Kitchissippi Times caught up with two local soccer stars to see what 2015 holds in store for them.
Westboro’s Carmen Marin is primed to have a stellar 2015. Having been invited to a week-long training camp with the Costa Rican national squad, Marin now stands as a contender to join the nation’s under-17 team for the 2016 World Cup. [article continues below]
It’s an impressive opportunity for any young soccer player, to be sure, but Marin is only 13-years-old, testing her skills against international players four years her senior.
“Since the opportunity is there, I have to take it. I have to practice and practice and practice to even have a shot at something amazing,” says Marin.
Soccer has been her passion since her first kicks at age four. Since then, it has shaped her life: daily practice after school, online videos, and coaching from the Ottawa Royals Futuro program, where she plays as the only girl on her team.
“Ever since I was little, I said to myself, ‘if you practice, and if you get better, then you’re going to be an amazing player.’ And that got me to the level I am today. And I’m really happy about that.”
Her father, Julio Marin, has played a big role in her development. His days living and playing soccer in Costa Rica connected him with some of the scouts that have shown an interest in his daughter, who is eligible to play by virtue of her dual citizenship. It is clear to Marin that she wouldn’t be where she is today without his support.
“My dad did push me a lot. My dad is the reason why I keep going. He’s the one that I can trust with everything,” she says.
When she was 12 years old, Marin was invited to Costa Rica to experience playing with the U17 team. That competitive environment only strengthened her resolve.
“First time I went, I was pretty overwhelmed. I realized that this is the time that you have to come out of your shell – and you have to play to your maximum potential. Because if you don’t, they’re just going to send you home.”
Hoping one day to make it to professional leagues and to play for international squads on the world stage, Marin knows she can achieve something “beyond extraordinary.”
Without a hint of doubt in her voice, she says, “one day, I’ll go down in history.”
The Arsenal or Fulham soccer clubs may need to make room on the roster for an up-and-comer. In the summer, Noah Abatneh will return to Liverpool to train with the two organizations for the second time. Though just 10 years old, the young star has developed skills worthy of notice from the top European clubs. [article continues below]
The young Westboro striker has had more international experience than most his age – or twice his age, for that matter. Though born in Canada, he has lived in both the Philippines and Egypt, before returning to Ottawa. Last fall, he ventured to England on special invitation from the two clubs who had noticed his budding talent.
Abatneh recalls the events that took him across the pond.
“We were playing a match against our arch rivals. I guess my coaches thought I played really well. Then they texted my dad and said, ‘we’ll see you tomorrow. We’ll chat about something special,’” he says, a smile breaking across his face.
Normally under instruction from his Ottawa Royals Futuro coaches, Abatneh discovered a whole new side of the game with the professional clubs.
“In England it’s very physical. It’s all about strength,” he says, in comparison to the technical focus he has found from North American and other European soccer approaches.
“It’s very intense. Everything there is done with intensity. I think I grew as a player there, and I learned a lot.”
Such rare opportunities have been memorable for Abatneh, who had a chance to play in a coveted Arsenal jersey. When he had the chance to shoot for his favourite team, he didn’t miss.
“I’ve always wanted to play for them… it’s amazing to score for them.”
Between his coaches here and his supplementary training in England, Abatneh’s mind and body are tuned to the game. His focus doesn’t break, even mid-conversation when soccer balls fly his way.
“I think this academy is a great place for me to develop. I really enjoy it. We train everyday, except for Monday when we have classroom sessions. The training pays off.”
Abatneh admits that all of this effort can be overwhelming, even if it’s worth it. For such a young player, keeping his head on his shoulders and his feet on the ball sometimes requires some perspective.
“My parents tell me, ‘don’t give up.’ That’s the key,” says Abatneh.
With this attitude, the modest young player heads back to England this summer, eyes set on his spot in professional soccer.