Born in Ketchikan, Alaska – population of 8,050 – on Sept. 11, 1996, Benjamin Machini already had the odds against him. Very few players have made it from the wilderness to the world’s stage.
With stops in Sweden, Florida, and at Real Salt Lake’s residential palace in Arizona along the way, Machini has made his way to Netherlands – more precisely to Excelsior where he is a rapidly rising talent at the club.
“I got the opportunity to join Excelsior through a trial at Feyenoord,” Machini told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “They have a very good youth academy and are known for developing youth players into first team players.”
Already loaded with promising goalkeepers in the youth ranks, Feyenoord sent Machini to Excelsior where he impressed again and found a new home. After 17 months with the club, it is all smiles for the teenage goalkeeper.
“I am very happy with the progress I have made by getting into the first team,” Machini said. “This season has gone quite well. I feel that I have improved and learned a lot by being a part of the first team. The other experienced players teach me a lot.”
Machini also cited his goalkeeper coach who has played at a very high level in the Netherlands and shared his knowledge with the aspiring professional.
“I do realize that this is just the beginning, and that I have to keep working very hard to get where I want to get,” Machini added. “As far as results go the squad has been doing quite well in the league table. We have dropped unnecessary points a few times, but we play very attractive football, which is very positive. We are in seventh right now but we’re fighting to get to a higher position in the league and make it, hopefully, to the playoffs.”
With plenty of experience in both the U.S. and the Netherlands, Machini offered some insight into what the differences are between the two soccer cultures.
“The biggest difference is the playing style,” Machini explained. “The Netherlands is very advanced in many things, but tactically and technically the players and coaches are at a very high level. The Netherlands expects a lot from their goalkeepers, especially with being able to play with your feet. In the Netherlands, it is very important for the goalkeeper to be comfortable with his feet.”
The teenage goalkeeper possesses Swedish citizenship as well, which could open up a fight for his services on the international level if his career continues to progress.
“I love both Sweden and the U.S. very much,” he said in response to which country he would like to represent on the international stage. “It would be a real honor to play for either of them at an international level. I really just focus and working hard and giving my best. To be able to do that for one of my countries would be just a huge honor.”
For now, Machini continues to be the goalkeeper from Alaska who is defying the odds and making his mark in the Netherlands.