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This article was published 12/3/2018 (1324 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Damian Truong has really kicked things up a notch this past year.
The 16-year-old Old St. Boniface resident was a key member of the Bonivital U17 boys’ soccer team that won the 2017 Canadian championship in Fredericton, N.B., last October by beating CS Mistral from Sherbrooke, Que.
On March 10, the Grade 11 Glenlawn Collegiate student was doubly honoured at Manitoba Soccer’s Night of Excellence, which was held at the Norwood Hotel. At the inaugural event, organized by the Manitoba Soccer Association, Truong and his teammates were recognized as team of the year while he also won the male player of the year award.
Talking to The Lance recently about his on-field achievements, as well as his tentative plans for the future, Truong said Bonivital’s championship-winning game was even sweeter in light of the loss the team suffered in 2016’s U16 final to Edmonton Juventus in Saskatoon, Sask.
"That made the win even better," Truong said, noting his favourite team is Barcelona and favourite player is Lionel Messi.
"Because we finished second the year before, we had the goal in our minds to bounce back to win the tournament, which made the success even sweeter. My adrenalin was pumping when we defended our lead and then extended it. It was an amazing feeling."
Truong said the influence of the team’s head coach, Tony Mazza, was a key factor in the team’s championship success last October, when the team netted an impressive 5-0 record and a +17 goal difference at the national tournament.
"Coach Mazza is passionate about the game, and we trained twice a day for a month before the tournament. As a unit, we knew that grit and hard work would be crucial to be successful at nationals," Truong said.
The teen has been playing soccer for as long as he can remember and says he first kicked a ball at the age of three.
Since then, he has been part of nearly every soccer program in the province. In his years with Bonivital, Truong has won several city championships and because he is an "age-advanced" player, he will get another chance this year to qualify for nationals for the fourth year in a row, which is a rare and unprecedented achievement for a youth player. Truong will also captain the team this coming season.
Last year, Truong also had the honour of representing Manitoba at the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg, and he is currently a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps Pre-Prospects Program in conjunction with Glenlawn, as well as the Manitoba Blizzard Pre-University Program. He has also been a guest player for Ontario team Erin Mills, and recently played with them in New York at a college showcase event.
"Erin Mills is a phenomenal team, and the Canada Summer Games was a wonderful experience. I was the youngest player on the team, and to have 1,500 fans watching a game was a neat experience," Truong said.
While he is already looking into university scholarships and talking to college coaches, Truong would ultimately love to play the ‘Beautiful Game’ professionally. However, he is level-headed about what it takes to achieve that goal.
"It’s hard to make the leap to pros, so before that you have to think about playing semi-professionally, and at the university and college level before that," he said.
"Also, having the Canadian Premier League coming to Winnipeg in the near future could be a gateway to bigger things. I’m super-pumped about a pro team coming to Winnipeg. It gives a very realistic goal for players of my age to aspire to."
In some ways, Truong’s passion for soccer is understandable, as the sport is very much a family affair.
His father, Oai, is a soccer coach and a past president of Bonivital, and his uncle Serge Bohemier, and aunties Julie Chan, Rose Bohemier, and Brigitte Bohemier, all went to the nationals at least once, and still play today.
As well, his three cousins — Alexandre and Celina, who are both nine, and Greyson who is seven (and age-advanced) — will all be beginning their club soccer experience with Bonivital this year.
Simon Fuller is the reporter/photographer for The Lance. Canstar’s senior reporter, he joined the team in June 2009 to write for The Sou’wester, which was then the new paper in the Canstar family.