Hanson Boakai youngest player to play a NASL game
EDMONTON – When FC Edmonton’s Hanson Boakai began his month-long stint with a professional soccer team in Germany, his training debut felt more like a cringe-worthy first day of high school.
He wasn’t sure where to go when he first walked into the change room at Fortuna Duesseldorf, a second division team.
“I was so lost,” he said. “I knew nobody. I went and sat in someone else’s seat in the change room and then got asked to move.”
Things didn’t get much better when Boakai hit the field.
“My first day there was really hard,” he admits. “I was nervous. It was a new club with people I didn’t know. I didn’t really fit in at first and I wasn’t used to the style of play.” But just as he does on the soccer pitch, Boakai refused to give up. He found his spot in the Duesseldorf change room, right beside American prospect Alejandro Wiley, who quickly became his friend. On the second day, he hit the field with new-found energy and was determined to make a good impression on the Duesseldorf coaching staff.
Boakai, born in Teldou, Guinea, returned from the training session to his adopted hometown of Edmonton on Monday. The player was all smiles, happy with his performance and hopeful that the weeks of training have brought him much closer to his dream of playing soccer in Europe.
“The coaches gave me a few things I still need to work on,” said the fast-talking, excitable player. “I need to play quicker, not dribble as much. I’m going to head back in June, which is a good thing. If they see I have developed and they really like me, then I think they will take me.”
A Canadian player getting asked to showcase his talents for a European team is a significant accomplishment on its own, but doing it at such a young age makes it all the more special.
It’s quite easy to forget the budding soccer star is just 17 years old, especially considering the expectations surrounding the diminutive midfielder far exceed his five-foot-four, 130-pound frame.
Boakai started breaking records in the North American Soccer League as soon as he stepped on the field. At 16 years old, Boakai last year dethroned FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller as the youngest player to play in an NASL game.
He was first called to play for Canada in 2011 with the under-15 team. Since then, he has represented Canada six times. He has been touted by many across the country as one of the most promising future Canadian soccer stars.
“He is one of the top young prospects in the country,” said Miller. “He still has his faults and weaknesses, which we will continue to work on, but he has been blessed with an incredible amount of natural talent.”
Boakai started playing soccer with his older brother, Preson, when the family lived in Guinea. Playing in bare feet on the dirt fields in Africa is where he found his profound love for the sport. Boakai’s family — his parents are originally from Liberia — came to Edmonton as refugees when he was seven.
He’s been playing competitively in the city ever since. He was with Xtreme FC before joining the FC Edmonton reserves in 2011.
Source: Edmonton Journal