They may not have the financial backing of the Vancouver Whitecaps, but the Northwest boys’ under-12 soccer squad will be in Nanaimo to win, just like any Lower Mainland team at the upcoming B.C. Summer Games in Nanaimo next week.
With the players picked and positions all set, all the boys have to do is show up ready to play, but it may be a tough assignment medalling in the eight-team field.
“They’re going to be in tough, but the kids from Rupert will do well,” said Prince Rupert soccer developmental coach Gordan Armstrong.
Those kids will be Kaito Zatylny, Sherangad Sahai, Jarred McMeekin and Brendan Eshom, and between the four of them, they form part of a complete starting lineup.
Zatylny, the youngest of the bunch at only 10-years-old has seen praise heaped on him already for his natural instincts and ability.
“Kaito’s a great young player. He distributes the ball really well and he’s got a great shot,” said Armstrong.
Team Northwest’s coach, Richard Velho, also thinks Zatylny’s the real deal.
“He is one of the most skilled players on the field. He has a great understanding of the game and coupled with his amazing ball control, he has the ability to make plays on the fly,” said Velho.
The coach has slotted Zatylny at the forward position.
Sahai, the player who can be identified by his big, wide grin, will be a midfielder for Northwest.
“Sean [Sahai] can dance, is his big thing. He’s not the fastest in the world but he’s got I’d say probably some of the best skill in the north. With Sean, he spent some time down south [in B.C. tournaments] but he obviously spends a lot of time in the yard, kicking a ball, juggling. I’ve watched him get trapped by two guys, start juggling the ball and flip it over their heads, doing a 360 off them and running away and I think he was even laughing a couple times doing it,” said Armstrong.
“He holds the team together in centre-mid by being able to take control of the ball and set his fellow teammates up for new plays,” added Velho.
McMeekin is the speedy one. He’ll try and be a rock on defence for Northwest as he attempts to control wave after wave of highly-skilled opponents at the Games.
“Jarred is a feisty defenceman,” said Velho.
“He has a never-give-up attitude when it comes to protecting his end of the field. I believe he has picked up this attitude from being on the Prince Rupert swim club which always challenges him to better himself.
As for Eshom, the lanky defenceman sure isn’t timid when it comes to his compete level, and that drive led Velho to name the young Rupertite captain.
“Brendan has a positive attitude and the ability to bring intensity to the game,” said Velho.
“He’s a very physical presence on the field,” added Armstrong.
Velho tempers his expectations for the tourney, but also adds the team has a real opportunity to do some damage against the more popular squads.
“I think if we were a team in the World Cup, we would definitely be Costa Rica. They are an underdog who have come together to play the game they love and show the world they too can stand up to more well-known teams,” said Velho.
“I believe our players … will make Northern B.C. proud.”