In one heartbeat, Orléans teenagers Abdoulaye Samaké and Yann-Alexandre Fillion realized their lives were about to change.
They both received the news they’d been waiting for: they made the Montreal Impact’s professional soccer academy and would be moving across the provincial border in the new year.
“Every day I would go, wait, nothing would come,” said Samaké of the call from the team. When the deadline came, he thought he didn’t make it – until his parents took him out for dinner and told him the news.
“I had to go to the washroom, splash water on my face to make sure it wasn’t a dream,” he said.
Fillion’s father, who received the letter of acceptance by email from the soccer club, was planning on presenting a Montreal Impact scarf to Fillion when he gave him the news. But Fillion had already checked his dad’s email and found the letter.
“I called Abdou and we were insanely happy,” he said.
Fillion, a Grade 11 student in Louis Riel high school’s sport study program grew up in Chapel Hill and played with the Hull Soccer Association, coached by Sylver Castagnet and Antony Ramel.
Samaké, who lives in Convent Glen, is a Grade 10 student at the school and plays with Ottawa South United, coached by Russell Shaw and Jim Lalianos.
He came to Canada at age seven from Mali in northeast Africa, and got an early start playing for the Gloucester Hornets.
The high school teammates will have to miss playing in the spring provincial championship with the Louis Riel Rebelles.
In january, both will leave their families in Orléans to move into residence at Marie-Victorin college, where the Montreal Impact train.
They’re going to be roommates, responsible for getting themselves to training, cooking, and completing schoolwork.
They’ll start by playing with the under-16 team for six months before moving up to the under-18 group.
The Montreal Impact plays in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy league, made up of 80 teams from various North American academies. Only two of the 80 are from Canada: the Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
It’s going to be quite the step up from their Ottawa teams, where both are used to seeing lots of playing time on the field. In Montreal, there are 25 players on the squad – but only 18 will travel and compete in each match.
“Here, when we’re good, we know we’ll play every game,” Samaké said. “The first few months, it’ll be hard to get matches. There will be constant pressure.”
Fillion said the training schedule will change too, compressed into fewer hours, but more intense.
University soccer could happen for either player in the future, but right now it’s just plan B. Both players see training with the Impact as the first step towards playing soccer professionally.
“It’s the beginning of a dream,” Samaké said.