Championship Weekend: Day One Results

Written by: Matthew Pedias

SAAC’s Championship Weekend at Centennial Stadium was a huge success. We would like to take this time to thank all SAAC Academies who put in a tremendous amount of work in both on and off the pitch the entire season and especially preparing for SAAC Championship Weekend. We congratulate all of you on a tremendous season and are already looking forward to seeing you again in the Spring.

2016-11-08

U15 Male:  vs. 

The opening match of Championship Weekend kicked off with Spring Champions (Toronto Skillz) and Fall Champions (Rush Canada) battling it out for the U15M Academy Cup. It was a very tense game, as neither team was able to find the back of the net in regulation time. Thus, going straight to penalty kicks. In the end, Rush Canada won 5-4 on penalties, with the final moment being captured below. SAAC congratulates both teams on a spirited affair! Great match.

U16 Male: vs. 

Next up, Spring Champions (ANB Futbol) took on Fall Champions (Power FC) in the U16M Academy Cup Final. After a scoreless first half, ANB stormed out with two goals and seemed to put the game out of reach. However, Power responded quickly after with a goal of their own. The final moments were exhilarating as Power attempted to find the tying goal, but ANB were able to hang on and secure a 2-1 victory. SAAC congratulations both teams on a great match!

U17 Male: vs. 

We follow that up with Spring Champions (FC Durham) who took on Fall Champions (Sigma FC – B2) in the U17M Academy Cup Final. FC Durham opened the scoring moments before the end of the first half, then added to their lead early in the second half! Sigma FC kept the game close with a goal shortly after that to bring them within one, but FC Durham quickly responded put the game out of reach shortly after and came out with a 3-1 victory to claim the U17M Academy Cup! Congratulations to both academies on their respective trophies.

U20 Male: vs. 

Finally, we wrapped up ‘Day One’ of Championship Weekend with Spring Champions (Sigma FC – B1) taking on Fall Champions (ANB Futbol) in the U20M Academy Cup Final. An absolutely enthralling match that came down to the wire! Sigma FC went ahead early, but ANB responded with three consecutive goals. Sigma FC then cut into the lead shortly after, making it 3-2 with just over 20 minutes to play. ANB seemed to seal the victory after going up 4-2, but Sigma FC was not going down without a fight. They pulled one back in the dying minutes off of a corner kick, and now it’s 4-3! However, ANB stayed composed and were able to lock down the win and take home the U20M Academy Cup.

Congratulations to all SAAC Academy teams and we look forward to another successful season next year! Enjoy the break.SAAC

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Talent Tuesday: Q&A with Aaliyah Scott

SAAC

Interview by: Matthew Pedias

Matthew Pedias: “First off we wanted to thank you for taking the time to do this with us. Why don’t we start off with a little introduction as to who you are on and off the field? What is your position and favourite club?

Aaliyah Scott: “My favourite club in the world is Barcelona because I like the way they play. They play tiki-taka style and they use that with the best players like Messi, Neymar, Suarez and they compliment the team really well. I play either attacking mid or wing because I like to dribble a lot, take players on and get shots in the box.”

MP: “So, why soccer? What drove you to compete in this specific sport growing up as a child?”

AS: “Well, actually my brother played when he was about six or seven, so I always grew up watching him on the sidelines everyday. I wanted to be like him. My goal was to get at least ten juggles when I was five, and I couldn’t so I kept on working at it. Eventually my brother [stopped] playing since he didn’t want to anymore, so then my mom enrolled me in soccer and it went on from there.

aaliyah-picture

MP: “If you had to compare your style of play to any player, male or female around the world, who would it be and why?”

AS: “I’d say Neymar, because I like his imagination and I try to use as much imagination on the field [as I can]. Trying stuff like 360’s or nutmegging people.”

Photo/Canada Soccer

MP: “Do you have any pre-game rituals that get into or do you not believe in that?”

AS: “I don’t believe in that!”

MP: “What are a few characteristics that you possess as a player that makes you stand out amongst your peers? Whether that be in Toronto Skillz or the National Team Pool?

AS: “First of all, I’m very hard-working. I want to push everyday to get better and better. I’m very dedicated at home, I touch the ball as much as I can and it’s literally a part of me. Being in the national team pool is very hard, since you have to work for what you want. There’s probably 10,000 girls that are trying to get my spot on the national team so I have to keep working hard and I can never feel secure.”

