Off to Barca: Summit Middle School soccer player Nico Novotny invited to clinic in Spain

Local Summit County 11-year-old Nico Novotny’s passion for soccer is embodied in the binder full of pictures and letters he recently presented to local businesses and organizations.

Inside were mementos from his young life playing soccer, the game he learned to love at just 2 years old from his father Robert, who once played for FC Baník, a team in his home country of Czech Republic.

And then, there was the letter.

“It was always my dream to go to Barcelona ever since I started playing soccer,” Nico wrote.

Two decades after Nico’s mother, Petra, and Robert relocated to Colorado from their native country of the Czech Republic, their son Nico carried that binder from business to business, hoping someone would sponsor a trip for him to go this month to Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona, the home of Nico’s favorite soccer player, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, is where the 11-year-old was invited to take part in Barca Academy’s FC Barcelona Clinic. In July Nico was invited after he impressed officials at one of FC Barcelona’s 33 summer camps across the United States.

Nico will be able to go to the clinic in Spain from Nov. 17-26 because Frisco-based business Allen-Guerra Architecture provided sponsorship funds. It’s assistance his mother Petra couldn’t be more thankful for.

“When I saw him as a kid, when he started kicking the ball around the house — outside, inside, the living room, he would bring the soccer ball with him to car — I knew he had his dad’s genes,” Petra said.

It’s a common occurrence, Petra says, to see her son and husband sitting on the couch together watching YouTube videos of soccer, talking about specific players, skills and positioning.

The sport has been Nico’s primary focus in life since he first played on a team with High Country Soccer as a first-grader. He moved on to play for Summit Strikers FC and now ultimately the Vail Valley Soccer Club. There, he plays a versatile center midfield position for which he received the team’s most valuable player award last spring.

“He always wants to challenge himself and to get better,” Petra said.

That drive led Nico to the Barcelona camp over the summer in Denver. It was Nico’s second consecutive July at the camp, at which, Petra said, Barcelona’s representatives invite around 10 percent of the camp attendees to Spain.

At the camp, Nico remembered throughout the week that the coaches were looking for players who embodied Barcelona’s “HEART” values, with each letter in “HEART” standing for humility, effort, ambition, respect and teamwork.

Playing on “Team Iniesta” at the camp — named after legendary Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta — the Barcelona coaches stressed the importance of possession throughout the week’s drills and gameplay. By the end of the camp, Nico and the other attendees were told they’d receive an email about any invitations within the ensuing week.

Once Nico received his invite, Petra told him he could go if he could find a sponsor. After he did, the Summit Middle School sixth-grader turned his attention to learning some Spanish via the internet.

“He’ll ask, ‘Can I go in my Google Classroom and learn Spanish?’” Petra said with a laugh.

As for Robert, Nico will be making his soccer-loving dad proud half-a-world away.

“He just said, ‘Have fun, take the most out of it and learn most especially,’” Nico said of his dad’s advice. “‘See how the other teams play, get better, try your hardest and put your heart in it — always.’”

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