Matthew Real knows what sacrifice means in order to do something you love.
At just 18 years old, Real is a defender for Bethlehem Steel FC and has made seven appearances in his second season for the team, but is his first as a professional player. Real grew up in a soccer family, attended YSC and fell in love with the sport at an early age.
“I was born into a family that always was into soccer,” Real said. “My mom is Italian and my dad is from Brazil, so ever since I was born my dad always tried to instill the foundation so I can enjoy it growing up.”
Real started his soccer journey with the U-8 YSC team and was a part of the Union Academy’s founding class. He knew that in order to become an elite player he would have to leave his friends and school behind. But sacrificing everything was important for Real to advance his soccer career.
“I knew that if I went to YSC it would give me a better time balancing my work with my play,” Real said. “At my old school, they didn’t give much leeway for that. Growing up, I couldn’t go out a lot at all. I still don’t go out and don’t have many friends. It’s what I wanted and I have it now.”
Through intense training and setting high goals for himself, Real has made an impact not only for Steel, but for his country as well. He has been in and out with the national team since he was 14 years old, and continues to impress out on the pitch. This year, he was called up for the U-18 US Men’s National Team for the 2017 Lisbon International Tournament. He started in left back for all three matches against Japan, Norway and Portugal.
Being a part of the national team has allowed Real to create friendships and see how his skills compare to other players around the world.
“During these camps, it’s only 10 days at a time, but you grow a brotherhood with these players,” Real said. “It’s cool because most games I play in I know someone from the other team every time because of the friendships I’ve built through the national team. It’s a really good experience because we get to see how good we are compared to other countries in Europe at this age, and developing to become better players.”
Real has developed to become a strong player through YSC. Being able to receive an education while also doing what he loves every day has made a positive impact.
“Growing up, I found soccer could be my career," Real said. "It’s more of a hobby than a job, so that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Who wouldn’t want to wake up every day and have the job that’s actually a hobby for them.”
Real has also been through the YSC program with now First Team player, Anthony Fontana. The two were a part of the Union Juniors U-8 team, and found their experience rewarding to their soccer careers.
“Being a part of the academy was a great experience,” Real said. “My teammates like Anthony Fontana I’ve been playing with since I was 8 years old. To see us progress this far and how a lot of kids are out of it, and we’re still in, it’s great to be around this community and keep developing.”
Although he is now an elite player, Real still pushes every day to become the best player he can. By setting high goals and accomplishing each task he sets himself out to do along the way makes his dreams become a reality. His next goal is to be on the U-20 roster for the next World Cup.
As always, starting a professional career is not an easy thing to do. Real has pushed himself day in and day out to get to the position he’s at now. For younger kids looking to become a professional player, his advice is to start early and do what you love most.
“If you want to play professional, you have to go for it,” Real said. You can’t take your foot off the peddle. You have to set the goal and sacrifice everything and hopefully you can make it there one day.”
From playing soccer with kids who have become family to traveling with the national team around the world for a chance to make your dreams come true, with dependable roadside assistance, car care, & hotel discounts, AAA is there to support the journeys of all young athletes & their families as they chase their dreams.