MP: “Describe the atmosphere that you faced at both CONCACAF Tournaments”

AS: “I’d say it was very professional. At my age group, they are trying to make us into more mature players. Here’s an example, when we just came from the airport in Grenada, there were two police cars driving behind and in front of our team bus because they were so scared that anything could happen to us. I just felt secure. It made me feel like [I’m] a professional player. The area around the dressing room was fantastic. I saw the stands and there was at least a couple hundred or couple thousand people there and I was just like ‘they want to come watch me?”

MP: “If you could name one person either retired or still an active player, that you would consider as your role model, who would it be and why?”

AS: “I would say Ronaldinho, because he is a very technical player, and that’s like me. His attitude is very good and he taught Messi the qualities that he needs to play at Barcelona [in order to] get to the next level.”

aaliyah-interview

MP: “Although it only just began, what would you say the best moment of your career is thus far?”

AS: “I’d probably say the inter squad that I played at my camp in January, then the under 14 to under 17 NEX (National Excel) camp. It was great because that was probably the biggest deciding factor for the squad and who went to Granada. I scored two major goals, like ‘Messi goals.’ I dribbled through the whole team to score those. Being a younger player, I had to stand out in that camp because I’m smaller. I obviously have to use my strengths and show my stuff. I made the team in Grenada and that was just a great feeling to know that the inter squad pushed me there.”

MP: “So how has SAAC, and specifically Toronto Skillz helped you develop into the player you are today?”

AS: “Like I said before, they tried to develop the European style in their club. So, they brought out the confidence in me, especially Tiger and Jake. They gave me the freedom on the field. The best thing is that I play with boys. Their faster, stronger and they are smart on the ball, so I learn from them. Just getting to know them and playing with them makes me a better player.”

MP: “You mentioned you played with boys, describe what that’s like for you and how important it is to you?”

AS: “They’re bigger, faster and stronger. So you learn from that. Girls play a different style of soccer than guys, so it’s great for girls to learn that tiki-taka style and that creativeness.

MP: “What was your initial reaction when you were called to play for the Canadian National Team? Where were you when you heard?”

AS: “I was super excited. First of all, I was [young] and I didn’t think I’d make it because I’m smaller than everyone. So, I was at practice and my coaches came up to me and said ‘guess what?’ and then they said I made the National Team. I couldn’t believe it.”

MP: “Size is just an obstacle, you look at some of the best players around the world like Messi, they’re small players but they have the skill, the touch and it just make everything look natural. When you have that, size doesn’t matter at all.”

aaliyah-article

MP: “Being in the Women’s National Excel Camp is no small feat, let alone being there at the age of 13. How hard did you have to work to get to that spot?”

AS: “I had to work really hard, doing extra fitness and working on my own more because I’m smaller and I have to stand out as much as possible. When your younger, it’s harder to make it onto the older age groups if you don’t stand out as a player.”

Photo/Canada Soccer

MP: “How has the last year and a half been inside that national pool and how have you grown as both a player and a person?”

AS:Well, it’s been really stressful because obviously school has taken a big toll. I made a lot of sacrifices like missing weddings and such, I just have to always work really hard.”

MP: “I’m sure that whoever’s wedding it was will forgive you when you come back with an Olympic Gold medal in a couple of years. I think they’ll forgive you, just remember to take a picture with them!”

AS: “Yeah!”

MP: “What is your dream as a professional player and what do you strive to achieve?”

AS: “I want to play in Europe once I get older after University. I want to play somewhere like PSG (Paris Saint German) where all the best players play like Henry.”

MP: “What would you say is your favourite moment with SAAC/Toronto Skillz?”

AS: “My favourite moment was playing in the semi-final two-years ago in the U14 boys division. We played against FC Durham for the Fall Challenge. It was just a great experience because we beat them and it was my first ever final in SAAC. I just loved playing with the boys and dominating that game.”

MP: “What would you say to anybody that could be reading this interview on our site and want to replicate what you’ve done so far?”

AS: “I would say every player experiences setbacks. I didn’t make the World Cup squad [Current U17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan], but it’s going to push me to become a better player and to stand out more. I’d say to not let setbacks bring you down and to help them push you forward into a better player.”

