Two Sarnia FC players are headed overseas to play in the largest youth soccer tournament in the world.
Kieran Maddock, 12, and Tyler Hopwood, 11, were chosen to play in the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden. The international 7 vs. 7 tournament hosts more than 1,600 teams from 80 nations worldwide.
The boys earned their spots on a squad of 12 players representing the Coerver Michigan Soccer Academy, where they train in the off-season.
“I’ve never gone to a tournament this big so I’m kind of excited to go and see if I do well, and experience the players there,” said Maddock, who plays centre-midfield.
Hopwood, a defender who attends Errol Road public school, agreed with a laugh.
“Pretty much the same thing that Kieran said.”
Housed in Brighton, Michigan, Coerver is a soccer academy that instructs youth during 10, three-hour bi-weekly sessions through the off-season capped by week-long training camp in the summer one week before the Gothia Cup.
After participating in the Sarnia FC Academy, the teammates earned their spots at Coerver last August. Typically hundreds of players try out for 30 to 40 spots per age group.
Coerver plans to send as many as six teams to the Gothia Cup this year.
Both boys are expecting a different level of play in Sweden.
“People are going to be more physical because it’s one of their main sports over there. I think it’s going to be harder to win the ball, make tackles, keep possession,” said Maddock, who attends École élémentaire catholique Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin.
Kieran’s dad, Gavin Maddock, who coaches the boys with Sarnia FC, played in international tournaments in Denmark and Italy in the early ‘90s.
Going to an international tournament such as Gothia is an opportunity that will resonate with the boys, he said.
“It opens up your eyes to what the game is like, and the possibilities of building that fire within, to try to strive for something more, and setting that goal.
Jim Tsaprailis has coached the boys the past five years and is the Sarnia FC Academy director. The once in a lifetime experience was well deserved, he said.
“I think it’s fantastic for them. I look at it as a reward for all their hard work and dedication to the sport.”
Tsaprailis said it also reflects how the soccer scene in Sarnia is growing with more players competing at a higher level.
The 2016 Gothia Cup drew more than 40,000 players from around the world. This year the tournament is July 16-22.