Article written by Robert Ziegler, ESNN 9/10/09
Sebastian Lleget and his parents at West Ham United
Standout midfielder Sebastian Lletget is now playing full-time with the West Ham United youth program in London. The 17-year-old, who starred for the U.S. U17 Men’s National Team at the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Tournament earlier this year in Mexico, has left Bradenton Residency for this opportunity. I’ve had the chance to watch and talk with Sebastian since he was a member of the U15 Boys’ National Team and a club player at Santa Clara Sporting in Northern California. He’s a winsome young man and a dedicated soccer player.
Recently I had the chance to pose some questions to Sebastian from across the Atlantic, thanks to the kind help of his sister Valeria. The following is what he had to say:
Q: At age 17, what is the status you are under at West Ham?
SL: I signed a 2-year scholarship, meaning that I will be training with the youth team and participating in any other training opportunities during this time.
Q: Are you a full-fledged professional and have you obtained an EU passport required for a British work permit?
SL: I am not a professional yet, but obtaining an EU passport was essential in order to play football in Europe. My faith has always been there during this process. Without my family’s support and efforts, I believe my chances of being a young pro in Europe would be slim. Q: How did West Ham interact with you while you were trying for such a long time to obtain the passport? What is it like there now that you are on the playing staff full time?
SL: West Ham United have made me feel welcomed and have been very supportive. I feel like they really believe in my abilities. Never once did I ever think they would just abandon me. Apart from me doing so well at this club, so far, that was a major reason why I chose to come here. During trainings at West Ham United, Chadwell Heath training grounds, you have the opportunity to interact and share time with coaches and players in a high-level atmosphere.
Q: How do you like the training setup you are now under?
SL: I belong to the under-18 youth roster and have recently been training, on occasion, with the reserve squad. I feel like training at this level every day makes me feel 100 percent sure that I am where I need to be in order to become a professional player. It feels amazing to walk into the dressing room everyday and see my number and full kit ready to start training. The training and standard here is very high, but that never really was a problem for me. I always adapted with the pace and strength that you need in order to play in the English game.
Q: What is the rest of your life like now as a young man in London?
SL: Although we have a very disciplined training and match preparation schedule, on days when I have free time I am able to do things that I really like to do like draw, go to the movies, go to the mall, and hang out with my teammates. I live in the academy youth house and my family is away from me at the moment, but we keep in contact through phone everyday so it makes it easier.
Q: What is your status with the U17 Men’s National Team now that you have left Bradenton Residency to become a full time West Ham youth player?
SL: Since I am training with West Ham United full-time I am not available to stay at residency and train with the U-17 Men’s National Team. It is my dream and hope to represent the United States in the World Cup.
Q: Was it a tough decision to leave residency for West Ham?
SL: I appreciate very much the opportunity I had to be selected to train and play with the U-17 Men’s National Team. It was very difficult to choose, but I have been working toward achieving a spot on West Ham United’s youth team since I was 13-years old. I hope that my decision does not impact future participation for the National squad.
Q: With an Italian passport, have you considered the possibility of playing in Italy some day?
SL: I have in mind a few Italian football teams that I would like to play for in the future, but right now I am concentrating on developing as a player, taking one day at a time, and enjoying the present.
Q: What are your goals as a player?
SL: My goals for my football career are very high. I am definitely working as hard as I can to push onto the first team. I feel my progress at West Ham United will only get better as time goes by. Especially, since the club has a high reputation for developing players. Anything can happen. My family and my passion for football are what are most important to me and if I make a long career out of this game, all the effort will be worth it.
Q: Is there anyone else you would like to thank for helping you get this opportunity?
SL: I would love to thank my parents, my three loving sisters, and the Santa Clara Sporting Club in Santa Clara, CA and my coach, Carlos Brasil for their unconditional support and encouragement.