Albert and Austin Ramirez were groomed to play soccer.
It was predetermined by their father that his twin boys would be raised with a soccer ball at their feet. Since they were five years old, they said, they’ve been playing soccer. Other sports have come and gone; they played football, basketball and baseball, too, but nothing stuck like soccer did.
Nearly 13 years after their father intuitively got them into playing, it’s unclear as to whether even he saw this coming.
The boys, now seniors at Tolleson Union High School, will be furthering their careers at one of the most prestigious soccer institutions the game has to offer.
They signed to York St. John University in York, England, on March 19, which is also intertwined with the i2i International Soccer Academy.
“All players with the i2i International Soccer Academy enroll as fulltime students at YSJ,” according to i2isocceracademy.com. It continued that they strive “to develop a player’s ability, whilst also ensuring every individual gains the qualifications needed to prepare them for a range of careers, both inside and outside the world of soccer.”
So, essentially, they will be college students at York St. John – Albert will be majoring in Sports Science, Austin studying Business – while also playing in the i2i Academy. It takes on a role as a feeder system to professional soccer.
“It’s an academy that gives you the opportunity to show your potential as an individual footballer,” Albert said.
It’s a year-round schedule of soccer, akin to a fulltime job, they said, with games beginning in September. They’ll match up against other clubs and academies, similar to the i2i, that are run by professional soccer teams in Europe.
“We’re exposed to those teams. If coaches and managers like us, they give us a contract to go and play for that academy,” Austin said.
The goal for both Albert and Austin is to eventually play professional soccer. Albert plays striker, while Austin prefers the right midfielder position. The opportunity to play at the academy in York can potentially expedite that process.
The boys first learned of this program through one of their club soccer coaches last March.
“They scouted us, and one of the scouts came down and talked to one of our coaches,” Austin said. “He told him, ‘Are there any individuals that are really good?’ And our coach said, ‘I have twins.’ He comes down and then looks at us, and tells us, ‘I’m interested in you guys. Do you want to come check out the academy in England?’”
The Ramirez boys took up the scout on his offer and flew to England for a two-week tryout with the academy. There they became immersed with the program. They spent the next two weeks working out with the team and other recruits every morning, as well playing in seven games.
“The atmosphere is really nice,” Austin said. “When we were there, we felt like it was home. We called that place home.”
Playing soccer in college – which has always been a shared dream of theirs – began to morph into a reality the last two years, when they both started receiving offers. There were offers from community colleges and one university in Ohio, but nothing stood as tall as the academy in England.
It was also important to both boys that they stick together during their college years, after the heartache that consumed them two years ago.
“Two years ago, our house burned down,” Albert said. “It was very heartbreaking because we had grown up with so many memories there. We stuck through it together because my mom and dad were down. Us, especially because we’d been through a lot, decided we’d stick together to play soccer.”
The Ramirez twins are eager to get acclimated with their new home overseas. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll allow them to crack a roster spot on a professional team where the sport was originated.
“Soccer in England,” Albert said. “What else do you want?”