Fresh from realising his Premier League dream, Emi Marcondes spent the off season exploring how to achieve another long-held ambition – owning an academy.
Marcondes has been helping to give young people from deprived areas a foundation in football ever since he was a youth player at first club FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark.
His eyes were opened when he spent time staying with Ghanaian footballer Godsway Donyoh during a training camp with Right To Dream Academy, which was founded in 1999 by Tom Vernon, who went on to become chairman of Nordsjaelland.
Marcondes was inspired by Donyoh’s story about a challenging upbringing, with the untimely death of his mother leaving him to take care of his family as he continued to pursue a career in professional football.
Together with having some downtime since the season ended with promotion in May, Marcondes has been on fact-finding missions to Brazil, Denmark and Uganda and has spent time helping out Thomas Thor, his former youth coach at Nordsjaelland, with his El Cambio Academy.
Marcondes told afcb.co.uk: “I’m very much into academies and seeing how things work in different countries.
“I would like to re-invest in the younger generation and help make a better tomorrow.
“I want to help poor people and kids from the streets and teach them about structure and give them a foundation on the football side and the schooling.
“I’ve been to a few places in the past few weeks but Uganda was probably the most fascinating trip because it’s so different from how we live here and in Denmark.
“El Cambio, which means ‘the change’ in Spanish, is an academy I’ve been following very closely. It was founded five years ago by Thomas who was inspired by Tom Vernon and Right To Dream.
Click here to watch a video of Marcondes at the El Cambio Academy, taken from his Instagram account.
“There were around 40 kids between the ages of eight and 14. I trained with them to show them how a professional footballer works.
“They saw my training programme from Bournemouth and were surprised we have to run so much. It was an eye opener for me and for them.
“It was a blessing to see how happy they are as they don’t have much. I took some training kit, boots, running shoes, gloves and hats.
“Some of them had never seen gloves before so that’s what they wanted the most. I didn’t really understand why because it was 30 degrees out there!
“I got a lot out of it. Thomas told me about everything the kids have been through and showed me everything about how to run an academy.
“It is something I want to do in the future. Investing my time and being inspired by them, I think I can learn a lot from how Africans train and play.
“Thomas worked for Right To Dream and now he’s got his own academy. Maybe in the future, we can do it together. Right To Dream is many years in front of El Cambio but our dream is to make it as big.”
Marcondes, the first signing of the Scott Parker era 12 months ago, netted twice in 17 games in the Championship and also bagged a hat-trick in the FA Cup third round win over Yeovil.
A back-to-back Premier League promotion winner having gone up via the play-offs with Brentford in 2020/21, the midfielder was delighted with his first year at Vitality Stadium.
He said: “Coming to a new club with a new coach and a new style of play, I’ve learned a lot and learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned how to push for more and to get better at things I’m not so good at.
“I played in certain ways for a long time and maybe thought this is how I am as a player. But last season opened my ambition a bit more. I can develop into a new player. Even at the age of 27, I can still develop and become even better at many things.
“I’ve learned that here and seen it from the other players who have played in the Premier League. It’s another level to build on so I’m very happy to have been through that and seen it all.
“I’ve had many good training sessions and games as well. Even though I didn’t play much, I’ve always looked forward to training. I think that’s because of the culture at the club and the coaches.
“Everyone wants to get better and that’s the place I want to be. I’ve heard stories and have friends at other clubs where they don’t train hard and there isn’t a competitive training culture. I wouldn’t like that.
“That keeps me motivated and pushing all the time to get better every day. I feel blessed to be in a competitive environment.
“I’ve always been motivated to reach the Premier League. Playing a big part in Brentford’s promotion and then not getting in the team was a big blow.
“But that kept me motivated when I wasn’t playing last season. As a team, we have a goal and a target together.
“When I look at the fixtures, it’s exciting. I can’t wait and I want the season to start now.”
Click here to read more about the El Cambio Academy.