Updated: Apr 6
How Winning a Contest, Hard Work & Some Guidance Took Michael Echavarria to Europe
This fall, Michael Echavarria will embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey with the International Development Academy. In late March, Echavarria was selected from dozens of applicants and submissions as the winner of a free semester abroad at IDA’s soccer academies in Valencia, Spain, and Reading, England.
“I was in class when I got the email, and I just got up from my computer and walked around the room, pacing,” he said, laughing. “I was almost in tears, I couldn’t believe it. I told my sister, she couldn’t believe it. It’s just such a dream come true.”
For Echavarria, this moment has been a long time coming, and it didn’t happen by accident.
“I’ve been playing soccer for as long as I can remember, from playing in a futsal academy and making life-long friends at a young age, to winning my first championship at 10 years old,” he said. “It was very fun, but I was always grinding, knowing I wanted more.”
And thanks to IDA, he’s going to have that opportunity. Echavarria will spend half a semester at the IDA Valencia facility, and the other half at the IDA UK campus. When asked which one he’s more excited about, he couldn’t quite decide.
“Honestly, they both sound incredible,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to go to Spain, so that’s going to be amazing, and I think the UK is going to be a whole different level of competition. I’m looking forward to developing as a player, and having such a unique training experience.” Asked if there’s anything specific he’s looking forward to, he didn’t hesitate: “The FA Youth Cup,” he said excitedly.
And that’s a perfect example of just how much of a student of the game he really is. For context, the FA Cup is one of the oldest and most beloved tournaments among English soccer fans. It pits every single soccer team in England against one another in a months-long tournament that culminates in a final at the famous Wembley Stadium in London. And the kid from Braintree, Massachusetts couldn’t be more excited for it.
That’s the kind of player that Echavarria is. Passionate, knowledgeable, and always looking to improve.
“I’m a central attacking midfielder (CAM), and I pride myself on my passing,” he said. “So, I’m always looking to the pros like (Manchester City midfielder) Kevin De Bruyne. I’m always watching YouTube videos of him, how he plays, his passes and shot selection. He’s a beast”
And it’s that kind of commitment and focus that’s going to serve him well, both with IDA and beyond.
“The application process wasn’t easy, but I wanted this, so I did it,” he said. “From writing the letter to putting together my highlight reel and the interview process, my family and IDA were really supportive and helpful.”
Even still, as he’s about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, he says it hasn’t really sunk in yet.
“It kind of feels real, but not entirely,” he said, laughing. “Maybe once I say bye to my parents at the airport, it’ll click.”