Playing Canadian college soccer has been on Jordell Afonso’s radar for a long time.
“I’ve been working since I was five years old to get an opportunity to play university,” said Afonso, who will join the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s team this August. “This is big for me. My hard work has paid off.”
Afonso had other options, including UBC-O Heat, but chose the Kamloops university where will he work towards a bachelor of science degree while developing under the watchful eye of coach John Antulov and his staff. Afonso said former Pinnacles FC product Brady Van Ryswyk played a big factor in choosing the WolfPack. Afonso has played with the WolfPack goalkeeper for years. The WolfPack coaching staff was another factor as well as being close to home, but not too close he joked. Afonso’s recruitment makes it the second year in a row in which the WolfPack have plucked a player from Pinnacles FC.
“Kamloops is an exciting place for a young adult like myself. Hillside is a very nice facility and I am very excited to play for the WolfPack,” said Afonso in a team release. “TRU has a continuously improving program with a bright future.”
Afonso, a five-foot-10 midfielder and soon-to-be-graduate of Penticton Secondary School, will join the program with the start of the team’s 2017 Canada West training camp.
“Jordell is a player that can play many different positions,” said Antulov. “Either attacking, holding or wide midfield along with fullback. This versatility gives him a great opportunity to push our older players and battle for playing time. Jordell is a solid midfielder and can play a physical game, is technically sound and has good vision. In addition, he can play a good pass to lead the attack. He is a left-footed player, which we definitely need and is also strong in the air. We feel he will develop into a very solid U Sport player for our team and look forward to having him the next five years.”
Afonso believes his main strength is his vision and being able to think two or three steps ahead of his opponents. Afonso said he knows his transition from PFC to university soccer will be hard.
“The pace for sure is going to be a lot faster,” said Afonso. “There will be a lot bigger boys compared to myself. I know I need to grow, get a lot faster. I think with John he is going to help me a lot. I will be there pretty quick.
“This is a great opportunity for myself,” continued Afonso. “I will learn a lot from him this upcoming season especially as I learn how to transition to the USport style of play.”
Afonso has seen the pace after training with the WolfPack a few times.
“They are definitely a lot bigger is the first thing I noticed,” he said. “Technically I think I’m there. I just need to learn to adapt to not being the biggest one out there and how quick it is.”
Afonso helped lead Penticton to the Thompson Okanagan Youth Soccer League title in 2015 and 2016 under head coach Ezra Cremers.
“Jordell has been training in our Excelsior Academy since the age of 12. I have had the pleasure of coaching him throughout that period on all areas of the game. Jordell is one of our smartest players,” said Cremers. “His football IQ is very high for a player his age. Our professional affiliate Excelsior Rotterdam from the Eredivise in Holland brought over their youth head coach Marco van Lochem recently. Marco felt Jordell was our top player in the club because of his smarts and ability to read the game.”
Cremers adds: “Jordell needs to continue to work on the physical part of his game but every month he gets bigger, faster and stronger. He needs experience at this level which he will receive this spring and will be a starter for our Pinnacles squad. He is not only good on the field but off of it as well. Jordell is very coachable and easy to get along with. I feel TRU’s style of play and the way John (Antulov) coaches will be a great fit for Jordell.”