By Tonci Prusac
Bell Park seven-year-old Damien Duraj walked onto AAMI Park with his heroes from Melbourne Victory on 5 March before the club’s opening Asian Champions League game.
While Victory lost 1-3 to South Korea’s Daegu FC, Damien received much happier news less than 24 hours later.
The youngster discovered he had made Victory’s pre-academy training program and was set to take his first steps to becoming a professional himself.
Since learning to walk Damien was destined to have a soccer ball by his feet, according to proud dad David.
“Damien had his first birthday in Poland where he took his first steps,” David recalled.
“We rolled a football to him and he kicked it with his left and was yelling out ‘goal’.”
Damien began playing soccer at three-years-old with the Little Kickers program, before commencing Mini Roos football with Bell Park under sevens at age five.
Last year he moved up to under nines and in a recent trial session at Bell Park Sports Club earnt a spot at Victory’s pre-academy program.
“When he heard of the opportunity with Melbourne Victory, he was training extra hard and was determined to succeed at the trials,” David explained.
Damien strives to emulate idols Robert Lewandowski from German giants Bayern Munich and his own club’s senior striker Mijo Marinovic.
The football-obsessed youngster supplements his club commitments at Bell Park with sessions at Melbourne’s Elite Football Training Centre every Saturday morning.
And just like his idols Lewandowski or Marinovic, Damien would love kids to one day look up to him.
“Damien is so excited about what lies ahead of him,” David said.
“He knows that this is only the start of his journey and he also understands he still needs to work really hard so that one day he can be a professional footballer.”
Bell Park Soccer Club is one of the regional partners of Melbourne Victory’s pre-academy program.
The initiative aims to identify potential stars for the club’s junior academy program.