13-year-old New Brunswick soccer player first in province to join Montreal Impact Academy

Phoenix Roberts, 13, shoots a soccer ball at the Atlantic Championships in Corner Brook, N.L. in July. Courtesy: Aaron Roberts

A 13-year-old soccer player from New Brunswick is heading to Montreal for an experience of a lifetime after being selected to join the Montreal Impact Academy — the first ever to be selected from the province to join the Impact.

Phoenix Roberts, a keeper from Moncton, was selected after being invited to a tryout for the academy while its scouting team went to the Atlantic Soccer Championships in July.

Roberts said he had tryouts for five days and dressed up for the team to train with them. He said it was intense training and what made it a challenge was more about the technical skills needed, but he eventually got selected which is exciting.

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“First in history to go and get scouted from New Brunswick to Montreal, that’s pretty exciting,” he said.

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“I can learn a lot of new things, I can get better because they’re a high-performance team, more strict coaches … and eventually they’ll coach me so good I could probably be in the pros.”

Aaron Roberts and Team NB pose with their medals after the Atlantic Championships in July in Corner. Courtesy: Aaron Roberts

His goal is something that could be obtainable by attending the academy, as approximately 10 to 15 per cent of the trained players within the club go on to sign with the professionals.

The Academy started in 2011 and consists of several Academy teams and the Major League Soccer team. According to Raphael Larocque-Cyr with Montreal Impact, there’s a total of 26 players from the Academy that have signed with professional teams around the world since starting in 2011.

Knowing those numbers and the potential to even make it to FIFA-level is what has Roberts most excited about attending the Academy.

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“I’m 13 and I’m already in the Montreal Impact, that’s a gigantic step for me because I still have a long time to get better and better,” he said.

Excited and sad

Attending the Academy also means Roberts will have to move to Montreal and stay with a host family as he goes through six years of school and training, an aspect of the journey his parents are both excited and sad about.

Roberts’ father Aaron told Global News they’re “ultimately super-ecstatic for him.”

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He said they knew it might happen at some point in his son’s life, but the family wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon.

Aaron said they’ve always known Roberts had the passion for soccer and would often get called to play in higher divisions — “he’s more of a match for kids older than him,” he said. But getting into the Academy means his son gets to do what he loves every day and improves his chances to go further with the sport he loves.

Phoenix Roberts, centre, shakes hands with an opposing team after a game at the U13 Atlantic Soccer Championships. Courtesy: Aaron Roberts

“It really does open the door for the possibilities,” he said.

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Their son’s departure, though, still means an absence in their lives, he said.

“We’re those crazy parents that go to everything and attend everything physically possible, make sure that he doesn’t miss out, whatever it is we can do for him,” Aaron said.

“When we drop him off and drive home it’s going to be like crickets, not only are we not going to have him underneath the house, we’re not going to have like the driving to and from practice … it’s going to be a whole other dynamic.”

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A GoFundMe was also started by a colleague of Aaron’s in order to assist the family in setting Roberts up in Montreal. The campaign was started given the short notice provided to help the family in transporting the 13-year-old to Montreal and help him purchase equipment and other necessities for his journey.

Aaron said he didn’t even know at first that the campaign had been started.

Roberts and his family make their way to Montreal to begin his time at the Academy Sunday and he will begin school Aug. 30.

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