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Meet the Team: Ireneo Snel

His Story

Born on a sunny Sunday, April 24th, 1994, Ireneo grew up in the small town of Heukelum. At the age of five, after earning his first swimming diploma, his parents finally allowed him to join his friends at the local football club. From that first moment, football became his number one sport and has remained so ever since.


Ireneo stayed loyal to his local club throughout his life, even after moving to Amsterdam and later to Barcelona. Today, he remains a member of the club, albeit a non-playing one. Though he wasn't highly talented, his love for the game and hard work allowed him to progress through the youth ranks. His dedication paid off, and he served as his team’s captain from the U15 level until he transitioned to the senior team.


He spent a carefree youth in his hometown, surrounded by a large part of his family. Every summer, his parents took him to the same lake in northern Italy, where he discovered a love for windsurfing. Starting at around 8 or 9 years old, he spent nearly every summer vacation on the water, mastering the sport. In the winter, Ireneo had the opportunity to enjoy the snow, beginning with skiing at age three. After about ten years, he switched to snowboarding and never looked back. Football, windsurfing, and snowboarding became the three sports that defined his life, alongside his mandatory studies.


Education

After completing his primary education in Heukelum, Ireneo chose to attend high school in Gorinchem, a decision that required him to bike approximately 25 kilometers daily. During this period, he studied a range of subjects from Latin to Economics and developed a strong work ethic. This was partly due to a setback in his second year when a lack of effort forced him to repeat the year. Previously, everything had come easily to him, but he realized that coasting along without clear objectives wouldn't allow him to reach his full potential. Motivated to stay among bright minds, he began to apply himself more diligently to chase his dreams.


Those dreams were initially unclear, as evidenced by his first study choice. After high school, he moved to Amsterdam to study at the University of Amsterdam. However, he quickly realized that the direction he had chosen was not aligned with his true passion—sports. He then shifted to studying Sports, Management, and Business at the University of Applied Sciences of Amsterdam, which was a much better fit for him.


During these years, Ireneo's professional aspirations crystallized - he wanted to work with elite athletes. Through internships and a major in High-Performance Sports, he began carving out a path for his future. He gained experience and knowledge from various sports, including athletics and water polo, and explored different areas from marketing to mindfulness. This comprehensive approach helped him develop a holistic view on guiding athletes, with a particular focus on talent development. This interest led him to various international academies, where he secured his first job after graduation.


A significant influence on Ireneo’s future was his desire to live abroad. Although the Netherlands was comfortable and safe, he knew that stepping out of his comfort zone would foster personal growth. In his third year of study, he took a five-month internship at BIWPA, a water polo academy in Barcelona. Despite not knowing a single word of Spanish—his only previous visit to Spain was a night out in San Sebastián during a surfing trip to Biarritz—he embraced the challenge, even though at the start he was at the Spanish level of mistakenly thinking "ola" was the correct spelling for "hello."


This adventure in Barcelona profoundly changed his life. After his internship and an additional month working at the academy's summer camps and a major event, Ireneo wasn't ready to leave Barcelona. Needing to complete a graduation internship, he found a reason to stay another six months. He joined Kaptiva Sports, an international football academy, where he conducted his final research project under the guidance of Remco Koopmeiners. Working daily with talented young players, Ireneo continued to advance his professional journey in the direction he was passionate about.


Professional Career

Without his previous two Spanish internships, Ireneo probably wouldn't have secured his first post-study job at a prestigious international tennis academy near Barcelona. At the Academia Sánchez-Casal, now known as the Emilio Sánchez Academy, he was hired as a supervisor for around 50 regular residential student-athletes and over 200 during the summer camps. After just six months, he was promoted to coordinator of the team of supervisors, a position he held when the COVID-19 pandemic began.


As the pandemic loomed, many students chose to return to their home countries, but about 30 student-athletes decided to stay on campus and continue training. Ireneo became part of a small core team of ten members who operated the academy during the lockdown, staying in isolation for several months. During this period, he took on multiple roles—not only as a supervisor but also as a fitness coach and teacher, working around the clock and always being available for the athletes and staff. Despite the challenges, this experience was immensely valuable and had a significant impact on him. Like many others during COVID-19, he reflected on his life and future goals, realizing that his true passion was in football.


