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Another Level: My Journey to Ottawa Fury FC By Antoine Coupland

By Antoine Coupland, 07/26/19, 10:15AM EDT

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Photo: Steve Kingsman | Freestyle Ottawa

I’m not sure if there was one moment where I really felt I could be a professional soccer player one day.

But I got yelled at by a coach a few years ago, when I was playing U-11. I wasn’t very good and the coach basically told me I was the worst player out there. That was the turning point, when I realized like, okay, I need to start getting better and take this more seriously. I don’t get down on myself; that kind of criticism, it just motivates me. Makes that fire burn a little hotter, you know?

Soccer has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Before kindergarten, when I was in daycare, we had this Brazilian coach who gave the kids lessons. That’s my first memory of the game. Doing those little running drills, kicking the ball for the first time, winning medals.

Now I’m here. Antoine Coupland. Professional footballer at Ottawa Fury FC. I’m still not used to how that sounds.

Photo: Steve Kingsman | Freestyle Ottawa

Everything here is on another level; the coaches, the players, the facilities. It’s a professional environment and I’m loving every part of it, every minute. The guys have taken care of me, they’re like big brothers. Just walking into the stadium, it motivates you to get better every day. All I want to do is be a starter, score goals, be a good teammate.

And I might be young, but I know this is a big deal, and a huge honour for me to be here, with this club. Not a lot of 15-year-olds get a chance to play pro (if I listed everyone I want to thank in helping me get to this huge next step, you’d be reading for hours). It’s hard to put into words what it means to be part of something like this, a Canadian kid on a professional Canadian team. The fact that people believed in me – my parents, Julian de Guzman, Nikola Popovic, my teammates – means so much to me. Especially since I’m a small guy, people will say, “oh, he’s not very big and he looks young,” that just makes me want it more. To have people like that that in your corner is so important.

Photo: Steve Kingsman | Freestyle Ottawa

So, what was it like when I got into my first pro game last week? On another level, just like everything else about being here. The players kept telling me, this was the time, you’re going in. I started to get a bit nervous, right until play started. Then the nerves went away. All I wanted to do was something that would make the coaches want to put me in again. And again. I don’t want this to be a one-time thing.

For now, it’s all about preparation and staying ready. I wake up early and go to bed early. I’ve started going to the gym after training – a couple Fury players got me into doing that. I eat well and my parents will remind me to stay hydrated. But sleep, for me, is the big one. I need to be ready for the next practice and the next game.

This is my job right now and that’s great. What 15-year-old around here has a better job than me?

Photo: Steve Kingsman | Freestyle Ottawa