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Five-year-old NOTL soccer player heading to Spain

Hugo Reis will be training in Madrid, Spain with the Real Madrid Foundation coaches in spring 2024

When Stephanie and Fabian Reis registered their five-year-old son Hugo in a Real Madrid Foundation soccer camp this summer, they weren’t totally sure what to expect. One thing they never could have predicted is that Hugo would be invited to Spain next spring to train at the perennial Champions League powerhouse team’s Madrid facility.

The owners of Ferox Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake have been splitting their time between the winery and a home in Toronto. Part of that decision was based on their desire to grow the winery’s business there. The other part was the opportunity to enrol their son at a German language private school. 

Earlier this summer, Hugo participated in a Real Madrid Foundation camp in Toronto, where he caught the eye of the Union of European Football Associations level coaches involved. 

“Since he was three years old, he’s wanted to be a goalkeeper,” says Stephanie. “He can watch soccer highlights all day long, Premier League, Champions League, the German Bundesliga. He studies all of the goalies and knows the names of the players on every team.”

Despite his young age, Stephanie and Fabian enroled Hugo in soccer goalie training through the Erin Mills Soccer Club over the winter, where he was by far the youngest participant, working with kids between eight and 13 years old.

“I think that really pushed him to do his best, to work really hard,” says Stephanie. “The older kids treated him really well, and he formed a real bond with them.”

Hugo played soccer with Niagara Falls United last summer, with Fabian as his coach. Because the family is in Toronto this summer and planning a long trip to Europe in August, they decided not to register him for a league this year. But he needed his soccer fix, and that’s where the Real Madrid Foundation experience came in. 

“I didn’t really know a lot about it at first,” Stephanie says. “They do these camps all over Canada, North America and Europe. It’s a real grassroots effort to spread their methodology around. They really focus on how to play as a team.”

Hugo’s Mom was impressed immediately with the way the camp was run. 

“It was very organized,” she marvels. “It was very professional. They really teach these kids at a young age how to be disciplined. They come onto the field in a single-file line. It’s discipline, structure.”

The soccer camps feature professional European football coaches trained in the methods of the Spanish club. They promote a healthy and fit environment for kids who want to step up their game to the next level. The Real Madrid Foundation website stresses game vision, teamwork, and effort in an experience where they train like a champion in an environment where they can feel like a professional player for a week.

“They promote their values of leadership, teamwork, respect and effort,” says Stephanie.

Following the camp, the family received an email from the foundation inviting Hugo to their training facility in Spain for two separate one-week training sessions in March and June. 

“They said they only choose one or two kids from each location to invite to Spain,” says Stephanie. “I think Hugo got chosen partially for how he played, but also because he matches with their all-around values. We’re really proud of him.”

While in Toronto, Hugo has been attending the private German International School. Both Fabian and Stephanie have German backgrounds, and keeping the language and the culture alive is important to the family. 

“We do speak German a lot in the home,” Stephanie mentions. “And living here right now gives us the opportunity to send him to this school, to give him that cultural experience.”

Of her son’s love for playing in goal in soccer, Stephanie is a bit in awe.

“There’s so much more in playing that position than either Fabian or I ever knew,” Stephanie says. “Hugo’s not even six yet and he has already learned so much. The way he stands in the net, it shows he knows his stuff. We love to support his passion.”

All three of them plan to be in Madrid for both sessions next spring and summer.