Northern Ireland

Real Madrid: County Antrim boy Mark Norris is given trial with Spanish soccer giants

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Media captionMark Norris, who is with the Linfield FC academy, is due to take part in the trial next year

David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo are just some of the superstars who have graced the shirt of Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid.

Now an 11-year-old from Whitehead in County Antrim is hoping to follow in their footsteps after clinching a trial with the team known as Los Blancos.

Mark Norris, who is with the Linfield FC academy, is due to take part in the trial next year.

His dad Keith said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for his son.

"His mum is Japanese and he was at a Real Madrid summer camp in Japan a couple of years ago and that was the start of a few guys taking a wee note of him," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster.

The family were advised by Real Madrid to have a video made of Mark playing.

"To cut a long story short there is a guy Raul Valbuena who passed it (the video) on to another guy Alvaro Benito who is an ex-Real Madrid player, who has invited Mark over in May for a week to have a look at him."

Image copyright Keith Norris
Image caption Mark in a Manchester United kit, his father Keith is a keen fan of the club

Mr Norris said the trial was expected to take place at the Real Madrid training complex, surroundings which are familiar to Mark, who is also a participant in Club NI, the Irish Football Association's player development programme.


"Mark has been over at Real Madrid before in a tournament with Greenisland Football Club a couple of years ago at the training ground, so he will not be in awe," Mr Norris added.

"He will be used to the surroundings, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"He is still only 11-years-old, he is only a kid, there are a lot of good footballers in Northern Ireland and he is so lucky.

"People can think one guy has potential and one guy hasn't, it is up to Mark, if he wants to make it, he has to make it himself.

"I will support him as a dad and help him to pursue his dream."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption His favourite player is Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid who joined the club after a successful spell at Manchester United

Mark, a pupil at Carrick Grammar School, is a central midfielder who says his favourite player is Cristiano Ronaldo because "he always has good skills and scores the most goals".

The Portuguese international and former Old Trafford icon would also have provided many magic moments for his dad, a Manchester United superfan, renowned for his huge flag "Big Lily" which he takes on global trips following the Red Devils.

Ironically, Mr Norris once gave "Irish lucky charms" to Real Madrid legends Fernando Hierro and Raul Gonzalez Blanco in 2000, the same year they knocked United out of the UEFA Champions League.

Which begs the question, what would he do if United also expressed an interest in his son?

"I'm a Manchester United fan so that answers that question," he replied.

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