An action-packed week in our Egypt Academy saw our student-athletes get a taste of what the pro football life looks like, how it feels to give back to your community, and even what it means to be more than a footballer.
It all started when Emiliano Marcondes and Christian Køhler, known as TK, two FC Nordsjælland Academy graduates, headed to the Right to Dream Academy in Egypt for a purposeful trip (Our favorite kind of trips at RTD!). It wasn’t only about football but also about giving back to the community and inspiring the next generation of talent (aka the emerging excellence).
Emiliano and TK met at the FCN Academy in Denmark almost a decade ago. But they each embarked on different journeys; Emiliano now plays at Premier League side Bournemouth while TK plays at Iceland’s ÍA Akranes and studies sports management.
Despite the distance and the different career choices, they stayed connected and decided to use their positions as professional football players and FCN Academy graduates to make a difference.
Their goal? Inspire, support, and empower the emerging excellence to continue chasing their dreams and recognizing their passions.
And during their four-day visit to Egypt, we got to watch them as they served as both mentors and friends to our students. They shared with them their career stories, their ups and downs, tips and tricks, and on top of that, taught them their special freekick technique (more on that in a moment).
But the one thing that resonated with us the most was their talk about the importance of being more than an athlete and having different passions and purposes in life besides football – something we’re always proud to be communicating to our students at Right to Dream through the character program and education path.
So how did the students react to all of this? They sported ear-to-ear grins through it all, and we could see their eyes sparkle with eagerness and curiosity as they spoke to the duo and asked them questions about their careers, interests, and even hairstyles and goal celebrations.
And while we enjoyed watching the students learn the freekick technique on the pitch, we were bursting with pride as we listened to them share their dreams in the final session with the duo. Dreams that ranged from representing Egypt in the World Cup, to graduating from a top university in the US, to playing in the Premier League.
“They had tough journeys, but they still worked hard to achieve their dreams. They inspired me to work hard and be even better than them,” one of the students said.
“The key takeaway is that we have to believe in ourselves and use our passion for football to discover other passions in life,” another student added.
The enthusiasm wasn’t only confined to the students, the pair had just as good of a time.
“Trips like this are very valuable. Instead of going to the beach, I want more purposeful journeys. I want to learn and get something more out of my traveling. It’s a great opportunity to travel with a purpose,”
TK said (and we definitely echo that sentiment).
Giving back isn’t anything new for the duo – they already had similar visits to Ghana, Brazil, and Uganda. And the benefits of these visits are twofold, according to them. It has been much of a learning experience for them as it is for the young players.
“I’m giving back but I also feel I’m getting a lot out of it. For me, at the same time as I’m learning, I’m also inspiring the next generation, so I feel like it’s a win-win, which is a great feeling,”
And while they left FCN a while ago, they draw inspiration from their time there, saying it offered them a good foundation not just in football, but in life.
“They [FCN and RTD] planted the seeds of my freekick camp and opened the door for me to go to Ghana and do my freekick school there and come back to FCN and play with the young kids there, and that gave me confidence,”
They highlighted the importance of the character sessions they got during their time at FCN and how they helped them develop resilient characters and identify their own values.
“I learned the importance of identifying your own values. It’s important to build a character and build values around that character and then follow them. You need to have a very strong set of values to be able to go through the tough periods,”