After the lockdown, Ireneo resumed his role as coordinator of supervisors at the tennis academy. Meanwhile, he enrolled in a master’s degree program at the Johan Cruyff Institute. With several COVID-19 restrictions still in place, he attended the first classes of the Master in Football Business at FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou, wearing a face mask. This master's degree, designed in collaboration with FC Barcelona, provided him with profound insights into all aspects of the football industry and, most importantly, allowed him to build a valuable network in football—a network that often proves to be more crucial than certifications.


One of his co-students in the master’s program, Antti Roiha, had already established a representation agency focused on bringing Latin American footballers to Scandinavia. As their degree program was nearing completion, Antti invited Ireneo to join his agency. This opportunity marked Ireneo’s first steps in the football industry he had always dreamed of. He began as a video scout, responsible for recruiting South American players for the agency.


Women's Football

During his Master in Football Business, Ireneo developed a growing interest in women's football. Each year, the potential of the women's game became increasingly apparent, along with the recognition of what still needed to be done to elevate it to the next level. While working for Antti’s agency, Wonderland Sports, Ireneo delved into researching the women's football industry in detail. However, representing female footballers wasn't part of Wonderland’s strategy, so Ireneo decided to start his own business to address one of the biggest needs in women's football: investment.


While many focus on clubs or federations for investing in women's football and finding ways to finance these investments, Ireneo took a different approach. He noticed that with global trends and the rise of Gen Z, athletes were becoming more attractive than clubs for businesses to partner with. The key for athletes was to have an outstanding and authentic story to tell. Recognizing that everyone has a unique story, even if they might not always be aware of it, Ireneo decided to focus on helping players discover and consistently communicate what makes them special.


In early 2022, he launched his coaching business with this philosophy. By mid-year, he convinced Nikita de Haan to join him, and together they created Valenze. They developed an online video course, started a podcast, and offered various other services. While working with several footballers, they realized that players needed additional support in other areas as well. Being both Dutch, they decided to expand Valenze’s services and start a new project in the Netherlands.


To identify the exact needs of players in the Dutch league, Ireneo interviewed around 15 players. Every single one mentioned the need to have a side job or study to survive financially. Building on Valenze’s coaching services, Ireneo decided to also represent the players commercially, helping them secure sponsorships to supplement their club salaries and reduce the need for second jobs. His goal is to empower players to become full-time professional athletes, allowing them to fully focus on their football careers.


During these interviews, several players mentioned Tactalyse, a company that helps players improve by analyzing game footage and teaching them optimal behaviors in various situations. Coincidentally, one of Tactalyse’s coaches heard about Ireneo’s project and reached out to meet. Given Ireneo’s interest in the football side and his qualification as a licensed UEFA-C coach, he soon became a Tactalyse license holder. This role allows him to coach female footballers in Spain, furthering his commitment to supporting and developing athletes in women's football.


Personal Life

Ireneo grew up in a small town in the Netherlands, then moved to Amsterdam for his studies and later to Barcelona for internships. The pleasant weather and vibrant culture weren't the only reasons he hasn’t considered moving back to the Netherlands yet. During his graduation internship, he met a Peruvian woman who soon became very special to him. Fast forward to today: they bought an apartment together, got engaged, and in August 2024, they welcomed their first son, Danilo, into the world.


Within sports, Ireneo has three main passions: football, windsurfing, and snowboarding. His coaching and teaching abilities are evident from his professional journey so far. But did you know he also has six years of experience teaching windsurfing on a lake in Italy? Or that he is a licensed snowboard instructor in Austria? With these international experiences, he speaks three languages fluently—Dutch, English, and Spanish—while also being proficient in German and understanding most Italian and Catalan.


If you want to learn more about him beyond what’s shared here, you can follow him on Instagram. While he doesn’t enjoy being in the spotlight and isn't very active in posting, he does share glimpses of his life and work regularly. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn, where he primarily shares updates about his work at Valenze and Tactalyse. He looks forward to hearing from you!

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