NewsNorthern Ireland

Dream comes true for NI footie siblings as they’re off to elite Madrid

Northern IrelandBy Steven Moore
The world at their feet: Mark and Alex Norris
The world at their feet: Mark and Alex Norris
Proud: Keith Norris with talented sons Mark and Alex
Proud: Keith Norris with talented sons Mark and Alex

Two Co. Antrim brothers have stars in their eyes after the Galacticos of Real Madrid picked them to train with them next summer.

Alex and Mark Norris received news this week that they are to jet off for a week’s training with the 11-times European Cup winners.

Mark, who’s 13 years old, is already a starlet of Linfield’s junior academy and had his heart broken when he had to postpone a trial at Real due to the club being handed a transfer ban by world governing body Fifa.

However, that wasn’t the end of the story. Mark’s father was asked to send videos of Mark’s games for Linfield. 

And the Spanish giants invited the Carrickfergus Grammar School boys both to train with Real Madrid during a holiday to Japan last summer and they have been keeping tabs on the pair ever since.

It’s an opportunity of a lifetime according to their football-crazy dad Keith.

The proud father told the Sunday World: “I’m absolutely delighted for the boys, particularly Alex who although he doesn’t play at the same level as Marky was outstanding in the summer at the Real Madrid and Barcelona camps they attended. 

“Real Madrid have been keeping an eye on Marky these last few years. He was supposed to go for a week on trial in May but was postponed because of Madrid’s the problems with Fifa.

“I send regular videos to Madrid but to be realistic they can’t sign him until he is 16. He’s still only 12, is still developing and has a long, long way to go. 

“He is a small, technical player and will have to work extremely hard here but is very fortunate in that he has received unprecedented coaching from the coaches at the Linfield Academy. 

“The boys work hard and enjoy what they do. It’s a privilege for me even to watch them training.”

Keith gave the lads the news on Tuesday night after Real sent letters to the pair.

Alex told the Sunday World: “My dad called a family meeting at dinner last night and said he had something serious to talk about. He asked us had we done anything wrong recently but no one put their hand up. 

“He was smiling and gave Marky and I a letter each with the Real Madrid crest on it. I read it and was very surprised but really excited.”

Mark added: “I’m excited and looking forward to going again. My dad took me to meet Ronaldo at Val de Vebas and I’ve played there before for Greenisland. It will be great to go back, especially because I was disappointed my trial was postponed in May.”

 

Alex Norris and Ronaldo

The boy’s mum Yukari is from Kyoto, Japan, and while in the Land of Rising Sun in the summer they also attended the Barcelona academy for a week in Ishikawa. 

Last summer Mark was accompanied to Osaka by his big brother, who plays for Greenisland FC, where they stayed in a week-long official Real Madrid training camp with coaches from the Real Madrid Academy. 

The Norris Brothers impressed the Real Madrid Academy coaches in attendance so much that they have been invited to Madrid’s training ground Val de Vebas for a week at the end of March with a squad from the Real Madrid Academy camp in Japan. 

They will spend a week training, living as professional footballers playing matches against the Real Madrid Academy teams based there, among others.

Luckily enough, Mark’s favourite player is Cristiano Ronaldo. He told the Sunday World: “I’m so excited about getting the chance to go to play in Madrid.

“I like to watch videos of Xavi, Iniesta and Paul Scholes, who is one of my dad’s favourite players.” 

Alex said: “I’m excited and did not expect to be picked but I think I played okay in Osaka last summer.”

Keith says the lads owe much of their success to their various soccer coaches from Club NI, Linfield and Greenisland FC.

Roy McGivern, Linfield Director and Academy Vice Chair, said: “Mark is a very talented young player and the Real Madrid scout has obviously seen what we’ve seen in him.  

“He’s bright, he plays the game with his head and his feet and he is very composed both on and off the pitch. 

“These scouts needs to see a player sparkle and that’s what young Mark does. He’s got a mature head on young shoulders and that will help him when he gets out to Spain.”

Mark is already an internet star with a cult following and over half a million views on YouTube, with one of his goals playing for Ballymena Utd in the Foye Cup reaching 116,000 views on Facebook site Unilad.

Keith says his wife dreams that one day the brothers will line up for Japan, though Northern Ireland fan Keith has other ideas...

“It’s way too early to talk like that and I want the boys to be happy and healthy, most importantly,” says Keith.

“I’m proud of them both and will support whatever they do in life and tell them to dream big... but obviously if it ever came I’d be honoured and delighted like any parent to see them walk out at Windsor Park in a green jersey.”

steven.moore@sundayworld.com