On behalf of everyone here at SAAC, we want to thank Aaliyah for taking the time to talk to us and wish her nothing but success in her professional career.

Thanks to Canada Soccer for the photos.

Talent Tuesday: Jürgen Weinczok

SAAC

Interview by: Matthew Pedias

SAAC: “Tell us a little bit about yourself, age, favourite club, position, anything you can name off the top of your head.”

Jürgen Weinczok: “I’m 15-years-old, I’ve been playing with IFC (International Futbol Club) since IFC has been in SAAC, so it’s been three odd years or so in SAAC. IFC, I’ve been with them since 2009 and it’s been a great experience. My favourite team is Bayern Munich, I’m part German part Canadian, so that’s where the love comes from for Bayern. My dad’s always been a Bayern supporter, I’ve always been a Bayern supporter, my brother is a Dortmund fan [laughs], so in the house it’s kind of awkward, but that’s a little about me.

SAAC: “What position do you play?”

Jürgen: “I play centre-midfield.”

SAAC: “Why did you take up soccer as a child? Would you say it is because of your dad’s love for Bayern Munich?”

Jürgen: “No, I started soccer because I remember watching it as a kid and I always remember I was in love with players like Michael Ballack, how they played, how they had so much fun and there wasn’t too much that interested me in the rest of my life such as school [laughs] and stuff like that. So, I just looked at soccer I said this would be a perfect opportunity to you know, have a bit of fun. I never thought it would come this far, but I looked at it as a kid and I was just like ‘wow.’”

SAAC: “I’m sorry in advance about the 2006 World Cup Semifinal then, cause I’m half Italian, so sorry about that!”

Jürgen: “[Laugh] Italy is Germany’s bogie team.”

SAAC: “It’s so true. Alright, so you mentioned Michael Ballack, would you say he is one of your idols growing up? Who was your definite idol growing up, who did you emulate?”

Jürgen: “Probably him. Michael Ballack. Another player I looked up seriously too, he doesn’t play in my position but I always loved was, a player by the name of, [he’s] not even German, Thierry Henry. I always loved Henry. Just the power and the complete control he had was just amazing. He was like an all-around striker, one of the first I had seen.”

SAAC: “So, tell us about the main attributes you possess as a player. What makes you stand out from anybody else that could be in SAAC or in IFC?”

Jürgen: “So one of things, you know, every IFC players is a very good player, I respect everyone. One of the things that I show a lot is my sportsmanship, my leadership, my determination, my drive. You know how hard I go for the ball; how much I fight. Passion is another thing I have for the sport that drives me seriously on the pitch. If you’re talking about skills, probably passing and control are my two fortes. Powerful shot and that’s pretty much me. Powerful shot, passing and control those are my three biggest powers or attributes that I have.”

SAAC: “[IFC Director] Frank tells us you’ve been a player in SAAC since 2013, how did SAAC help you on that path?”

Jürgen: “I think SAAC did a very very good job in helping me, especially develop as a youth player into the player I am today. I mean, the journey has just begun, but I think SAAC is a league that is completely different from the typical Canadian league, and I think SAAC is very good for other players as well. I think SAAC is amazing because unlike the rep leagues in Canada, SAAC helps develop players into better players, into players that can possibly stay in the sport. SAAC makes them into better players for tomorrow, as we say. Not for today and rep tends to just stay a little on today. So, that’s why I like SAAC so much, that’s why I enjoy it so much.”

Jurgen SAAC Interview

“SAAC: Why don’t you go ahead and describe your overall experience at IFC. You said you’ve been there since 2009.”

Jürgen: “The IFC experience has been incredible overall. We have went to Italy twice. I have had all these teammates over the years, I’ve seen the team I was one of the first guys there and, um, it’s been incredible. I have seen the team develop right from the start to where we are today and we’ve come along way. We’ve come from large defeats to big victories and it’s incredible with IFC. Especially in 2009, everyone was so young at age eight [or] nine, and growing up with these guys is an absolute pleasure. It’s great to see Pepe come along with his English and it’s great to see Frank do the same. It’s amazing to see how everyone’s matured.”

