Carrusca returns: why Adelaide welcomed a legend back

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Marcelo Carrusca’s academy has been so well regarded that the children of Adelaide United players and coaches attend it.

Some words sit happily together, and having “Adelaide United” and “Carrusca” back in the same sentence feels like the resumption of an important link in the culture of Australian football.

A few weeks ago, without huge fanfare, one of the Isuzu UTE A-League’s most elegant midfielders – 12th on the list of appearances for Adelaide and its fourth highest goalscorer – returned to the club four years after he retired, coming in as the head of United’s new Junior Development Program.

It’s absolutely not an appointment made on sentiment, for all the positivity engendered by clubs across the league bringing in former players to pivotal off-field roles.

For nearly a decade Carrusca has been running a highly regarded academy for children aged 5-13, and senior figures at United know exactly how good it has been because their own children went through it – including those of both Carl Veart and Adrian Stenta, United’s head coaches, the son of veteran midfielder Isaías, and the children of one former club president.

United’s blistering start to the season has cast a warm glow over the club’s fans, but long-term plans are also in train. Among a significant quantity of off-field investment by the club ownership in recent months, United effectively have bought Carrusca’s program and employed the man himself to keep overseeing it. A club with an enviable pipeline of teenage talent can now identify SA’s prospects even earlier and coach them in what Carrusca – a key figure in the 2016 Grand Final triumph – describes simply as “the Adelaide United way”.

Most of all he wants them to have fun every day, because it’s a role in which he has fun; adding United’s badge to it just gilds the lily for a player who appeared in the UEFA Champions League but fell in love with Adelaide as a city so much he never left.

“It will be the same thing that we’re doing in my academy for the last seven or eight years but now I’m doing it with the club, which is fantastic and I’m very excited about this journey,” Carrusca teels KEEPUP.

“I always was looking to come back to the club, always been very close. Of course I know everyone at the office, the players, and always I love this club.

“So to be able to develop players with the Adelaide United badge, and help kids in the whole state is fantastic.”

It promises to be quite the undertaking, with the 5-13 program open to all players at what will soon be three sites around Adelaide, including a new one in the city’s south. Those with most potential will be offered a place in a high-performance squad that Carrusca intends will go on tours and play in tournaments to fast-track their development.

“I’ve been doing that for the last four years in my academy and it works very well,” he says. “You do assessment for the kids for the start of the year and then your assessment report at the end of the year to see the progress, when you use video cameras and video analysis as well.

“I think there is a a big benefit for for those kids going forward. They are very fortunate to have all the the amazing facilities and and the technology behind it as well that the clubs is happy to invest and support because they can see that the future is here.

“We’ve been developing a lot of players in the last 10 years in South Australia so we want to keep doing that and doing better.”

Bit by bit United are seeking to draw on their well of ex-players, from an annual legends game to former captain Robbie Cornthwaite writing for the club website, and Carrusca is thankful having seen the benefits in the early stages of his own career.

“My former club (in Argentina), Estudiantes de La Plata from Buenos Aires, is a club that’s been doing that since I was 11 years old and you can see all the players that have retired, come back to the club and all the coaches that are part of the club, U6s to U18 or reserve, are all ex-players,” he says.

“I was feeling like we are responsible for the next generation of soccer players in Australia. Before I started my academy, when I was doing some appearances at (local) clubs, I felt like those kids need our guidance.

“Basically what we’re trying to achieve is to develop kids in the technical part of the game, but also to teach life skills through sport. Part of our philosophy is that the kids have fun and enjoy every single session.

“That was for us number one priority, falling in love with the sport. The second thing is to develop players in a holistic way so they can learn the technical part of the game, the tactical part of the game, but also the psychological part of the game, which is for me, very, very important.”

To that end Carrusca has already developed a series of workbooks for junior teams and schools called PositiveMe, to develop traits like resilience and decision-making. He points to the fact that he missed a penalty aged 21 and refused to take one for years – instead he wants young players to learn from failure.

 “No one coaches psychology for (junior) soccer players, everybody coaches the physical, tactical, technical, but the psychological aspect is in my opinion the main one,” he says.

“So we create this program to help kids to learn life skills through sport. We talk about resilience, you know, a lot of learning, we talk about setbacks, how to deal with feelings, how to manage emotions.”

For now, though, the emotions are all positive. “I’m very excited – I’ve been doing this for years, like I said, but now with the club’s resources and support,” he says.

“Being at the club again and feeling part of the club again is a great feeling. This is what we are trying to achieve, that the kids have a good experience and learn along the way.

“After that, let’s see what happens in the next 10 years with them. But we want them to have fun every single time they go into the field.”

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