This Saturday North Vancouver's Alex Comsia will experience a sporting moment few Canadian men ever get to live out: playing in a soccer World Cup.
It's not the senior men's level - Canada still seems years away from qualifying for that big show - but Comsia will hit the field in the United Arab Emirates as Canada takes on Austria in their opening game of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. And Comsia will play a big role too, starting in central defence while acting as the team's assistant captain.
Comsia played every minute as Canada won bronze at the CONCACAF U17 men's soccer championships held in Panama in April. The highlight of the tournament was a comefrom-behind 4-2 win over Jamaica in the quarterfinals that booked their spot in the World Cup. The team also needed some late-game heroics as they scored injury time goals in the second half and in overtime against Honduras in the bronze match and eventually won in a shootout.
At the club level Comsia played on the U16 and U18 Vancouver Whitecaps residency teams the past two years and last month signed on to train with U19 team Stade Lavallois Mayenne FC in France. Before all that, however, he got his start in the Lynn Valley Soccer Association - now part of the North Vancouver Football Club - getting into the sport with the help of North Shore volunteers such as Rob and Leslie Raffin. The North Shore News caught up with Comsia by email last week and he described what it was like to be in an exotic land on the eve of the biggest tournament of his life.
North Shore News: What are your impressions of UAE - the weather, the stadiums, the country in general?
Alex Comsia: UAE is very hot and dry. But I believe our team is prepared for the heat because of the time we have spent in hot environments at our previous camps such as Florida, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico. I haven't had a chance to see the stadiums just yet, but the fields that we train on are perfectly cut and flat. Getting the opportunity to travel to places like UAE at my age is something I do not take for granted. I know I am lucky to have these experiences and I want to take full advantage of them. I find that UAE is a very wealthy country with many unique designs of buildings and hotels. The people here have been very friendly and accommodating.
NSN: What are your thoughts on getting to play in a World Cup? AC:
Playing in a World Cup is every soccer player's dream. I would have never thought that I would get such an opportunity. Playing against the best in the world will improve me as a player and give me more experience. I am confident in myself and the team that we will perform well.
NSN: How is your team looking?
AC: To be here with this group of guys is special. We have all worked hard to be here and now we want to showcase Canada on the world stage. We are all proud to be Canadian. I believe we have a very talented team with a lot of potential. We are all solely focused on the first game of the tournament vs. Austria. That's the mentality of this group: focus only on the next game. It's a mentality that helped us be successful down in Panama for the CONCACAF U17 World Cup Qualifiers. We are ready.
NSN: What are your team's goals at the tournament?
AC: Our team again only focuses on one game at a time. So for now our goal is to put in a good performance against Austria. Then we will focus on Iran and after Argentina.
NSN: What will you personally focus on doing in these games?
AC: I will focus on my personal performance at the back. I will look to lead and organize the defense. I will always look to win the ball back and distribute to our attacking players. The number one goal as a defender is to prevent the other team from scoring.
NSN: Can you tell me a bit more about the Lynn Valley association and Rob and Leslie Raffin?
AC: I began playing soccer with the Lynn Valley Soccer Association. My very first coach was Rob, and Leslie was the team manager. Coach Rob is the one who taught me the basics and it was under him that I really started to develop a passion for soccer. He and Leslie are family friends who have followed my soccer career since the beginning. They have been so supportive. I can't thank them enough.
NSN: What's it feel like to represent Canada on the global stage?
AC: When I put on the Canadian jersey I feel so proud. The feeling of representing your country is so special. Canada has given me and my family so much. We want to make the country proud with strong performances here at the World Cup.
NSN: Anything else?
AC: I want to thank my family for their amazing support. I would have never had these opportunities if it wasn't for them. I don't just play for myself, the team, and the country: I also play for them.
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