By Ken McEwan
Eastbourne’s talented young footballer Ethan Stapley will keep a promise to return to his hometown as a Barcelona Academy player;
Ethan made the vow when he last returned home from his adopted country Spain back in November 2017.
The nine-year-old fell in love with football before he could even walk. He was first featured in Herald Sport when he was a mere 17-month-old toddler, kicking a ball in a local park.
His incredible football journey started when he joined Eastbourne Town at the age of five under the guidance of Old Town Boys legend Dave Piercy, before moving to All-Stars academy and Eastbourne Borough to further his football development.
Ethan was just six-years-old when he was invited to join Brighton and Hove Albion Academy. He was a prominent member of the squad for two years at Lancing’s Elite Centre before his family decided on a move to Spain for a new life in the sun.
Then aged eight, Ethan joined the local club in Tossa De Mar of Girona Province where he was spotted by Barcelona scouts and invited for trials by the Spanish giants.
He returned to Eastbourne in November 2017 for a fortnight’s holiday and trained with one of his former clubs, Eastbourne Borough, playing in a specially arranged friendly game against Seaford Town en route to his Barca trials.
Before leaving, Ethan vowed he would return as a Barca player for his next visit.
Last year, he passed two gruelling trials with flying colours and was inducted into the world famous Barcelona Academy on the eve of his ninth birthday.
Ethan started his first full season at Barca in early September and impressed the coaches so much he was made captain of the under-10s. He has proved to be a versatile player, but excels as an attacking midfielder with his ability to read the game combined with immaculate ball control and silky skills.
This Saturday, Ethan is due to return to Eastbourne after 14 months to visit family and friends. During his nine-day stay, he will fulfil another ambition, lining up as a mascot for the Seagulls as they take on Premier League leaders, and Ethan’s favourite team, Liverpool at The Amex stadium tomorrow.
Ethan’s grandad Soroosh Simaei, who recently visited him in Barcelona, said, “Ethan is a model grandson and my best friend. His move to Spain with his family left a massive hole in my life which I can never fill, but I am so happy as he is living the dream.
“It was great to see him in Barcelona where he is progressing at the rate of knots.
“Unfortunately, I missed him leading his team to victory to win his first major trophy with Barcelona.
“He never ceases to amaze me. From an early age, I saw a glint in his eye and from that point I knew he was destined for stardom. He looks and acts like a pro footballer and has unbelievable potential.
“I just hope I am around to see him realise his dream.”