Two Canberra brothers have created their own youth development program for young football players who miss out on Canberra’s elite academy programs, because of the limited opportunities made available to them.
Kaz Patafta along with his brother Matt founded Patafta Football in March 2017, where kids aged six through eighteen have the opportunity to prove their talent and willingness to learn.
Kaz Patafta, who was a former Australia under-17 captain, believed that elite development programs in Canberra lack accountability in their systems and need to produce results.
“We are here to shake up the market and to put pressure on elite development programs to improve the overall quality of players in Canberra, and hopefully the market will realise that we are producing the majority of players who take their game to higher levels.”
“We view our academy as a long-term process and we are willing to see it through. We are here as an older brother, to help prepare their mentality to excel but also to have the ambition and drive to succeed at the highest level.”
Though they have only been running their academy for a short time, they have already had success with their pupil Anton Barisic signing with La Liga side Levante UD’s academy.
Managing Director Matt Patafta said that Anton Barisic was a 16-year-old kid who was told he wasn’t good enough by other clubs so he came to the Patafta program to improve.
“We sat him down to talk about his aspirations and he told us how he wanted to be a professional footballer and that other clubs had told him he wasn’t good enough. We decided to train him four times a week for six to eight months before we teed up a trial with the Spanish club.”
“We are proud to be able to provide opportunities for players that miss out or don’t get selected for the top academies in Canberra. Anton’s talent was inhibited by a lack of proper coaching and was not recognised at all for his development potential,” Matt Patafta said.
“We don’t allow the pessimistic environment that surrounds us to limit our ambition. Just because you miss out on certain programs doesn’t mean an end to achieving your dreams,” Matt Patafta said. “We hope we can produce and find the talent that has gone unseen by local clubs and academies in Canberra for the future.”
Kaz Patafta, who was at one stage part of the Socceroos’ camp in Germany with Guus Hiddink before the 2006 World Cup, signed with Portuguese giants Benfica as a 17-year-old and appeared three times for the first team in Portugal’s top league.
By the age of 22, Kaz had retired from professional football and pursued a law degree at Bond University and later turned his attention to developing and giving Canberra youngsters their chance to be a professional footballer.
“I want to use my own experience leaving Canberra as a 16-year-old and I want to give advice from someone who has been through what they are going through. I know what it feels like to finish school without my friends, to leave my family and friends on a plane and to take a chance overseas. I was fairly naïve back then and I want them to learn from my own experiences.”
“There are plenty of pathways for players to Australian clubs and the A-league but at Patafta Football we are focussed on providing pathways to Europe and Asia. We only send our players to the clubs and countries that care about youth and their development,” Kaz Patafta said.
“My youth coach at my time in Benfica is now an assistant coach at Swansea, Bruno Lage, and I have been in communication with him and they would be happy to take a look at some of the kids in our academy.”
To find out more about Patafta Football, click here.
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