Filipino teen footballer Rafael Garcia joins LaLiga Academy

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(CNN Philippines, May 24) — The Philippines will have a representative in LaLiga Academy for the first time in the 2023-24 season.

Rafael Garcia, a 16-year-old defender, becomes the first Filipino to join the exclusive football program.

"I love football because it teaches me how to work hard, how to work as part of a team and, above all, about the passion of the game. It has a lot of values that I can transfer to my daily life," said Garcia, who aleady trained at the ESC LaLiga & NBA Centre last month.

Garcia, who can play center-back and right-back, trained at Makati FC, GOM Fotball Center of Excellence, Southampton Academy, and Stallion Laguna FC.

The prestigious LaLiga Academy project aims to train athletes between the ages of 13 and 18 for a whole season under the LaLiga Methodology, which focuses on excellence in both academics and sports.

The academy's unique complex now has a residence with a capacity of 450 people, two football fields, a gymnasium, a clinic and an international school equipped with a library, laboratory and study rooms. In the 2022-23 season, 36 players of 24 nationalities joined the program.

LaLiga Academy was the first annual program launched by LaLiga in Spain and joins the more than 550 grassroots football sports projects in more than 43 countries. It has been implemented since 2015, brought together within LaLiga Grassroots, the project launched in 2021 to promote global grassroots football.

LaLiga is a pioneer among the major competitions. It has created a network of permanent academies based on its own training system, which is especially valued at international level as it was forged from a wealth of knowledge in Spanish grassroots football.