BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, December 15, 2009
As US U20 coach Thomas Rongen announced the roster for the first camp of the 2011 World Cup, one of the most intriguing selections was Fabrice "Fafa" Picault, an 18 year old midfielder who plays in Italy for Cagliari's Primavera team.
Picault was born in New York and is the son of Haitian immigrants. He comes from a soccer family and his personal development stems from his father who coached him at a very early age.
"I started training with my father ever since I was little, at about three years old because I come from a soccer family," Picault recalled to YA. "I had interest in the sport since I was really little."
At the age of nine, Picault and his family moved to the Miami area. It is there that his development progressed. In his teenage years, Picault would go on to play with ODP and various state soccer programs.
"I'd been to the various ODP trials and I was actually with the state team for a few years but I never really made the region team," added Picault. He also stated that his father, as well as his youth coaches were significant influences on him during those times.
The path that has lead him Italy has not been easy. In the fall of 2006, a youth soccer club was started in Miami. It was called Cagliari Calcio-Strike Force and it was a combination of Italy's Serie A club, Cagliari, and Miami Strike Force (who were the premier youth team in the Miami area).
Picault faced a problem in that he became very ill as the Calgliari Calcio-Strike Force were conducting their tryouts.
"They were having these tryouts and I was really sick at the time. I managed to play on the last day of tryouts," Picault said. "But they ended up taking me. We trained for about a year. Then in the summer of 2007 we took a three week trip to Italy. Cagliari took interest in about four or five of us."
So while Cagliari's Italian team had interest in Picault in 2007, they were unable to take him due to his age.
"Being a minor at that age it was very hard. It's hard for many Americans at that age. So they ended up not being able to take me right away. But they did keep an eye on me. They kept me in the club here in Miami for another year," Picault described. "They sent me back to Italy in August of 2008. I tried out with them along with another set of Americans but we didn't go with the whole team. They ended up taking interest in keeping me."
Now, after having been in Italy for more than a year, Picault is seeing his hard work paying off.
"I've been doing very well in training and in matches. I've had a few trainings with the first team also," Picault said of his season thus far. "The times I have come in I have created a lot of problems for the defense."
Picault said that while earning playing time in a competitive league such as Italy's Primavera is very difficult, he is determined to get through the tough times that lie ahead.
"The first game of the season I started against Empoli and I scored a goal but then I didn't get any more starts after that. Sometimes that happens with clubs. A coach may prefer a different player with a different style. I just have to continue to do my hard work because it will pay off."
Picualt is keenly aware of the problems that have plagued young Americans that have tried to go overseas at a young age. He is, however, determined to avoid the pitfalls that have plagued his peers.
"For Americans it's very important. A lot of us young Americans have gone to Europe with the wrong [mindset]. But we have to stick it out. It's very hard for an American in Europe."
"It's not like a European coming to the USA to play basketball where everyone is looked as equal given the opportunity," Picault emphasized. "For Americans soccer players in Europe, you pretty much have to work 5-10 times harder. No matter what the problems are, you have to keep sticking it out because you will break through sooner or later."
It was never Picault's priority to turn professional at such a young age. His family had always put a priority on education and Picault had plans to play in college.
"Education is very highly valued in my family. I was always in gifted programs and AP courses. I had to maintain a certain GPA to be allowed to play or else my parents would put me on a six month break. College was always an option," Picault said of his priorities. "But when I was offered the Cagliari opportunity, I realized it was one that I couldn't throw away. I had to take it."
While Picualt is a versatile player, during his time he has come into his own and developed into an effective attacking winger.
"My best position is as an attacking winger. I like to come in on both the left and right sides. During the match I switch sides to create confusion for the adversary. I come in off the left attacking wing and the right attacking wing and do whatever I can to try to go down the defense's throat."
His play this season has earned him a call up to the USA's first camp of the U20 2011 cycle. This will be Picault's first time involved with a US national team at any age group and considers it an honor.
"Just to represent my country in any possible way has always been my dream. I am very thankful to God for the opportunity to prove myself."