Fast-forward almost a decade and the talented youngster has just returned from Russia for the 2018 Football for Friendship (F4F) program, which took place in Moscow from June 8 to 15, ahead of the FIFA World Cup.
F4F is an annual international children’s social program which aims to promote essential values embodied by football with the younger generations, such as respect for other cultures and nationalities as well as equality.
Luca represented Australia as a player and was joined by Overnewton Anglican Community College student Noah Borg, who attended the event as a journalist.
The pair was among fellow 12-year-old football players and journalists from 211 countries and regions who took part in the 8-day program.
Luca said the best part about the trip was making new friends and playing football with people from all corners of the globe.
“I became really good friends with Joseph, a boy from Gabon who was our young coach,” he said.
Luca’s father Patrick said that during the trip he noticed the general difference between children from multicultural nations and those from relatively homogeneous ones.
“Most Australian kids can get along with anyone from any background because they’re raised in a multicultural environment,” he said.
Luca was the captain and standout player of his team, the African Wild Dogs, kicking four out of the five goals scored by his side in three matches.
The rising star received praise from other countries for his good play, leadership and excellent sportsmanship.
A natural in all of these areas, Luca has been honing his skills while playing for the Melbourne City Football Club’s Under 14 side, who scouted him last year.
The rising star trains four days a week at school and four nights with Melbourne City, playing games on the weekend.
“I work extremely hard every time I get on the pitch,” he affirmed.
Luca hopes to one day play for Melbourne City’s senior side.
His passion and determination are evident in his response when asked what career he’d like to pursue if he doesn’t end up playing football.
“I haven’t even thought about that,” he said causally.
It seems like Luca has plenty of people backing him to make that vision become a reality, including his school peers and teachers.
“Luca is a talented football player and a well-grounded and humble student who did an amazing job as an ambassador for Australia, for our school and his family,” the school’s assistant principal, Craig Jamieson, said.
“Rowville Secondary College is excited to be a part of helping him reach his future football dreams.”
Football basically runs through Luca’s veins, as his father’s side of the family hails from the southern Italian region of Calabria.
His grandmother Carolina migrated from Nicastro with her family in the early 1950s as a teenager.
“She’s still alive now and she’s very proud of Luca,” Patrick said.
Around the same time, Luca’s grandfather came over from the town of Decollatura, about 15 kilometres from Nicastro, with his brother.
An avid Juventus fan, Luca hopes to head back to Europe one day, this time returning to his roots in Italy.
While in Russia, the young star was not only able to play before the world’s biggest sporting event, he also got to be a part of it, participating in the FIFA World Cup’s opening ceremony and watching the opening match.
“It was an experience of a lifetime,” he said.
“I never thought I’d be in the opening ceremony in Russia and get to see all of the teams that I’ve always wanted to see.”
Who knows, maybe one day Luca will get to participate in another World Cup, and his name cheered from the stands as he represents our nation at a professional level.