Sophomore defender George Barba took a chance against some of the world’s best undiscovered U-20 soccer players. He embarked on a potentially life-changing journey by signing up for the ‘Nike Chance,’ an international competition that only offers one Nike Soccer Academy professional contract.
To put this into perspective, the Nike Soccer Academy is located in England and is sponsored by the Premier League, the most lucrative professional club soccer league in the world. Academy players live, breathe and eat soccer in top notch facilities while being coached by world class technical staff.
Barba managed to qualify for the National Section of the Nike Chance in Oregon just over three years ago. He was set to be pitted against 49 other teens who only had one thing on their mind: a professional soccer career in England. The four best players would progress to the International section and compete in Barcelona for the cherished contract.
Six weeks prior to the Oregon trial, Barba was competing in an international tournament when he suffered a left lateral meniscus tear, which meant Barba had to undergo surgery and pull the pin on his dream. This heartbreaking injury changed the course of Barba’s soccer career and left him wondering what could have been.
Barba’s big dream of playing professional soccer began at the local park at the age of six. Barba’s father taught his son crucial skills at such a young age, which prepared him for his battles with international adversaries years later.
“My dad taught me the basics when I was little and helped me to anticipate plays,” Barba said. “My father would challenge me by putting me in scenarios that would prepare me for game situations.”
Barba competes in the modern era of sports that produces faster, stronger, bigger and robot-like athletes. He is unlike the typical athlete. His attitude and soccer IQ sets him apart from his contemporaries.
“I am open minded to different techniques, formations and I feel that I read the game very well,” he said. “This helps to simplify things, which allows me to slow down on the big plays.”
The lessons Barba learned from his father are having a profound impact on the PCC men’s soccer team. As captain, Barba feels that it’s his responsibility to guide his players on the soccer field, but also in the classroom.
“I feel like I’m a father figure because I want my teammates to get the most out of their college education and to keep on working hard on the field as well,” Barba said.
Head coach Edgar Manvelyan has known Barba since he was nine years old. In this time, Manvelyan has seen Barba grow exponentially in all facets of his game.
“George is a natural lefty who is very versatile in different positions,” Manvelyan said. “He is disciplined at the back, has a beautiful cross and hits a 40 yard ball right on a dime. His one on one situations are very good and George has great speed.”
Over the summer Barba impressed Manvelyan with the way he communicated with his teammates. This resulted in Barba being awarded one of the two captain’s armbands.
Fellow defender David Abeyta also endorses Barba very highly on all levels.
“George is an amazing player who never complicates things and his left foot can hit any target from anywhere. He is the leader and looks after us,” Abeyta said.
Year after year throughout his youth soccer career Barba played against some of the best players in the world. The pinnacle of his soccer career took place in Dallas, TX which hosts the annual International Youth tournament for the best clubs in the world.
“I have played at the highest level and know how to handle the pressure,” Barba said. “We have made the final and the final four most years.” Cal State Los Angeles is Barba’s target for next year. He wants to study kinesiology and captain the Golden Eagles’ soccer team. Becoming a physical therapist or coaching youth soccer are career options he’s weighing.