Opposing players at the CONCACAF under-15 girls soccer championship would be well-advised to keep their head on a swivel when Team Canada’s Bryana Buttar is on the pitch.
That helpful hint is courtesy of Rob Giesbrecht, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s coach who works with Buttar in the Abbotsford Middle School soccer academy.
“In our academy, we have about half boys and half girls,” he explained. “We separate them into tiers . . . and she’s in the top group. So she’s playing against boys who play in the BC Soccer Premier League (BCSPL) who are her age or older.
“And she’s just rocking them. These guys are getting tackled by this younger girl, harder than any guy they play against. You’ve got to see the look on some of these guys’ faces when Bry runs them over. And it’s always clean, it’s always ball-first.
“She’s a competitive warrior.”
Indeed, Buttar’s game isn’t as smooth as her surname would suggest, and that’s a good thing. The 13-year-old centre back’s signature is her passion for physical play, and it was a big factor in her selection for the U15 CONCACAF tourney – which opens next week in the Cayman Islands – despite the fact she’s two years younger than the age maximum.
“I play really aggressive,” she acknowledged with a chuckle. “I’m one of those girls that doesn’t really say sorry. I just kind of hit them and keep going.”
Buttar’s rise to the national U15 team has been been downright dizzying. Last year, she wasn’t even sure she had what it took to make Fraser Valley FC’s U13 team for the BCSPL. She not only cracked that roster, but also made the provincial squad and ended up being invited to the ID camp for the Canadian U15 team in early June in Toronto.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it, because I was one of the youngest players, and some of them had been to the U17 World Cup already,” noted Buttar, who was 12 years old at the time of the tryout and didn’t turn 13 until June 20.
“The first practice, I was kind of nervous – all the players were so much bigger than me and so much better, and I didn’t really do that well. But I talked to my (club) coach, and he told me to hold my head up high and be proud of what I can do. The next days, I did way better. I just thought positive.”
Buttar got the news that she’d been picked for Team Canada during a drive back home from a provincial team practice, and was “so surprised.”
“I just jumped up and down and screamed and almost caused my dad to have an accident,” she related with a chuckle.
The precocious Buttar is arguably the most promising young female soccer player from Abbotsford since Sophie Schmidt, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist who made her senior national team debut in 2005 at the age of 16.
Giesbrecht cautioned that saddling a youngster with such lofty expectations is premature at this point, but noted that Buttar is “on that path.”
“She’s like Sophie, where she’s an outstanding player and also a great competitor,” he said.
“I think the fact that Bry is so grounded and such a humble girl bodes well for her. She’s not going to get too far ahead of herself. She’s got a great family, her club coach is a great guy, she’s in the provincial program – people are looking out for her.
“It’s going to be exciting to see what the future is like for her.”
The CONCACAF soccer region encompasses North America, Central America and the Caribbean, and at the 16-team Cayman Islands tourney, Canada is in Group D alongside Haiti, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.