinsville Intermediate, so the team had quite a few rugby players just to make up a team.

"This is the first time the school has even had one student selected because rural school don't normally do very well in these types of camps because city schools especially Auckland schools are just next level.

"One of the scouts, who sent a message to us said he likes to keep an eye on the smaller country schools, because they don't normally get recognised, but there's always a little bit of talent.

The Valencia CF experience will run from March 31 2020 to April 17 2020 and Rhiley will be required to fundraise $8,000 for the trip. In Valencia there will be 10-13 training sessions at the Valencia sports grounds, two-three with the local club CRACKS academy and one or two friendly matches.

From the group of New Zealand kids, two will get chosen to come back again for further training, which will be funded by Academy SoccerPlus NZ.

"It's an experience not a trial. Rhiley will be coached, watched and analysed by the best of their academy coaches. It will give me the chance to learn a lot more about my game and just what it takes to be a professional player," Hayley said.

To donate go to Rhiley Whitiora's givealittle page: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/a-football-dream-of-a-lifetime

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