On November 11th of this year (2017) I strapped up my boots for the final match of my competitive soccer career with Vancouver Island University Mariners in a CCAA Nationals gold medal game vs. the Douglas Royals. Not the most exciting of matches, and I didn’t get on until the last 30 seconds of the game, but none the less we came out on top! The emotions flowed as I hugged my teammates, and my parents who were also there to witness the end of my career and the beginning of a new chapter. I am not completely certain, but I may be the only athlete at VIU to have 4 National medals (2 Gold, 1 Silver, and 1 Bronze). In any case I feel a flood of accomplishment having gotten myself to this very moment, and I need to take the time to reflect on what brought me here.
* If you don’t feel like reading this entire blogpost at least go down to the bottom to watch the video I made on our journey to the CCAA National Trophy.
Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta was definitely not the best place to be for a young boy who wished to become a professional soccer player, but it wasn’t the worst. Thankfully my family had a lot of faith in me, and I too had a lot of faith in myself. I was never the superstar in the soccer world, but I was always good, and I always knew that if I never gave up I would be able to achieve my dreams (as cheesy as that sounds). In Edmonton I did my best to play on the top teams for my age group or an age group up, I had trouble making the Provincial teams and never made it to the National Training program even though I felt I should have.
Thankfully there was still some people who also believed in my abilities and did their best to give me opportunities. After a quick trip to England at the age of 14 I had a glimpse of what it would take to compete at that highest level. Shortly after I got my first professional opportunity in Santiago, Chile with Santiago Morning in the Primera Division. A year later I was back in Canada due to health problems which closed that door for me, but set me off in a different direction.
In 2007 a friend of mine told me about this new soccer reality tv show that was going to be based out of Ottawa, Canada, and they would hold tryouts across the country, with one of the stops being Calgary. I thought it was a silly concept at first, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to sign up for the tryout. The producer of the show loved my personality, and the judges were impressed with my skills, so out of Alberta I was one of 6 other players to be chosen for the show. After a few weeks staying in a giant house in Ottawa with the 36 finalists, making my way all the way to the final 4 through a series of training sessions and games I found myself headed down to Mexico City, Mexico for a short stint training with Club Americas 2nd team while I awaited the outcome of the show. I was not chosen as the winner, who received a 4 year six figure contract with English Premiership club Everton FC, but I did begin dealing with an agent.
In the meantime I was making plans through another Edmonton based academy to head over to Germany for a series of trials with professional clubs around the country. After many weeks of trials with many different clubs I finally impressed a top level semi-professional team called SV Heimstetten in Munich, Germany. I stayed with this team for 2 years and really thought this was my true step into the professional world of soccer (Fussball). In the meantime I went on a few different trials, and continued dealing with other clubs as I looked for my next step. There was a lot of excitement as I began conversations with top clubs like TSV 1860 Munich, and FC St. Gallen in Switzerland, but then injuries came in to play, and my mental state began to take a turn for the worse. After going on loan with TSV 1865 Dachau I made the decision to leave Germany and go back home to Canada.
When I returned I had no idea what I was going to do, but stumbled upon an opportunity to play in a tournament to showcase my skills in front of an audience of University scouts from around the United States. Up until this point I had never gave much thought to the University route, but after the tournament I received a lot of interest from a few different schools. Unfortunately eligibility was a bit of an issued due to my soccer history, and I decided if I was going to pursue Varsity soccer I would do it in Canada since the rules were not as strict. This lead me to Vancouver Island University.
After just one weekend visit to Vancouver Island, with one training session for the Mariners, and one training session down in Victoria for the Highlanders FC I made my decision to start my University career in Nanaimo. The next three years there were full of accomplishments and rewards. I was celebrated for being a part of the Mariners, and I even received awards and scholarships for academic achievements which was a nice bonus. But what really changed my life was getting the opportunity to open up to my spiritual side via the Baha’i Teachings. A combination of my classes, my soccer, and my activities outside of those lead me to declare Baha’i and set off on a new kind of journey (read more on this journey here) which I hope to share more of in the blogs to come. That journey lasted 4 years and still continues, but I returned back to Vancouver Island University for the last two fall semesters to play for the Mariners and wrap up my 5 years of eligibility. Which leads me to today.
This is as brief as I can be about my entire life as a soccer player and it does not at all do justice to the amount of support I received, and the difficulty of the struggles I went through to continue on that path. I would never wish to change a thing about it, and today can only describe the entire experience as humbling. I wish to share my gratitude for all I crossed paths with in this journey as I have nothing but loving-kindness burning in my heart for each and every one of you. I feel relieved to say it is done now, and am looking forward to moving in to this next chapter of my life.
Thank you for reading,
VIU Mens Soccer – Beyond the Pitch 2017 by Stephen Ewashko: