By Steve Hubrecht
An Invermere teenager is living out his athletic dream, trying out with three top-flight English soccer clubs this month.
Henrik Regitnig has been spending a week to a week and a half training with each of the U18 squads of Aston Villa, Ipswich and Crystal Palace in the U.K. this October, a program arranged by the goalkeeping academy in Vancouver that Henrik has been attending for more than a year.
I grew up living in a small town Invermere and Ive always dreamed of making something out of soccer, so its kind of surreal to have that within my grasp, Henrik told The Pioneer, adding the pace of the game as it is played in England is much faster, at least mentally, than what hes used to in Canada and that it took a few days to adjust.
Henrik has been a soccer goalkeeper for many years, beginning at the urging of his coach here in Invermere Jurgen Striegl and continuing on to the summer of 2013 when he moved to the Lower Mainland to attend the Sells goalkeeping academy under the tutelage of coach Pedro de Norbriga. This past summer, Mr. de Norbiga invited some English coaches to the academy to view some of the young athletes, and from that came Henriks opportunity to train with and try out for the under-18 versions of the three professional soccer clubs.
When The Pioneer spoke to Henrik on Friday, October 17th, he was in England, having arrived on Friday, October 3rd. He had spent a week or so first with Aston Villa then with Ipswich, and was just a few days into his time at Crystal Palace.
Any of the teams can give you a two-year scholarship if they are impressed with you, if they really want you, he said, adding that even if none of the clubs offer him a scholarship right on the spot, he still stands a chance to be offered one a few weeks or months down the road as the clubs finalize their teams.
The first few days were really eye-opening, said Henrik, saying he initially struggled at Aston Villa adjusting to the different pace of the game, and feels he didnt particularly impress the coaches there, but that he then started to even out and really show how he can perform during his week at Ipswich.
Unfortunately for Henrik, Ipswich already has three goalkeepers on its U18 team, and theres not really room for a fourth, but although he was just two days into his time with Crystal Palace when he talked to The Pioneer, he expressed optimism that Crystal Palace was the best fit for him.
Its really going good here so far. Ive only trained a full day here, but I really feel quite welcomed. I think I have more of a place here, and they only have two U18 goalkeepers on the (Crystal Palace) team so far, said Henrik.
Even if the trials result in no scholarship offers from the clubs, its still a great experience and will open other doors for him, he said.
It gives me a lot more opportunity going back (to Canada) if nothing comes out of it (in England). Ill have a more impressive resume when it comes to getting (soccer) scholarships to universities, said Henrik. And there are a lot of other professional soccer leagues out here in Europe (beside the English league), so theres always the possibility to make a living off of soccer, and this experience would help with that.
Henrik has been staying billet-style with three different host families during his time in England one for each of the clubs hes tried out at and has found them all friendly and welcoming. Hes also adjusting to English culture.
Im getting used to the accents and the British slang, he said.
Henrik will fly back to Vancouver today (Friday, October 24th), but said hes ready to turn right back around on another flight should he get an offer from one of the clubs.