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

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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.