Tahj Bell, Rico Wells and the rest of their Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy (RIASA) teammates have just completed their first semester exams and will be looking forward to taking a short break from their academic classes and football development over the holiday period.
Students will be able to leave for home after their last game on Saturday at Leeds South Stadium before returning for the second semester in mid-January.
On returning in January the students will be right back into the thick of things with a showcase game as they make their way to Amsterdam to the Ajax Academy to gain some exposure and experience at this world famous academy. Several more showcase games have been lined up after the Ajax game with various English professional clubs.
RIASA Head Coach Mark Ellis indicated that the Ajax game will be a good test for some of the RIASA players as well as an important opportunity to demonstrate their playing ability. RIASA expects several European scouts to be present during the game. Christian Eissele and Joey Spivack will be keen to impress as they have already secured an extended trial period in Norway due to their performance over the course of the first semester.
It has been a successful first half of the season for the RIASA squad – the first team is presently placed 5th in their league, the reserves are also sitting just outside the top four, there will be some crucial games in the coming months to see if RIASA can gain back to back promotions in their respective leagues. However, the main focus of the RIASA academy, Ellis indicated, “Is not promotions in leagues but the overall football development of players. Several players are now making a name for themselves after spending two years in our academy system”.
One such player who is creating headlines and making a name for himself is Victor Balis, a transfer from the University of Dayton in Ohio, with his goal scoring exploits in the Northern Counties League – Balis recently scored a hat trick in under 15 minutes – the local paper sports writer, Ian Whiting, indicated that he is turning heads at various clubs. Whiting of the local Telegraph and Argus paper in Bradford wrote, “The striker is one of Mark Ellis’ students at Richmond University International Academic and Soccer Academy and is showing the potential that could see him follow in the footsteps of Nahki Wells. (Wells was signed by Professional Club Carlise last year and now plays at Bradford City FC). Whiting added, "Balis struck his goals in the 77th, 87th and 88th minutes to earn the plaudits with a rapid-fire treble.” Balis came into the game in the 75th minute and was due to be rested with a tight hamstring but manager Ian Banks was looking to win the game and Balis did not disappoint.