SAAC: “Would you say that IFC’s model within SAAC is what’s helping you develop more?”

Jürgen: “Yeah it definitely is. That’s why he said that they pulled me out of rep for that exact thing. And I think through SAAC and through IFC that’s what’s helped me get this opportunity. The journey is not over, it’s just started. IFC is really helping me and through SAAC and through all these opportunities, through this development, rather than just winning the next game and focusing on tactics for winning the next game. Through IFC, who trains you to be the player that you are when your 18, 19 even 20 for your whole career, that’s really what SAAC and IFC are really helping you to do.”

SAAC: “What were a few of your best moments while being a part of SAAC?”

Jürgen: “I don’t want to say things like goals, but I think just the overall development, watching other teams develop as well. It makes me proud to see that my team is not the one that is recognizing the European style and I think that with SAAC is the greatest thing, to see that other players are developing the same as us. I think that’s one of the greatest experiences that I’ve had with SAAC.”

SAAC: “Tell us all about your trip to Germany, which teams did you try out for?”

Jürgen: “So, I tried out with four teams. I tried out with, the one that I’m going back to now, which is Eintracht Trier. I tried out with [SpVgg] Unterhaching, I tried out with [SV] Elversberg and I tried out with Bayern Munich. The most successful of the four being [Eintracht] Trier. That’s where I’m going back to now to play with the U17 team. There’s other windows open, but that’s the one I was [proudest] with and the one I liked the most and did the best at.”

SAAC: “Well, you answered my next question. I was going to say is there any good news you’d like to share with SAAC?”

Jürgen: “That was one of the big ones. Another big one is just training with Bayern Munich, it’s an absolute pleasure. Just playing with the different teams is just absolutely amazing. I feel absolutely honoured that I have this opportunity and it’s an absolute honour that these teams are looking at a young, Canadian kid and saying ‘hey, he’s got a bit of talent, let’s bring him over here.’”

SAAC: “We try to ask this to anyone who’s played overseas, what would you say is the biggest difference between Canadian soccer and European futbol?”

Jürgen: “I think the one biggest difference that I noticed, I remember seeing it a lot more in rep [soccer] than I have in SAAC. SAAC there is very little of this, but in rep [soccer] it’s mainly this. They played almost as if it’s is a job. It’s almost like they HAVE to play it. They HAVE to perform or else people get angry. It’s almost the same if you would be working at Nike or something. If you don’t sell something, the manager gets angry at you. If you don’t perform in Soccer here in the rep systems, then your parent and coach gets mad at you. In Germany, it’s a game. It’s completely different then here in Canada. Not even here in Canada, here in the rep leagues where there saying it’s a job you have to perform or you’re off the team. In Germany, it’s the game. If you don’t enjoy it, then you’re off the team, right? They take it as a game, and that’s why they have so much more fun, that’s why they are not afraid to make mistakes. That’s why I see the development there is so much greater than in Canada. It’s because they love it. They’re not afraid of losing the ball, they’re not afraid of losing a header or losing a goal or game. They’ll take a loss in a game if they know they have to improve on something.”

SAAC: “Now that you’ve witnessed European futbol first hand, what do you think Canada has to do to reach that same level?”

Jürgen: “This goes back to one of the points I already stated earlier, and it’s that we here in Canada, it’s not about the training, it’s all about the mindset first. Mindset comes first, train them to love the sport, don’t train them to be afraid of it. So, that’s the first biggest thing that I think is lacking in Canadian futbol. Kids are afraid of making mistakes, afraid of their parents beating them or something or their coaches yelling at them if they make these mistakes. The coaches and players have to learn they need to make mistakes; they learn from mistakes. They also need to learn the basics as well first. I find that a lot of training in Canada they skip the basics. That’s one of the biggest things that I think Canadian futbol needs to improve on and I think it’s pretty easy to improve on as well. It could be done very quickly.”

SAAC: “Alright, we’ll calm it down a bit and do some fun stuff! If you could play alongside any professional player in the world, who would it be and why? I’ll let you pick one from the past and present.”

Jürgen: “From the past I would probably once again say Michael Ballack. Just watching him as a child was absolutely incredible. He did things that I haven’t seen other players do ever. Us playing alongside the two centre defensive midfielders roles or the two attacking midfielders roles would be absolutely incredible. That would be a dream come true. [Laughs] It’s not going to happen but, that would be incredible, having a midfielder that is just the perfect midfielder.”

