Katie Whyrick was a Real Madrid fan when she lived in Spain. A former Spanish professor, Whyrick, who now resides in Lincoln, Nebraska, has since added a little more color to her football fandom.
Yellow, in particular.
“We do own a lot of yellow,” she says.
A mother of two, Whyrick supports Villarreal CF, which opened the Villarreal Nebraska Academy about an hour away in Omaha.
Her daughter, Atley, has participated in the academy for years, and was recently chosen for the Villarreal Academy North America U-19 girls select team. She’s traveling to Mallorca for a tournament in April with the hopes of earning a spot with the academy in Spain for next season.
“It’s brought our family nothing but cool experiences being associated with Villarreal,” Katie says. “It’s really fun.”
The Villarreal Nebraska Academy, which opened in 2018, is the first official academy in the United States to team up with the 2020-21 Europa League winners affectionately known as El Submarino Amarillo.
The Whyricks were in Spain last February to watch Villarreal in person, coincidentally against Katie’s first football love: Real Madrid. Even though the match ended in a scoreless draw, the experience at Estadio de la Cerámica is one that won’t be forgotten.
“When you watch soccer on TV, it seems like it’s just from such a distance but when you’re there watching in person it’s just a totally different experience,” Whyrick says. “Just to be able to give everyone kind of the experience of a lifetime was incredible.”
The club’s Nebraska academy has also provided the Whyricks and other families involved with a peña of sorts.
Despite a seven-hour time difference, when Villarreal has a weekend match that is convenient for the local fans in Nebraska, players and parents get together to cheer on the club from afar.
“I think they’ve done such a good job, and it comes from the leadership of the club,” she says. “It really does kind of feel like a family. Everyone is so welcoming and open and makes you feel like you’re part of it.”
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