Jordan is off to Europe

January 13th, 2013

Looking for a pro contract
VIU Mariner heading to Italy to catch the eye of European scouts at camp
Josh Aldrich
Aily News


Jordan de Graff is leaving on a jet plane today, and he doesn't know when he'll be back again.

The five-foot-nine forward did enough in one year with the Vancouver Island University Mariners men's soccer team to receive an invitation to go to the Genova International School of Soccer in Ovada, Italy.

The camp is the first step along the way to earning a pro contract in Europe for de Graff.

There is no guarantee he will get a contract, but it will all be on him to impress scouts.

"It's been the goal since I first started playing, but there's not a lot of opportunities here (to play professionally in Europe)," said de Graff. "It is really key to go over there and get put under the microscope and that's where your chances will come. It is by no means a done deal."

De Graff may be small, but he is tough. He was one of the Island's top rugby players, earning an invitation to try out for the senior men's team this past summer. But he turned it down.

Mariners head coach Bill Merriman got in his ear early enough and had talked him back to soccer.

While de Graff, who had played international with the B.C. men's seven's team, and rugby Canada split on good terms, he understands that he has likely closed that door for the future.

"Bill saved my soccer career," said de Graff. "He brought soccer back in the picture and I really enjoyed.

"The soccer was great at VIU, the work rate was very similar to the work rate I've had my whole life, so it was a good fit for me.

"If Italy doesn't work out I'll be back here to try and get that (national) title."

If he signs with a team, Europe will become his permanent home, but if he doesn't sign he'll be back in April.

De Graff will arrive in Northern Italy and spend the next couple of weeks preparing for the camp. The camp will run another couple of weeks and out of it the top players will be selected to teams for a nine-game tournament against some of the top youth teams in Italy and Sao Palo, Brazil. Once the tournament is over, pro teams in Europe will have the opportunity to sign players to contracts.

The camp and tournament is the brain child of Australian professional soccer player Morris Pagniello who was surprised at the lack of opportunity for North American and Oceania players to get scouted and earn contracts in Europe.

De Graff originally caught the eye of one of the camp's scouts, Langara Falcons head coach David Shankland, while participating in a tryout with B.C. Soccer during this past season.

He got the phone call about his invitation over the Christmas break.

"I should be able to make it into the tournament . . . and hopefully play an important role on the team so that I can get a look," he said.

He got off to a slow start in his freshman season in the Pacific Western Athletic Association, but finished strong, scoring big goals in the provincial tournament and the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship en route to a silver medal.

"He's a very crafty player, he had a lot of success at the youth level, so coming in this environment was definitely a challenge for him to get used to, but once he caught on he did very well," said Merriman.

De Graff's small stature may be a big detriment, but Merriman says he makes up for it in other ways.

"He does have a lot of pace and skill, but he's going to have to use all of the players around him to make himself stand out," said Merriman.

"He catches people's eyes, but he's going to have to be tricky because teams are getting bigger and bigger players."