SAAC: “Correct me if my knowledge is wrong, but wasn’t Ballack no. 13?”

Jürgen: “He was no. 13, yes.”

SAAC: “Is that why you wear no. 13?”

Jürgen: “[Laughs] yeah, that’s the reason why I wear 13! For present players, I would say probably Toni Kroos, that’s a player that I can relate most to, that’s a player that I have the exact same player style as. He’s got a great shot, good passing, good control, amazing vision of the game and we play the same position. That’s another player I’d love to play alongside if I could.”

SAAC: “Kroos is an incredible player. Finally, what is your dream as a soccer player. What clubs, what trophies?”

Jürgen: “My overall dream is to do extremely well in the sport. I’m not going to put down winning the Champions League trophy, there’s a bit of luck to that as well. It would be absolutely amazing if we did get to that point, but my dream is to basically break the first team, get into the national team. That would be a dream come true. Play for Bayern Munich on their first team, that for me is a dream come true, just breaking in and playing there.”

SAAC: “Well, we wish you the best of luck on that, Jürgen!”

Jürgen: “Thank you very much.”

Jürgen

We want to thank Jürgen for taking the time to speak with SAAC and wish him the best of luck in Germany with Eintracht Trier.

SAAC

Talent Tuesday – Thomas Licursi

Written by: Matthew Pedias

Determination – it is more than just a key word for athletes across the globe. It’s an attribute that only special players possess, and it’s makes them stand out from their peers. For Kevin Nelson Soccer Academy’s former player, Thomas Licursi, determination and perseverance led him to Sweden; where he would secure his first professional contract with Huddinge IF.

Licursi Sweden

Huddinge IF’s Thomas Licursi

After almost three months in Sweden, we got the opportunity to chat with Licursi via Skype. During our interview, Thomas spoke a lot about his ability to adapt to European lifestyle, the differences between European and Canadian footy and a few of his favourite memories in SAAC. Needless to say, there are a ton of philosophies in Europe that Thomas insists should be implemented into Canada’s game.

“You’re constantly working, because everytime you’re on the couch, someone else is working hard.”

This kind of mentality and work ethic separates Licursi from his peers. Willing and able to put in the extra work needed to push his team to glory, whether it be scoring a big goal or spraying the long ball to an open man. Plus, his dedication to the sport is on another level.

Don’t believe me? Well, Licursi stated this was his favourite moment in SAAC:

 “There was one game where I came in late to the field so I couldn’t start the game. The coach told me that i’m going to have to come on at half-time. So, we were down 4-0 and we were playing Sigma, which is a very good academy. I came on at half and I completely changed the game, I got three or four assists and we ended up tying the game 4-4. It was a very insane moment.

The funny part about this story is that Thomas left out a crucial bit of information. You see, Thomas was sidelined with an injury for a couple of weeks prior to that match, so he didn’t know if he would be playing that weekend or not. Luckily, he passed a physical test just hours before kick-off.

Pretty cool, right? Well, it gets better.

T

Licursi alongside Kevin Nelson.

Kevin Nelson Soccer Academy (KNSA) is based in Ottawa and on that particular weekend, they were playing Sigma FC in Toronto. See what i’m getting at here?

Licursi and his father made the journey from Ottawa to Toronto on short notice just to be able to catch the second half of the match. It’s something that still beckons in the back of former KNSA assistant coach, Huffman Eja Tabe.

“This to me I would say is the first time in which I can say that the effort and dedication of both a player and father to travel the distance from Ottawa to Toronto to help an injury filled team earn one point to maintain its place in the top half of the very difficult SAAC league table. This to us is the answer we had been looking for,” Huffman told SAAC.

With that said, Huffman’s high praise of Licursi was mutual. “Kevin and Huffman helped me so much, as well as my past coaches,” Licursi told SAAC. After all, it was Huffman who helped Licursi make the adjustments needed to settle in Sweden. Clearly KNSA is a firm believer in Licursi’s talents and have molded him into quite the young player.

Licursi also had high praise for SAAC, which is the last league he played in prior to his journey overseas. “I think that SAAC is the perfect stepping stone for players that want to make to the next level. I find that it has a perfect balance of quality and competitiveness.”

