- February 25, 2024
He has been around soccer all his life and dreamed to become a professional player one day like his father, Marcos Machado, who is the current Orlando Pride goalkeeper coach.
However, circumstances changed for Marconi Machado, now a volunteer coach for the Pride, after several injuries and three knee surgeries.
“I had three knee surgeries during my youth career, and I know it’s hard to be a professional player when you have so many injuries,” Marconi Machado said.
“So after that, I decided to start coaching, and I started helping my father (coach youth), and I just fell in love with it. ... It was the perfect way to keep my passion because I can’t play, but I can still be involved.”
Now, after four years of planning, he finally has made significant headway toward his goal of creating a sports academy in Ocoee that focuses on soccer. The Machados have partnered with Genium, an online educational company, and now are finalizing negotiations with Ocoee city commissioners about the details of what will become the Zico Soccer Academy.
“We’re going to have people come from all over the world to study in high school, and study English, and at the same time play sports,” Marconi Machado said of his vision for the academy. “We’re going to create a new program where we give local and national athletes (the training) to become high-level players.”
Although soccer will be the main sports program offered by the academy, as the project grows, the Machados hope to add more sports programs, including an after-school program and a program for kids who have physical or mental disabilities. The main priority, however, is to make Zico Soccer Academy more financially accessible than typical sports academies.
“These academies, they tend to (be expensive), and I think that scares off a lot of the local players,” Marconi Machado said. “So we plan to give scholarships based on grades and financial needs.”
Although the academy is not estimated to be completed until two years from now, the Machados already are launching the Zico soccer program the first week of August. Until a location for the academy is chosen and construction begins, training will be conducted at the Jim Beech Recreation Center in Ocoee.
Part of the plan with the city is to improve Ocoee High School’s football field (which is also used for soccer and lacrosse) as well as the recreation center’s facilities.
“We were looking at different sites, and I told (the investors) I think Ocoee is the perfect city,” Marconi Machado said. “It’s growing so much, and the community embraces you. So I think that’s a perfect combo right there — when you have people who have the same vision and want to make the community better and bring something special for young athletes.”
The Machados intend to give Ocoee residents a glimpse of what’s to come with the early launch of their soccer program and later hope the academy will make Ocoee a hub of soccer in Central Florida.
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]