It's a long trip from Coquitlam to Lyon, France and Sophia Ferreira made it in soccer boots.
The Grade 11 student at Centennial secondary was one of a handful of Canadian players selected to attend a prestigious summer training camp sponsored by the sporting goods manufacturer adidas.
The Generation adidas international program invites top players from affiliated youth clubs across North America to immerse them for a week in a professional training program in Europe. Ferreira was among 16 girls from Canada and another 33 from the United States who lived, breathed and played soccer last month with the Lyonnais Olympique women’s academy team and its coaches.
Ferreira said the experience left an indelible impression.
“You realize what you have to do to become pro,” she said “It’s a high standard.”
But not one beyond her reach, Ferreira added.
To get the invite, Ferreira had to be nominated by her club, Coquitlam Metro-Ford, where she was 2018’s female player of the year after she captained her U15 Premier League team to a cup championship. She also scored the winning goal for her high school team, the Centaurs, when they defeated Fleetwood Park secondary in the 2018 B.C. girls soccer championship, then led the team to repeat this spring.
Still, Ferreira said, the prospect of training with the best of the best of her soccer peers, in an environment where the sport is treated as a profession even at the U19 level, was daunting.
“They’re a lot more focussed,” she said. “If you’re playing soccer, you’re playing soccer and nothing else.”
Ferreira, who also plays other sports, including field hockey, said the schedule of daily two-hour workouts — sometimes twice a day — was gruelling at first.
“Playing soccer every day has a toll,” she said. “It was a lot more tiring.”
Still, the effort paid off when the players got an opportunity to watch and work out with the professional players on Olympique Lyonnais’ first team, including the team’s retired superstar Sonia Bompastor, who also played for France’s national women’s team for 13 years.
In between training sessions, the young North American players got to sightsee and tour Parc Olympique Lyonnais, the 59,000-seat stadium that hosted the women’s World Cup final earlier last summer.
When the camp culminated with a competitive match between teams comprised of its participants, Ferreira said she was ready to play to her “full potential.” And that self-confidence has carried through into the early weeks of her club season, where Ferreira said she’s sharing some of the things she learned in Lyon with her Metro-Ford teammates and pushing herself to play with more composure on the ball.
“It’s a different type of soccer,” she said.