UPDATED: July 25, 2016 1:03 PM — The son of an Orlando Pride coach and private investors are partnering with Brazilian soccer legend Zico to establish Zico Soccer Academy next month in Ocoee, after reaching a tentative deal this week to lease city-owned office space for the business.
The academy could be followed by a full-fledged private high school and college built in or near Ocoee in the coming years.
Zico Soccer Academy is partnering with Brazilian private education company Genium, which in the near-term will offer Brazilian students a path to continuing their study in the Ocoee-Orlando area, while training with the academy.
Long-term, Genium is interested in purchasing land and developing its own academic campus locally, Wagner Nolasco, founder and managing member affirmed to GrowthSpotter on Monday. That real estate search is very early, he said, declining to comment on how many acres may be targeted.
Zico Soccer Academy has a long-term plan that calls for up to 100 acres to be acquired and developed into its own sports complex, Marconi Machado, co-founder of the academy, said on Friday.
Machado is a coach with Florida Rush Soccer Club and co-founder of Golden Goal Sports, a business promoting Orlando-area soccer camps for Brazilian tourists. He's also the son of Marcos Machado, goalkeeper coach of the NWSL's Orlando Pride, and a former coach for Orlando City Soccer Club.
"When we decided to open this academy, we had been doing sports consulting for kids from Brazil that wanted to come here and study in programs we created to teach the methodology of sports training. We're trying to build our own IMG Academy here in Central Florida," Machado said.
"We got together with Zico, who is huge in promoting sports and education together," he continued. "We were looking at different sites in Osceola and Orange counties, but in the end when we sat down with Ocoee they had the best offer, location-wise."
Zico Soccer Academy, formed by Machado, Brazilian partners and former international player Arthur Antunes Coimbra (aka Zico), is dedicated to teaching soccer from beginning to elite levels.
At times called the "White Pelé," Zico was considered one of the world's best players in the 1970s and 1980s. He ranked eighth in the FIFA Player of the Century grand jury vote in 1999, and was named to the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players in 2004.
His soccer academy has held private summer camps and training clinics in cities around the United States off and on since 2013, but this agreement would put roots down in Ocoee.
Genium, an Americas affiliate of Fortress Education, specializes in online courses and international dual certificates for students from grade school to post-graduate degrees.
The company offers high school- and college-equivalent U.S. diplomas in Brazil, and has 180-plus schools in that country utilizing its branded content or under contract to do so, and more than 10,000 active student licenses between high schoolers, higher education and language courses, Nolasco said.
"Preparing the student for all the differences between Brazil's study system and the U.S. is our focus, to make them ready for an American university," he said. "The differences between our countries' university applications is huge, so this is a must for the success of these future athletes. Zico Soccer's main goal is to train young people and make them better able to engage in the international community, and we are one pathway to facilitate that. Our goal is to become the student's bridge between Brazil and the U.S."
Genium's future school campus in Ocoee is a long-term concept, Nolasco said. It would only come if Zico Soccer Academy builds a following in Ocoee.
That should begin in August, when Zico's first soccer camps and private club teams will be promoted, Machado said. The group plans to develop programs in communities, establish after-school programs and offer soccer classes for mentally disabled children.
Machado has worked with architect Guy Butler of Butler-Moore to design a long-term vision for Zico Soccer's own prospective training facility. It called for up to 100 acres (80 developable), which Machado said could be combined with a school development if future plans align.
Ocoee commissioners approved on July 19 a proposal to negotiate and execute a fair market lease with Zico Soccer Academy LLC for two city-owned office buildings totaling 4,154 square feet at 15 S. Kissimmee Ave., for a period of two to three years.
The agreement would initially result in a series of soccer camps during the summer, but would intensify over time.
Zico Soccer would pay for improvements to the buildings to establish its office presence, which will house the academy support and outreach staff.
City charter requires fair market value to be charged for lease of public property, but due to the condition of the buildings, city staff proposed that money spent by the company for improvements be deducted from the fair market rental amount.
Zico Soccer Academy will also be granted use of the soccer fields located at the city's Jim Beech Center for use in its camps, paying $5,700 to rent the space for a specific period.