“You really learn to play the proper way.”
– Licursi on SAAC

Huffman can attest to Licursi’s sentiment’s about SAAC. “For Thomas, playing in the SAAC league gave him that feel of being in a professional environment everyday even during training’s and so I find he is a lot more mature than maybe some players.”

SAAC thanks Licursi for the interview and wishes him the best of luck in Sweden and throughout his entire playing career.

SAAC

Q&A with Huddinge IF player Licursi

SAAC

Interview by: Matthew Pedias

Thomas Licursi is a former member of the Kevin Nelson Soccer Academy (KNSA) with SAAC. After a successful season, Thomas was offered a trial in Sweden where he secured a first team position with Huddinge IF. We decided to check up on him and see if he has any insight on how we can further develop the game here in Canada.

SAAC: “Thomas, first off we would like to congratulate you for the success you have had after leaving the SAAC program. With that said, let’s jump into this. Why did you start playing soccer and who was your idol?”

Thomas Licursi: “Andrea Pirlo is my idol. I first got into soccer after the 2006 World Cup because I am Italian and it was really an exciting time.”

SAAC: “What would you say is the biggest difference between Canadian soccer and European futbol?”

TL: “There’s two things to it, they sound quite obvious, but I can’t emphasis how important they are. The first of them is the players in Sweden train so much harder. The warm up is as intense as anything could be in Canada. I played in all sorts of levels in Canada with many teams, but i’ve never trained this hard, this many times a week. You can’t afford to have a day off. Literally, you can’t. Secondly, is the pace, the level of play. It’s so much quicker here. In Canada, you have time to make a couple of touches and lookaround for that perfect pass. In Sweden, there is always someone on you. No time to dribble, you have to get it done quickly. It gets your mind going and puts you in situations that you would avoid in Canada, but here you can’t avoid them. It makes you really grow as a player. You improve so much.”

SAAC: “Would you credit the mentorship of Nelson and Huffman, plus the competitive nature of SAAC with helping your development?”

TL: “I think that SAAC is the perfect stepping stone for players that want to make it to the next level. I find that it has a perfect balance of quality and competitiveness. Not like other leagues that I’ve played for in Canada where it’s all big-fast players, but there is no quality. The SAAC league has helped me a lot, it’s the last league that I played in before I moved to Sweden. You start doing the right things on the ball, even though it’s obviously at a lower pace than in Europe because not many teams in Canada play in a high level like in Europe. It’s like the perfect stepping stone because you really learn to play the proper way.”

SAAC: “What was it like for you to play with and against athletes that are 3-4 years older than you in Sweden?”

TL: “Kevin and Huffman helped me so much as well as my past coaches. Playing in the SAAC league helped me so much and I think that by doing those things year after year, properly when your put into a quicker environment it only takes you a certain amount of time to adapt. After that, you can start building on it and performing. Like I said before, you can’t afford to take a day of here. You’re constantly working, because everytime you’re on the couch, someone else is working hard. You can’t afford to just stop. With that mindset, if you keep working hard like I did in Canada, over here, you can start performing. At first it was difficult, because you’re trying to keep up at that [high] level. When you get to that level, you try to get better.”

SAAC: “What would you say to young Canadian athletes that strive to play overseas like yourself?”

TL: “I’ve gone through so many ups and downs in my career so far. I’ve wanted to quit so many times. I’ve cried over it, bled over it. The one thing I would tell another kid is never give up. I know it sounds cliche and basic, but it’s so true because if I would have quit, I would never be here. If I quit because of a bad game or bad season or a series of serious injuries, I would have never been here. As I said before, when you’re on the couch, someone else is working hard, so if you keep that in mind, you’ll always be on the pitch training. On Friday nights when your friends are at a party, you’re at the field training. When people are hanging out, you’re on the field training. That’s what makes a difference at the end of the day. Don’t give up, and one day you’ll get there.”

SAAC: “Describe what it’s like to be a player for Huddinge (Who-Ding-Eh) IF player.”

