by Moira Cullings
ROELAND PARK — Franco Cupini was in the back of a cab in Italy over 5,000 miles from home when the driver asked where he was from.
Replying “Kansas City,” the driver immediately asked if he knew of a child from there named Alessandro Cupini.
Upon telling the driver that Alessandro was his grandson, the man stopped the car, got out and shook his hand in awe.
“We’ve seen all his videos,” the driver said. “This ride’s on me.”
Alessandro Cupini, a fourth-grader at St. Agnes School in Roeland Park, has gained worldwide attention for his soccer talent.
“I just want to become a professional,” said Alessandro.
He is a midfielder who sports number 7 and plays for KC Fusion — but not for long.
The 10-year-old soccer star and his family plan on moving to Europe next year to chase his dreams.
“We want to go there to give ourselves the learning experience,” said Cupini’s father, Eddie.
“The culture, the language — it’ll be good for us,” he said.
Alessandro started playing soccer around the age of 5, but preferred tennis and then hockey.
Once he began to play soccer competitively at age 7, however, he began to develop a deep love for the game.
“You could see some things were coming out,” said Eddie on noticing his son’s natural talent.
“He definitely was left- and right-footed,” he continued. “You just see his patience on the ball and his skills.”
Now, Alessandro plays not only for his club team but also with the Olympic Development Program (ODP) and the Centers of Excellence — a Sporting Kansas City program that provides supplemental training for young boys.
On top of that, he receives private training from a variety of coaches in the Kansas City area — that is, when he isn’t kicking around in his basement, which the family has turned into a mini soccer arena.
Alessandro’s hard work isn’t just apparent to his parents and coaches.
He has over 50,000 followers on Instagram — fans from all across the world.
“He doesn’t show his friends [the account],” said Eddie. “He just wants to get to the top. He doesn’t care about all this other stuff.”
“He’s very humble,” said Alessandro’s mother, Nerissa.
Alessandro does care about becoming a pro, however. And he’ll get some of the best training possible in Europe.
“You only have a small window of opportunity,” said Nerissa.
“If that’s what you want to do,” she tells her son, “we want to help you do it.”
Owners of Cupini’s Italian Deli in Kansas City, Missouri, the family is willing to sacrifice anything for their son, as well as their daughter Sophia, who is 3 years old.
The Cupinis will keep their restaurant open with the help of Eddie’s father, and they agree that any other sacrifices they’ll make are worth it.
“You know your parents love you,” said Eddie, “but you don’t realize how much your parents love you until you have your own kids.”
They don’t have to push Alessandro hard to fight for his dream, his parents said.
“I take [soccer] pretty seriously,” said Alessandro.
To prepare for games, for example, he watches videos of his favorite players.
“My favorite team is Real Madrid, and my favorite player is [Cristiano] Ronaldo,” he said.
“I think his ultimate dream would be to play for Real Madrid,” said Nerissa.
“But I think he’d be happy anywhere — just to play in Europe,” she added.
Eddie and Nerissa’s advice to other parents of young athletes is to let them enjoy the game.
“You definitely have to encourage them and maybe push them in their downtimes when they’re feeling they didn’t achieve anything,” said Eddie. “But let them enjoy it.”
To follow Alessandro on Instagram, go to: instagram.com/cupini_ac7_official.