A formative experience

Six Impact Academy players at the U17 FIFA World Cup

For some, these types of opportunities simply don’t ever present themselves. But six players from the Montreal Impact Academy will get to live an experience that only a handful of youngsters their age get to live firsthand.

Benjamin Collins, Keesean Ferdinand, Tomas Giraldo, Sean Rea, Matthew Catavolo, and Mouhamadou Kane will all join Canada’s squad at the U17 FIFA World Cup, which begins this Saturday at 4pm, when the Reds will open the tournament against the hosts, Brazil, in Brasilia.

Needless to say, opening a tournament of this stature against a nation often considered the mecca of football is already an experience in itself.

“From a human aspect, it’s something they’ll never forget,” said Academy director and Impact U19 head coach Philippe Eullaffroy. “Experiences like these help develop the character, the person, and the soccer player they want to become. It’s huge. They have an opportunity to take part in the biggest international event on the planet for this age group. It’s unique, and they’re part of a small group of people that get to live it.”

Five of the six Impact players called up by the national squad currently play for the Impact’s U19 squad, in the US Soccer Development Academy, while Mouhamadou Kane plays on the U17 squad, under head coach Jason Di Tullio.

Di Tullio, who was a former player before becoming a coach, was part of Canada’s U20 side in 2003, helping his team make it all the way to the quarterfinal of the FIFA Youth World Championship before falling 2-1 to Spain in the United Arab Emirates.

“I can tell you it’s an experience you’ll never forget,” said Impact U17 head coach Jason Di Tullio. “I told them to get their bodies and mindsets ready to live something that you can only dream about. At the end of the day, you’re one of 21 players fortunate enough to represent their country and play with that logo on your chest.”

A positive sign for the Academy

For Eullaffroy and Di Tullio, this is an excellent opportunity for the youngsters to get out of their comfort zone and experience a level of soccer they’ve never seen before. But more than anything, it confirms the work done at the Academy since its creation, in terms of producing high-level talent that can make an impact in these types of tournaments.

“It’s a part of what confirms that we’re going in the right direction,” added Eullaffroy. “It recognizes and validates that work done at the Academy and the direction we decided to take. It’s interesting for us, and it elevates our standards. It’s one of the parameters used to see if our player development is going well.”

“It gives hope to every player,” explained Di Tullio. “The younger players can aspire to be there one day. It’s critical for the Academy. It’s a huge credit to the work that’s been done over the last seven years, and the club and the Academy should be proud.”

You can watch Canada in action live on RDS and TSN, with kick off for the tournament opener against the hosts set for 4pm on Saturday, October 26.