Mathew Drinkhouse Accepted into French Football Academy
In early January 2021, ESI’s Mathew Drinkhouse headed to Cannes, France to join the Michel Hidalgo International Football Academy. The Academy connects players age 14 to 22 with opportunities in pro clubs through intense training and by showcasing their talents. Mathew was the midfielder on the 03/04 ESI team and was excited about the opportunities ahead of him.
“I was always looking for something in France since we went over there (with ESI) in 5th grade. I have been playing in the French system for 7 years with Stéphane and to go over there - while it is a different country and the players are better - it is the same training and same style,” Mathew said. “This seemed like a really good opportunity and experience. The people were really nice at the Academy. I also wanted to start off with something that was shorter term and the 5 months seemed like a smart step.”
Mathew will live in Cannes for 5 months, returning at the end of May 2021. He will be immersed culturally, learn to speak French more fluently, and have a soccer experience that includes potentially training with some of the world’s most popular European clubs. During his time there Mathew will have the opportunity to experience trials with several different clubs in Europe.
“In the morning we practice and we are assigned a club in France and we play with them,” Mathew said of the program’s schedule. “Then at 2pm to 4pm every day we have French class.”
While experiencing training with other clubs, athletes at the International Football Academy will train with their partner club, AS Cannes. Training classes are smaller to ensure a personal approach to each athlete’s development with increased dedication from each coach to the individual player.
The Academy takes a holistic approach to player development by offering training at the club, official trials, friendlies and professional opportunities. There is also a focus on mental and tactical development with lectures and even refereeing courses to ensure that the player is well-rounded and comprehensively understands all aspects of the game.
The program is named after its founder, the late Michel Hidalgo, a football legend in France, who made a career playing for Stade de Reims and AS Monaco. He led France to an international title, the European Championship, in 1984. The Academy boasts a long line of successful players including training Zinedine Zidane, manager of Real Madrid F.C.
Mathew is grateful for ESI and how much Stéphane has helped him in pursuing his soccer goals.
“I definitely wouldn’t be having this opportunity if not for Stéphane,” Mathew said. “If you are someone who really wants it, if you apply yourself at ESI, then Stéphane will help make it happen for you.”