Soccer practice in the Netherlands was quite an experience for two Nanaimo boys. They saw what they can do, and how much they still have to learn.
Rhys Foster, 12, and Peter Koltronis, 11, had the opportunity to practise and play with Rotterdam Excelsior’s youth team this past summer.
The boys train with coach Ezra Cremers at Ezra Soccer school, which is affiliated with Rotterdam Excelsior. Cremers regularly returns to the club for professional development and this time, he had an opportunity to bring along a couple of Canadian prospects.
“[They’re] definitely standouts, probably some of the best players on the Island for their age group,” Cremers said. “These players work very hard, there’s lots of promise there and that’s why they were given the opportunity to go overseas and train with the best.”
Holland is known for its superior youth player development, Cremers said. The country’s national men’s team is ranked No. 2 in the world behind only the World Cup champions, Spain.
So Foster and Koltronis found themselves amongst high-calibre talent.
“It wasn’t so much the style, but it was the speed. The speed of the game is so much quicker because the players are that much better,” said the coach. “Our Canadian boys are very physical and athletic but they really had to work on really thinking the moves, not just one or two moves ahead, but three, four, five moves ahead and making sure they’re in the right position.”
The language barrier was manageable. Coaches could speak English, and Ezra’s father Friso – who is from Rotterdam – made the trip and helped translate.
There was plenty of time for sightseeing, and the boys also got to see some professional games.
Now, Cremers said, they’ll start their seasons back in Nanaimo with a more worldly perspective on soccer.
“It motivates them,” said Cremers. “They see where the level is at, and the bar at the highest level.”