Palm Beach Stars from inside
Having been founded just a little over a year ago, the soccer club, Palm Beach Stars, has grown exponentially. General Manager, José Andrés Barrio, told us about the club's ambitious goals, including creating a youth academy modeled after FC Barcelona’s, and, among other things, playing against arguably the best team in South America within the last five years, River Plate.
In the club’s short history, they have formed a working group with several renowned people, such as José Luis Villareal as the coach. Although his experience as a coach is limited, he had a successful career as a player. The 55-year-old Argentine played at a high level in the two most popular teams in his country, Boca Juniors and River Plate, earning him a spot on Argentina's national team.
Experienced players came to join the Palm Beach Starts project from the beginning. For example, the former 2010 World Cup finalist with the Netherlands, Edson Braafheid, was part of the squad during the first season. Last year's captain, Justin Hoyte, had begun his senior career with the European giant Arsenal F.C. and represented England’s youth national team several years ago.
“Working with the team to establish development from grassroots, I hope to use my passion for the game to give back and grow the future for Palm beach Stars," Hoyte said upon joining the club in September of 2020.
Palm Beach Stars started achieving successful results -which in soccer are always important- from the very beginning when in their first season (2020/2021) they finished as runners-up of the South Florida Conference of the Premier Division of the UPSL League. Nowadays, the club is competing in a different tournament since in February of 2021 they joined the Premier Amateur Soccer League (PASL).
Below, the interview with the General Manager, José Andrés Barrio (The interview was done in Spanish and then translated into English):
Journalist: How and when did you start working at Palm Beach Stars?
Barrio: José Villarreal brought me to Palm Beach Stars. I had started working with him earlier in Miami Beach. I understood what Villarreal was looking for in the team and well, I joined. I came along with him and Tony Iafrate, who served as CEO at the beginning of what was the project that has recently completed a year.
J: What is your role at the club?
B: My role when I arrived at the club was that of Sporting Director. I was aware that everything worked well for the footballers off the field. I also did a bit of scouting, looking for players with the profile that coach Villarreal asked me to do. That was my role in the beginning. Later, in the second season, I went on to have a series of more functions. I was kind of a more general manager since other functions began to be fulfilled by the owner and president of the club, Paolo Bilotta. In addition, outside the sport, I participated a little in social media marketing and the content of the team at the level of social networks.
J: What is the club looking for in a player?
B: For Villarreal, there are two important aspects when hiring a player: Obviously, there is the soccer aspect; the boy has to have a certain level, but then we pay attention to the human issue. That is something from which Villarreal started in order to achieve everything that this human group has already achieved. The truth is that in the two seasons we reached the finals with the first team. Unfortunately, we lost the first one, but we were the champions in the second one. But forgetting those results, we seek that there is a human group, that the boys have a united group. There is also the professional side. Beyond this being semi-pro soccer, we try to be as professional as possible.
J: There were many Latin Americans on the squad last season. Is it a search or a coincidence?
B: Yes, there were quite a few Latin American players. We are in a multicultural city, players come from all over. In the first season, we had from Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela... especially from those three countries. So there is a very nice mix of players from different nationalities. We also have several players who are North American but of Latino parents. It is another situation that occurs a lot here. There's a little bit of everything. For example, our player with more recognition was the goalkeeper Hugo Fauroux, who comes from France. Our top scorer last season, William Denight, is from the United States. We also brought two experienced players such as Edson Braafheid and Justin Hoyte, which are both Europeans.
J: Will the club have a youth academy? How will it work?
B: The academy is something that is under construction. The truth is, I think we are doing quite well, we have advanced quite a lot. Soon we will be able to announce it on our social media. It is something that we have a lot of interest in growing. The idea of the academy is going to be a project, keeping the distances, similar to the Barcelona style, with the idea that coach Villarreal has of soccer. He wants the Academy to be a constant reinforcement for the first team. So, the idea is to work with a pyramidal structure, which will be seen closely by Villarreal himself, and that there is a style of play and a work methodology that is like the one that the first team already has, which has already given us several successes in the first year.
J: How was the experience of playing a friendly match against one of the best teams in South America, River Plate?
B: The experience of playing against River Plate was something incredible. The number of professionals working around that club is impressive. Then, being surrounded by soccer stars like Gallardo and Francescoli was another great experience. It was amazing. And for the boys, being able to play against River Plate was a dream come true. As you say, we play against one of the best teams, perhaps the best, within the last years on the continent.
Obviously, there was a strong difference at a sporting level. It also didn’t help us that we just took a vacation at the time of the friendly game, and the players came with little training pace. But the truth is that it was a unique experience and I think the boys were left with an impressive memory of having played against a phenomenal team.
River Plate vs Palm Beach Stars, match highlights:
J: What do you think of the club in its short history?
B: I am very proud to belong to this club and very happy for all that we have achieved in just one year of work. I can't tell you that we have a 10 out of 10 because we haven't won everything we've played, but we have a team that always comes out to propose and that plays good soccer. The club has already won titles, has reached the finals, so I think that for such a short period and a team that started from scratch, the results have been satisfactory. We aspire to be able to go for more, to grow more, but I am quite happy with what has been achieved so far. At the image level, we have positioned ourselves well, and at the sports level, which is the most important thing, the club has always given a spectacular image.
By Alisa Koryagina and Osvaldo Godoy