London calling

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

To Jordan Ongaro and Chris Martinez it's an opportunity of a lifetime.

A chance to go to England and show that Canadian kids can play professional soccer.

At least that's the goal as the two leave for London today to attend a weeklong evaluation camp.

"I'm going to go there with the mindset that I'm one of them and just try my hardest," said Ongaro, 15.

"I know it's going to be hard to play (over) there, so I'm just going to try my best."

Set up in part by Ongaro's uncle Ross, who runs the soccer academy at Archbishop O'Leary high school, the two players are vying for youth club spots on the various professional teams expected to scout the camp.

"There have been players in the past that have gone to England to try out for teams," said Ross.

"There is a FIFA agent who scouts local players and has just started in the last year and a half looking at Canadian players.

"There are more and more kids going over the pond for a chance to be seen and be scouted. If they make it that's great.

"If they don't, they come home. But at least they got the chance."

Ongaro is a striker in the ninth grade at J.J. Bowlen junior high. Martinez, 17, is a defender in the 11th grade at O'Leary and is a member of the school's soccer academy.

Both play locally for the Edmonton Internazionale Soccer Club's under-18 squad. Martinez was also a member of the Canadian team that competed at a tournament in Trinidad and Tobago last summer.

Ross, who is accompanying the two players to England, believes they both have a chance of earning a spot on an English youth team.

"Chris is coming back from an injury right now. He broke his ankle in December, but he's 95% recovered from that injury so we're hoping he can show what he's good at," Ross said.

"Jordan is a goalscorer and with the younger kids I think he's got a chance.

"Chris is in a little tougher because he only has one year of youth soccer left. So he's got to make something of it right now where Jordan has three years of it. We hope they both do well and play confident."

Getting over the stigma of being a Canadian soccer player maybe one of the biggest challenges facing the two in England. It would be similar to an English hockey player coming to Canada for a junior tryout.

However, both have European passports due to their parents Italian ancestry, which is a big advantage.

"That is huge," Ross said. "It's a major bonus because you're not considered an import in Europe."

Through the academy at O'Leary Ross and his staff are constantly trying to identify players that are able to go to the next level.

Over the past six years they have sent a number of players to colleges in the United States, and a few have gone abroad to South America, Central America and Europe to pursue a professional careers.

"Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't work for various reasons," Ross said. "As long as someone has the ambition to keep going you have to have opportunities for them. This is just another opportunity for the kids."

Both players are hoping to make the most of the opportunities presented to them. However they both admit not really knowing what to expect when they get to London.

"I think this is going to be a little different than going with Canada to Trinidad," Martinez said.

"I'm hoping to go down there, play well and just try my best. Hopefully they like me and I'll go from there."


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