VERONA, Italy — Many local soccer players are preparing for the fall season by competing in club competition or by running track.

Fruitland goalkeeper Julian Ramirez is preparing a little further from home. The junior is in Verona, Italy training in the A.C. ChievoVerona European Residential Academy. 

“This program enables talented young soccer players aged 14-17 from North America & Oceania to spend 3-9 months a year in Verona, Italy to live & breathe soccer at the highest level,” the program says.

A.C. ChievoVerona is an Italian professional soccer team in the Serie A league, the top pro league in Italy. Michael Bradley, midfielder and captain of the U.S. men’s national soccer team and Toronto FC of the MLS, played 35 games for A.C. ChievoVerona between 2011 and 2012.

Ramirez called the level of competition at the academy “insane” and said there are several opportunities for the residents to train at a high level with increasingly better competition.

“On top of our international team, the best players throughout the week are selected to train with the actual U17 academy team which is basically the underage players who are in the process of becoming pro,” Ramirez said. “I have been selected to train with the academy twice and the level of the game and the coaching is more than I could have ever anticipated, the Italian goalkeepers are beyond superb.”

Ramirez is one of three American goalkeepers at the academy (one is from California and one is from North Carolina) and has started in both games they have played, which includes a 7-0 shutout.

While many local soccer fans have been taking note of Ramirez’s goalkeeping skills for a couple of years now, the coaches of A.C. ChievoVerona sent scouts to an ID Camp that was hosted by Real Middleton (the club team Ramirez plays for).

After the ID Camp in Middleton, Ramirez went to the National ID Camp in Casa Grande, Arizona.

According to Ramirez, he was selected over the Caldwell High School goalkeeper to attend the National ID Camp.

Over 150 players from around the country and 20 coaches from A.C. ChievoVerona were at the National ID Camp. It was from this pool that the coaches would select which players were good enough to go to Italy. Ramirez was put against a goalkeeper from Hawaii and was good enough to receive an invitation.

The program is organized with A.C. ChievoVerona's partnership with Global Image Sports, who also helped to organize the ID Camps and National ID Camps. 

The Grizzlies ended the 2017 season missing the state tournament and Ramirez went out in the conference semifinals with an injured shoulder. He said his injury is all healed now.

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Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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