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Costa, Rafinha hold clinics with youth players, give back for love of the game

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Both players show youth players in Connecticut and Massachusetts tricks of the trade

From left to right, Rafinha, Jadir “JB” Barbosa, Douglas Costa, Everson Maciel and Lucas Kruel pose for a photo during a recent meet-and-greet opportunity with soccer fans last week in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Photo by Jason York

Last Thursday, Bayern Munich winger Douglas Costa was working feverishly to get the ball back during a keep-away drill from a plucky, young upstart. Despite his professional pedigree, Costa stood no chance of getting the ball back on his talented feet.

Photo by Jason York

During a stretching session later Thursday, Bayern Munich defender Rafinha took time to make sure younger players understand how important it is to look after your body before, during and after training sessions.

Photo by Jason York

Costa and Rafinha, as you can see, were not quite back in Munich for the start of preseason training. They were both at Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford, Connecticut, as part of The Champions Experience, a series of youth clinics, games and meet-and-greet opportunities in Connecticut and Massachusetts organized by Everson Maciel and Jadir “JB” Barbosa, who both grew up in with Rafinha in Londrina, Brazil.

Maciel says dreaming of playing professionally and reaching Brazil’s national team was something all three of them did growing up, and Rafinha made it. Both Maciel and Barbosa played college soccer in the United States at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, and Maciel played professionally in the United Soccer League with Western Massachusetts Pioneers. Maciel, who now operates Everson Soccer Academy, and Barbosa paired together to bring, Rafinha, who had been talking with Maciel about doing youth clinics for the past year. It finally came together, and the added bonus was that Costa wanting coming along for the ride.

Maciel says even as Costa and Rafinha were both actually instructing players last week, made clad in Bayern Munich and Brazil kit, and parents were talking about the players’ résumés, it still didn’t seem real to him. Costa and Rafinha did not just show their faces, turnaround and leave after signing some autographs and taking a few pictures. “O jogo bonito” spirit fills both Costa and Rafinha. Maciel says both players say appearances like this need to be “special and unique” for attending youth players and fans.

“I think it’s important, that they have to inspire and show they’re not superheroes and that you have to work hard and have a dream,” Maciel says.

Rafinha says he enjoys watching soccer evolve in the United States in terms of knowledgable fans and youth players who are hungry to learn about the game.

“MLS is a league that’s growing, and fans are always looking for the best, so they look for teams in Europe too,” Rafinha says. “It’s nice to see kids wearing Bayern shirts here, and it’s great to work with the kids and teach the kids about the love of the game.”

Costa adds that whether it’s playing keep away with a tiny tot, showing off some fancy footwork and ball tricks or meeting fans, he loves that he is able to do this. Costa says he would dream about having an opportunity like this growing up in Brazil.

“I am happy to be able to do something like this because I wanted a big-name player to do this for me when I was young,” Costa says. “Being here is nice for me, it’s a pleasure to be able to pass something down. You never know, one of these kids might be in a national team some day, and I can say I was here helping out back when.”