FOR 10-year-old Tristan Torresan of North Vancouver, life's goals are pretty clear.
"To be a professional soccer player playing on a certain team, Real Madrid, playing with Ronaldo and maybe even playing with Messi on Barcelona," Torresan says.
Fanciful stuff, the wild dreams of many a young player, but for Torresan soccer dreams are already coming true so why not keep aiming high? Earlier this month the youngster earned an invite onto team Canada for the Danone Nations Cup, an international soccer tournament for kids that was created following the 1998 FIFA World Cup. This year's tournament, scheduled for Sept. 7-9 in Warsaw, Poland, will feature all-star teams from 40 countries, including most of the world's soccer powers such as Brazil, Spain, Germany and Mexico.
Torresan was one of three Lynn Valley kids - Caitlin Shaw and Miles Gailiunas were the other two - selected out of thousands of athletes to play for the Western Canadian team in the Canadian Final of the Nations Cup. The squad took on the Eastern Canadian team at Toronto's BMO Field July 14 with a trip to the world finals in Poland on the line.
Team West, however, lost 4-0, meaning team East earned the tickets to Europe.
Torresan and the rest of the western players still had a shot at making the Canadian team - the coaches were going to select two players from the losing team to join the winners in Poland.
"I was crying after (the game) because I thought that all my dreams were gone," says Torresan. "The next day my coach phoned me and told me that I made it and asked me to go to Poland. . . . I was screaming."
Tristan has stood out on the soccer field ever since he played his first game as a five-year-old, says his dad, Mauro Torresan. Since getting his start in the Lynn Valley Soccer Association, Tristan has continually been advanced through programs such as the North Shore Soccer Development Centre, Roman Tulis's European Soccer School of Excellence and, starting last year, the Whitecaps youth program.
The Nations Cup is a tournament for under-12 kids so Tristan is actually a year younger than most of the other players. Mauro took Tristan to the tryouts for the Western Canadian team not expecting him, as an underage player, to make it.
"I figured next year would be his year," says Mauro with a laugh. "When he went to the tryouts back in November I sort of wanted him to go to the tryouts just to get a feel for it so that next year would be his year with his age group doing it."
But Tristan defied the odds and has continued to defy them. The initial tryout last November led to a smaller camp with about 30 of the best players from British Columbia.
"He had a good tryout and he ended up getting picked for the team, so that was a huge thing," says Mauro. "I knew he could do it but him getting picked for that was amazing. And then for him to be identified to join the East (in Poland), that was a real proud moment for us as parents for sure."
Tristan's strong play comes from a love of the sport, says Mauro. The kid can't get enough of it.
"It's always, 'Dad, when can we get out to the park?' It's at the point where he's dragging me out there," says Mauro. Tristan is the oldest of five brothers so a game is always ready to start. When it does Tristan, as the biggest brother, is boss.
"Yeah, I pick the teams," he says.
Tristan's recent Toronto trip and upcoming Poland trip have taken him out of those family games and away from his parents for days at a time, something that could be tough on a 10-year-old. Mauro says he and his wife do worry about the pressure and stress being put on their young son but so far he's passed every test.
"The (Canadian Final) was the first thing he had spent time away from us, going to Toronto," says Mauro. "We didn't know how that would be with him. Some of the kids had a tough time with it, being away from their parents."
Tristan says it was no big deal. "I missed my family a little bit, a tiny little bit homesick, but it was fine."
The parents were there to watch and cheer in Toronto but the teams were separated from their families for much of time. It will be the same for the Poland trip, which will begin with a training camp in Montreal before the team heads to the world finals. Mauro says he and his wife have done their best to make sure Tristan is up to the challenge on the field and off.
"We talk to him all the time and he thinks he's ready for it so it's something that he's going to jump into and find out, I guess."
Tristan, meanwhile, marvels at the Canadian jersey he's already received and the chance that he has to represent the country.
"It feels awesome," he says. "I'm representing Canada, it's going to be so amazing."