Following the England team's success in the Futsal Home Nations tournament, we caught up with one of their stars, Liam Palfreeman, an alumnus of Activate Learning who studied BTEC level 3 Sports Coaching and Development, to learn about his time at college and how his career in futsal came about.
Liam currently plays professionally for Olimpus Roma, a far cry from his hometown of Oxford where he chose to study at City of Oxford College and lived only minutes away from the training grounds. Here’s what he had to say why he chose the programme at Activate Learning:
“I chose my course because I had a passion for football and wanted to be in an environment where I could train every day and try to become professional. Luckily, the course was at Oxford City FC and a five-minute walk from my house, which was a bonus!”
A passion for the game
Liam decided to study at college as he didn’t enjoy school. He said: “I was a bit of a troublemaker until it came to PE, where I always gave 100% as I just love being on the move all the time!’ He chose the football programme because of his “passion for the game.”
Liam thrived on the programme because he enjoyed “being able to play football every day at a high level and competing against professional clubs with similar programmes, like Oxford United, Luton Town and Southampton FC, to name a few.
"From the academic side, I enjoyed the sports science elements, such as learning about physio, how to treat certain injuries and massage! I enjoyed the course because I’ve left with some useful qualifications like level 2 coaching and level 2 massage.”
An opportunity to play futsal
From his tutor came the opportunity to play futsal, “my tutor, Craig Adey, had a futsal team in the national league called team Newbury and he asked if I’d play for him one Sunday because he was short on players. We played against Loughborough University who had about 4-5 England internationals and the current England manager as their coach. We were beaten heavily 13-3. I hate losing but I came away having enjoyed it and from then became obsessed with the game.” From there, Liam went on to play in the national tournament and eventually the college team was crowned the best U19 team in the country.”
Since college, Liam has played professionally for a host of teams in Spain and Italy with his most prestigious move being Olimpus Roma. Liam was playing in Spain where he first learned of their interest. “Well I’d already played once in Italy for a club called Citta Di Falconara and had a successful season there, so people already knew about me. I played in Spain for a team called Union Africa Ceuti and we won the league and promotion to one of the best leagues in the world. An agent contacted me saying Olimpus Roma were interested in me and wanted me to do a week trial which I agreed to. I went for a week and we were both happy, so I signed a contract with them and it’s going well and I’m currently the joint top scorer in the team!”
A new life in Rome
Talking about how he has settled in the Italian capital, Liam has embraced the Italian culture. “I’ve loved being able to say Rome is my home, it’s strange! I enjoy the culture and especially the food as it’s definitely the best in the world! Of course, it has its challenges like the language which I’m trying to learn but it’s very difficult, but I know and understand enough to get by.”
We move onto Liam’s time with the national team and the pride it gives him to represent his country. “Honestly it’s a feeling I can’t put into words. Every time I pull the shirt on and sing the national anthem it gives me goosebumps every time! Travelling the world as well I’ve been to some countries I’d never dreamed of like Thailand and China. It’s my proudest achievement and to see my family’s faces when they see me play for England makes me proud and emotional! I’ve currently got 42 caps which have come very quickly, I’ve been playing for England for four years and hope to play for many more.”
Thankful for his roots
Liam counts his success down to the effort and dedication he put into his training while at college. “It’s going to sound cliché but the hard work and dedication you have to put in, like the number of socials I missed with my mates because I was training, it’s those kind of sacrifices that make the difference and it’s paid off for me!”
In a final word of advice to those currently studying a sports pathway Liam says: “I’m a local Oxford lad and although I wasn’t the most academic, when it came to sport and futsal, I have an obsession to be better every day and if I can achieve my goals then so can anyone!”