In a little under two months Rachel Bootsma and Julia Anderson will embark on the opportunity of a lifetime.
The pair of Shuswap Youth Soccer Association players will be heading to Europe for two weeks in May with Saibo Talic and the U17 and U18 European Football School.
“It’s a really great opportunity for these girls. This is the kind of thing they will remember for the rest of their lives,” said Kevin Harrison, SYSA executive director.
Harrison coached the duo last year and refers to them as outstanding and hard- working athletes, who deserve the honour of being selected by Talic to play for EFS.
The select squads were hand-picked by Talic himself over the past year.
Talic has a wealth of knowledge, having played and coached at the professional club level in his native Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“I have been coming to Salmon Arm the past four years and I saw Rachel and Julia’s potential to grow as players and people. They work hard, they have good skill and they both show social maturity and a good attitude,” said Talic.
The UEFA (Union of European Football Association) B-licensed coach stresses the girls’ character was one of the most important factors in selecting them to the squad traveling to Europe.
“It’s not just about soccer, it’s about life experience. Although the focus will be on soccer, in our off-time we will visit historical and cultural sights.”
The two week trip will take the girls to the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
Along the way the team will feature in six matches and against top youth clubs, three in Germany, two in the Netherlands and one in Belgium.
“I’m looking forward to the difference in the way the game is played in Europe and each country,” said 16-year-old Anderson.
Bootsma on the other hand is eager to immerse herself in the Dutch culture as she is of Dutch heritage.
Both girls call the upcoming trip a dream.
They share the same aspirations and hope to be recruited by a European university to play soccer overseas.
This trip will be Talic’s 19th time taking a squad across the pond and, as a result, he takes it very seriously.
For the past few months the girls have been making the trip to the Lower Mainland each weekend to train with the squad.
The team is made up of girls from across the province.
Talic and his crew of highly regarded coaches have been working with the team on tactics, set plays and technical skills, something he also teaches in his camps.
“Julia and Rachel both show lots of physical strength and soccer intelligence, which will be very beneficial for the team,” said Talic.
He explains that while North American players may be just as physically fit and strong as the Europeans, the biggest difference between the European and North American game is technical skill.
Each of the 19 players on the squad will be guaranteed 25 minutes of action on the pitch in each match.
Talic says if their form is good, they will be rewarded with more playing time.
Before Talic heads overseas in May, he will take a group of U13 and U14 girls teams on a tour of California to play up to five matches.
Making the trip to the Golden State from SYSA will be Angalena Cross, Lina Fankhauser and Hannah Tarzwell.
Each year EFS alternates between taking boys and girls on their soccer tours.
Talic says he likes to use the California trip for the younger kids as a stepping stone for eventually making the trip to Europe.
“My plan is for those kids that got to California to also go overseas to play in Europe with EFS,” said Talic.
Harrison says the trio will be exposed to a higher level of game play, which can only benefit the three when they return to the Shuswap.
This past weekend, EFS and Talic were in town at the SASCU Memorial Sports Complex for a five-day intensive camp.
The clinic focused on a repetition of learning and perfecting the basic technical and tactical skills that form the base of great players.
“The camp has been great. There was lots of skill, the kids were engaged, energetic, and they showed a lot of passion. They had fun,” said Amar Talic, Saibo’s son, also a UEFA B-licensed coach.
Blessed with sunny skies and warm temperatures, the indoor camp was able to practise outside on a few occasions.
“The quality of coaching that Saibo and EFS bring to Salmon Arm is unrivalled anywhere in B.C.,” says Harrison.
That quality of coaching draws large numbers of players to each camp.
More than 70 SYSA players registered for the spring camp, and more had to be turned away.