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Soccer royalty Real Madrid offers camp in Glendale

GLENDALE — It was a meeting of the elite and the eager at the Glendale Sports Complex this week.

PHOTOS: Real Madrid soccer camp at Glendale Sports Complex 

Youth from throughout the area and the Southland lined up to participate in the first year of stateside soccer clinics put on by the Real Madrid Foundation from Monday through Thursday.

The world-renowned Spanish soccer club, ranked in June by Forbes as the world's most valuable sports franchise ($3.44 billion), held the second of its four scheduled Southern California clinics from roughly 9 a.m to 3 p.m. with around 50 participants with varying degrees of skill and talent taking part.

Camp-goers with names such as Baghdassarian and Lemons dreamed of meeting the likes of the legendary Ronaldo and building up their skill-set to one day match those of midfielder James Rodriguez or goalie Iker Casillas.

For 14-year-old Calabasas resident Kyle Lemons, working out with an organization that has produced a record 10 UEFA Champions League and/or European Cup titles, including the just-concluded 2014 crown, was an opportunity the Chaminade High freshman couldn't resist.

"So far, this has been a lot of fun and I've learned a lot, especially with the drills," Lemons said. "Nothing has been too hard and I was really impressed with the video room. I really think I learned the most there."

The camp was broken down into two training sessions that roughly lasted 2 1/2 hours overall, with two designated activity experiences consisting of an hour each, along with breaks for water in the near 90-degree heat and time for a free lunch factored in.

The camp is designed for players between the ages of 7 to 17 and intended for both boys and girls, although there was a heavy slant toward male participation.

Often, the campers were broken up into different groups where Real Madrid Foundation coaches worked with them on fundamentals, technique, passing and teamwork.

"Tactics, tactics, tactics, that's all we work on in Spain and that's what we're working on here in this camp," said Jamie Palomino, a 31-year-old camp coach and Madrid native. "When I look at the players here, they are very disorganized and the game is much more individualistic.

"For Real Madrid, we really believe in teaching teamwork. That's most important, to play like a team. We have a lot of kids here who want to be strikers, but you also need midfielders, defenders and a goalie."

The camp is run by coaches from the foundation, but includes the help of local volunteers, such as La Cañada High boys' soccer Coach Alex Harrison and 2013 All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year Armand Bagramyan, formerly of La Cañada High.

Yet, it was Bagramyan's mother, Monica Martinez-Bagramyan, who is perhaps most responsible for bringing Real Madrid westward.

As the foundation's Los Angeles coordinator, Martinez-Bagramyan was first approached about the idea last year and was further questioned about a possible West Coast swing in April.

"I was asked if a camp would be possible during the summer and I just said that we were behind other camps, but that it was doable," Martinez-Bagramyan said. "I know there's a lot of drills and tactics, but I like that Real Madrid is also teaching its values too, which are as important. This camp is also about respect and effort as well tactic."

Nine-year-old Glendale resident Anthony Baghdassarian enjoyed the scrimmages most and said his biggest obstacle was the heat.

"It was just hot out here," said Baghdassian, who was hoping to see Ronaldo. "I liked playing with my team."

Drills were perhaps the biggest challenge for 10-year-old Burbank resident Mikael Parsamyan.

"The scrimmages were the best and the drills were the hardest," Parsamyan said. "I learned a lot from the camp."

Whether it was Lemons, Parsamyan, Baghdassian or most of the campers for that matter, there was hope that participants would get a chance to see and perhaps even get autographs from some Real Madrid players, led by Ronaldo

That treat was left for Friday, when campers will be bussed to UCLA to witness a Real Madrid practice and talk to the players afterward.

Real Madrid is prepping in Westwood before heading north to take on Italian club Inter Milan on Saturday at UC Berkeley in an exhibition.

"I'm really hoping to see Ronaldo," Lemons said. "He's the best, who doesn't want to see him?"

While Ronaldo is a scratch for Saturday's match and may not be present Friday, the camp has seemingly left its mark.

"We worked with a lot of good young players," said Palomino, who was making his inaugural trip to the United States. "Everyone wants to be Ronaldo, but it takes effort and work at a young age, like with these [youngsters], and that's the lesson we want to give. Keeping working."

After Glendale, Real Madrid will host a camp in Torrance from July 28 to Aug. 1 and in Camarillo from Aug. 4 to Aug. 8.

For more information, check out www.campusexperiencermf.com/usa/losangeles/eng.

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