Nine-year-old soccer talent Rio Luther Barr from Bellingen has been invited to train with the West Ham Youth Academy in April.
During the 2019 winter, the West Ham Football Club from London held regional camps around Australia and New Zealand.
From those camps the West Ham academy coaches selected some 400 players to attend a national camp on the Gold Coast, which was a fantastic experience for all the players who attended.
Some months later invitations went out to players who had been selected to go on a 'development tour' with West Ham, which will happen in September 2020.
A very select group of players were invited on an 'elite tour', which takes place April 2020 in London, to train at the West Ham Youth Academy and to experience the life of up and coming professional footballers.
The trip includes intensive academy training, matches against the academy teams, tickets to a premier league game and more.
Former West Ham United player and international coach George Cowie, who now lives in Australia and has 15 years experience organising and overseeing football tours to the UK, describes it as "one of the best youth academies in the world".
Rio, who played under 9s for Bellingen FC in 2019, his third year with the club, is the only footballer in the region to have been invited on the elite tour, an amazing achievement for such a young lad.
Last season he scored 63 goals in 12 matches for Bellingen FC and his Bellingen Bats team, coached by his dad Jake, wrapped up a successful year by dominating the Coffs Lions Gala Day.
After spending a week with West Ham, Rio will have two weeks of training at the Watford FC youth academy in North London, an opportunity he received on the recommendation of one of his coaches down in Newcastle.
He's also hoping to catch a game in Barcelona so he can watch his favourite player, Lionel Messi, in action.
In order to help pay for his trip, Rio has been busking and selling cucumbers, and he is organising a raffle to help fundraise, so if any businesses or individuals would like to donate a raffle prize to help support our local footballer on his journey to England, please contact his mother, Pamela Luther at email@example.com.