For her birthday, 11-year-old Daniela Green received one heck of a gift — she got a chance to participate last month in Spanish superclub FC Barcelona’s first soccer summer camp in San Francisco. The soccer pros evidently liked what they saw; the Mission native garnered FC Barcelona’s attention and has been invited to a week-long clinic in Spain in October.
This is the opportunity of a lifetime for the 6th grader at Gateway Middle School, who is now one step closer to her goal of playing soccer professionally. Barcelona, additionally, is her favorite team, and its players — Messi, Iniesta, Piqué — are her heroes.
Along with millions worldwide, Green is a huge fan of Argentinian national Lionel Messi. So much so that the youthful, attacking midfielder emulates his style. It all began in the second grade, she said, when she began kicking a soccer ball with her toes. Her friend Owen, who had a bit of practice playing the game in junior leagues, saw her attempts and taught her the correct way of kicking and passing. She became obsessed with the sport and, within a month, she was playing better than Owen.
Two months after that first informal lesson, she was already in a youth league with a team called Galactic Girls.
Now playing for Burlingame Soccer Club, Green plays on the Under-12 Gold team as a midfielder. Jackie Castro, who’s been her team’s coach since January, described Green as a player who is edging away from her peers in terms of skill and vision for the game — so much so that she’s begun training and playing games with older players in the upper-age groups.
“There’s definitely something about her that she can see the game well. Her soccer IQ is good for her age,” Castro said.
Green’s mother, Yasmina Green, organized a GoFundMe page in July to raise more than $3,000 to fund a trip from San Francisco to Barcelona. The page garnered so much attention that it was featured on the fundraising company’s homepage and even received a $500 dollar donation from one of its employees. The ultimate goal, Yasmina Green said, was to raise $6,000 so the mother-daughter duo can travel to Spain. So, until then, they’re holding bake sales on the weekends to raise enough money for the trip.
“It’s amazing people want to support us even though they don’t know Daniela,” the elder Green said.
The San Francisco training session was one of 33 held across the United States. Some 70 players, including 10 from San Francisco, will voyage to Spain for training sessions with the big club between September 29 and October 8.
For Green, it’s a dream achieved. And, possibly, a rung on the ladder leading to the World Cup Who would she like to play for?
“Brazil? Maybe the U.S.?” she said coyly.