Ask Magnusen Ford Mariners FC technical director Ian Knight about Grant Fadden, and the superlatives come fast and furious.
The 17-year-old left back is, in Knight’s estimation, a “great competitor,” a “natural leader” who “leads by example.”
“He’s perhaps an underrated player who hasn’t gained the recognition he should have, in terms of the provincial program,” Knight said of Fadden.
“He’s not flashy – he’s just one of those players who gets on and does a great job. He does a lot of things that can go unnoticed.”
If he’s under-appreciated in his home province, it’s ironic, then, that the effectiveness of Fadden’s game hasn’t escaped the notice of soccer experts overseas.
The Abbotsford native is currently in Germany with SC Feucht, living his dream of playing professionally. SC Feucht, a small club with 13 boys teams and a U23 men’s squad, acts as a feeder program for FC Nuremberg, a team in the Bundesliga, Germany’s top soccer league. Fadden’s U19 squad plays in the Landesliga and also sees action in the Cadet National League.
Fadden has been in Germany since early September, and he told The News via email that his experience has been both better and more difficult than he’d expected.
“It’s nothing like I’ve ever experienced at home,” he said. “The intensity and pace of play is very high. The biggest difference would have to be the attitude of the players. Everyone is tuned in and ready to perform.”
At the same time, moving away from home and adjusting to a vastly different culture has been a major transition for a youngster who was set to begin his Grade 12 studies at Abbotsford Senior Secondary this fall.
“As a kid you always want to be on your own,” Fadden noted, “but once you get here it’s way harder then you imagined. If it wasn’t for the coach and his wife (my hosts as there wasn’t time to find anyone else) I would be completely lost.
“Culture shock is enormous,” he added. “The language barrier is by far the hardest part, meals and the way of life is all different and takes getting used to.”
Fadden got his introduction to the European pro soccer scene in 2009, when he won a skills competition hosted by English club Bolton Wanderers FC in Chilliwack. He was invited to their Grand Skills Final in England, and competing against young athletes from around the globe, he managed a remarkable victory.
Bolton invited Fadden back a few months later to play for their international academy. He was set to return for a second stint in October 2011, but just a month before his departure, he broke his leg.
This past summer, Fadden’s Grand Skills victory led to an opportunity to train in Germany with a soccer exchange program for two weeks. His performance yielded a placement with SC Feucht.
Fadden, who captained the Mariners’ U17 boys side in the EA Sports BC Soccer Premier League, plans to return to Abbotsford in February to finish off his Grade 12 classes. In the meantime, he’s working on four courses – two online, and two at a high school in Feucht – while savouring every minute of his pro soccer odyssey.
“Soccer is the world to everyone (in Germany),” he marveled. “If there is a game being played at any level . . . they go out and support. For me as a player, this is perfect.”