My friend at the World Cup
I met Samuel in my first hours of high school, in a French class at Félix-Leclerc school, sport-studies soccer.
Fifteen years old later, last Wednesday, a Facetime call from Sam, still one of my best friends: here he is in the center of the field of a gigantic stadium, a few hours from Canada's first match at the World Cup.
“Look at that, man! he said, showing me the stadium.
A little guy from Repentigny, whom absolutely nothing predestined to play soccer, is at the World Cup. The Mondial, the biggest sporting event in the world, the most prestigious of all.
A story of work
His story is not that of the star full of talent. That's what makes it interesting.
It's an unexpected story, built on hard work, defying expectations.
Today is wonderful. We see the finality, the moments of exaltation, the consecration, him with the jersey of CF Montreal and Canada.
But before the tricks, there were all the efforts in the shadows , all the disappointments overcome, all the sacrifices.
The exodus, first, from Quebec at age 14 to France.
Imagine, at age 14, leaving the cocoon family. Leaving alone, with his soccer cleats and a dream. Come on, have to leave family and friends behind, see them party without you, Facetime calls, come back to the family at Christmas for two weeks, leave too quickly.
After France, go to Germany. Another country, you have to adapt.
I remember going to see him in Düsseldorf, where he was playing.
I still see him running at the training with tires hooked behind him, doing laps of the field. Only the Germans have to do that. And there was just one Quebecer who overtook them. A work story, I tell you.
At each step, it was said that he had reached his limit. Even he had to believe he was at the end of it. But no, he always managed to exceed expectations. Each time.
Selected one of the last to Team Quebec, he became the best. Selected with the Canadian team at 18, he became a pillar. He returned to Montreal, with the Impact, eight years after leaving Europe. We didn't really know how good he was. He became the captain, the face of the club.
And despite everything, humility accompanies it. Never the head swollen, always the two well anchored feet. Always open to discuss with a supporter, to listen to his friends. Everyone can testify to this.
A possible dream
15 years ago, it was not even possible for a Quebecer to be at the Mondial.
The whole story of Sam began in the same place as that of all the young Quebecers who watch the Mondial today, and dream of being there one day.
The first soccer games, the video game games where you played the World Cup yourself, the tournaments, the good and bad games, the disappointments, the hours messing around on a field with friends, the work at each practice, the national teams, the laps of the field dragging tires hooked to the hips.
And there is for some, including one who was crazy enough to believe it, a World Cup world.