Seven years ago West Vancouver’s Matthew Durrans and his family took a huge leap of faith – all the way across an ocean – and it finally landed him his dream job.
Last week Durrans officially signed his first professional soccer contract, inking a deal with storied German team TSV 1860 Munich. The 21-year-old will suit up for the club’s top senior squad this fall as they hit the field in the third tier of professional leagues in Germany, two spots below the Bundesliga.
To get to this point took a major life shakeup. When he was just 14 years old, Durrans said goodbye to his life in Canada and moved to Germany – without knowing how to speak German at all – to pursue his ultimate goal of becoming a professional soccer player.
“This is a dream of mine, this is what I've been working for for so many years,” he told the North Shore News. “This is the reason why I obviously moved over from Vancouver to Munich, from Canada to Germany as a young kid just dreaming of playing professional football. So this is obviously a huge step for me and I'm super, super humbled by the opportunity as well just to play and do what I love for a living.”
Growing up in West Vancouver, Durrans played in the Whitecaps program and for Mountain United – some of the top youth teams in the province – but said he was never the flashiest player on the pitch.
“I always worked super hard, but was never the most talented player,” he said. Durrans credited his work with Roman Tulis and his North Shore-based European Soccer School, as well as coach Dejan Nesic, with teaching him what European soccer is all about.
Learning from afar is one thing, but for Durrans the crash course started after his Grade 9 year when he was given a chance to play in the youth system of 1860 Munich, a founding club in the Bundesliga that in recent years has been moving between the German second and third divisions. The setup was a good one for Durrans, as his father and mother opted to move to Munich with him – his dad’s work was mobile, and his mom was able to focus on raising Matthew as his two older sisters and one older brother had already moved away from home.
It still, however, was a huge culture shock.
“When I was 14 it was definitely a very difficult decision for me,” he said. “I was like, ‘oh, I don’t want to leave home and everything and school and my sisters and brother and house and dog.’”
He attended an international school in Germany where all instruction was in English, but on the football pitch it was all German.
“In Germany you have to speak German,” he said. “If you don't speak the language, obviously on the football pitch you can't communicate with the players, you can’t communicate with the coach. … You have to learn it quickly – they kind of make you – and that’s just what I had to do.”
There were definitely some moments where Durrans was left baffled by instructions he didn’t understand – more than he can count, he said – but within a year or so he had picked up the language pretty well. And the soccer, he said, was incredible.
“It’s Germany. Everyone knows that’s where football lives. As a young kid, the development is unparalleled there.”
Durrans is quick to credit his parents for making sacrifices to get him to this point.
“They sacrificed a lot for me, they moved over with me to Germany,” he said. “I say this over and over but I really couldn't have done it without them, because I was 14 and as a young kid like that, moving away from all your friends, your family, your home, you know, it's super, super difficult. And I think if I was alone, I wouldn't have been here for long, to be honest with you.”
Now that he is set to play with the club’s senior team, Durrans is intent on working hard every day and being ready when he is called upon to make his professional debut.
“When you're in that environment at a big club like 1860 Munich and with fantastic coaches and staff and players and facilities, you just have to really show up to work every day and just give 100 per cent and try and learn as much as you can. And that's just what I'm trying to do.”
The start of this journey took a giant leap, but Durrans said he’d encourage anyone to take a similar jump to chase a dream.
“Get outside your comfort zone and you learn a lot about yourself and you just develop and evolve as a person so much more,” he said. “As I look back over the last seven years of my life – it was August, 2013 – it’s just been an incredible experience not only in terms of football, but as a person. I’ve grown so much and learned so much more about the world.”