TL: “Basically, we have training every night. So what I do is wake up, have breakfast and get on with my school work right away, so that I get that over with for the day. I live very close to the training facility so I can get in and get a couple of sessions in, I can get a run in, I can go running up a hill. Use the facilities, use the materials. It’s all up to me. Sometimes I call my coach who’s there and I get in an extra session with him. After that, come back home, have a snack, have a nap and get on with training at night. When you come back, maybe you can catch some Champions League games.”

SAAC: “Now that you’ve witnessed European futbol first hand, what do you think Canada has to do to reach that same level?”

TL: “One of the main reasons for me is Canadians look at it in such a competitive way as kids. When you have a U11 team playing and the parents are getting angry because there team isn’t winning and they only want to sign up for the teams that win, it’s so depressing. I mean, the kid is only 11, he just wants to have fun, right? So I think one of the main reasons in Canada why we don’t have success is because of the parents. [In Sweden] kids that are 11 years old just go out and play bcause they want to play, because they want to have fun. But, when a parent pressures their kid that they have to win, they have to perform, when there 11 or 12, by the time their 15 they don’t want to play anymore because it’s been so tough for so long. When your 15 or 16, that’s when it should start getting tough. Before that it should just be enjoyment. If I go walking around here on the street, i’ll pass by maybe 50 kids playing, just for fun. You won’t find that in Canada. Yeah, ofcourse there’s more interest [In Sweden] but I think people in Canada look at soccer in such a competitve way at such a young age. Here, they just do it for fun, they just love to play. Some players play knowing they’ll never make it, some players play to make it, but they just love the sport. Kids at a really young age should look at it like that. And there’s also the turf fields in Sweden are always open. You can turn on the lights when it’s dark, you don’t need to pay. If there’s no one playing on the field, you can just step on and play. In Canada, it’s looked at in a monetary way. Lights out at 10, you have to pay when you play. If an immigrant child wants to play on the field, but can’t afford to pay $100 an hour, and there’s no one on the field, why should the field be closed? Here it’s always open. So I think also the government supports the development of the players a lot more and the parents and coaches can’t do anything about that. When it comes down to coaches and parents, at such a young age, it should just be for fun. That’s when you learn to love the sport. Then, when you turn 15, 16 or 17 that’s when it starts to get tough but then you can take it. You can deal with it when you’re that age. But when your 11 and 12 and your coach or parent is screaming at you to perform or win, it doesn’t help at all.”

SAAC: “What were a few of your best moments while being a part of SAAC?”

TL: “There was one game where I came in late to the field so I couldn’t start the game. The coach told me that i’m going to have to come on at half-time. So, we were down 4-0 and we were playing Sigma, which is a very good academy. I came on at half and I completely changed the game, I got three or four assists and we ended up tying the game 4-4. It was a very insane moment. This was against Sigma as well, we were tied 1-1 in the last minute and one of my buddies on the team struck the ball from the half-way line to score a goal and win us the game in the 90th minute. But, every game in SAAC was balanced between fun and competitive. You enjoyed it a lot, but it was always respectful and great for the development for the boys. I think every teams tries to play properly. Not if you try to go in the OISL where you have those big players and those big teams that just kick the ball up and use their physicality to beat other teams. I think SAAC, every team that i’ve played some have been weak, some have been strong. But every team that I’ve played tried to play the ball on the ground and play properly, which I think is really good for everyones development.”

SAAC: “Tell us about the main attributes you possess as a player.”

TL: “I was never gifted physically, I was a very chubby boy when I was young. So, I learned to get rid of the ball quicker because I couldn’t run with the ball because I would get tired. With that said, my attributes are calm on the ball, I like to play the ball simple, quick and sometimes spray that long ball through. Just keep the tempo going, keep it nice and composed. I’m not really that Ronaldo guy or that Messi guy that can deke the field and everything, but I think the simple things done make the difference at the end.”

SAAC: “Name one thing you miss about Canada, it can be anything!”

TL: “My friends.”

SAAC: “Finally, what is your dream as a soccer player. What clubs, what trophies?”

TL: “Well, I think that if a dream isn’t crazy, then it’s not a dream. So i’d say I want to play at the World Cup, that’s the ultimate dream. Who knows if you’ll win it, but I think playing at it will be quite a climax.”

We want to thank Thomas for taking the time to speak with SAAC and wish him the best of luck in Sweden with Huddinge IF.