By Larry Moko
A soccer phenom from St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School returned to class Monday after having spent nine days in Costa Rica as a member of Canada’s U15 boys’ soccer team.
Ryan Raposo, who was the Knights’ senior team MVP last season despite only being in Grade 9, suited up for two games against the Costa Rican opposition. He made an impact, too, scoring a goal in the 76th minute of the second contest. That lifted Canada to a 2-2 tie after the home country took the opener, 5-1.
Raposo arrived back in Hamilton with some valuable experience from the pitch along with an assortment of rocks and sea shells from one particularly beautiful beach.
“It was a U16 team we were playing,” Raposo said of the two friendlies in San Jose. “We were U15. And our coaches were telling us they even had some U17 players.”
That age difference, according to the two-time Team Ontario veteran, made the game much faster and harder to adapt to for the Canadians.
Raposo felt just being selected for the 18-man national squad was a major accomplishment. He currently plays at the club level for the Burlington Bayhawks.
There were three regional talent identification camps held across Canada prior to the final selection camp which involved 34 players and took place in Toronto for four days last March.
“I was actually really surprised to get asked to go to the initial camp,” Raposo said. “But once I got there, I was confident I was good enough to play. I was pretty much the only club guy there. The others were from Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps … professional academies. I was just coming from a little club.”
Raposo’s first exposure to organized soccer was at the age of 4 with Mount Hamilton.
He then advanced to the rep level with Hamilton Sparta.
Raposo’s mother, Lori, recalls one of Ryan’s first games in the 4-5 age group. “By the half, he had already scored nine goals,” she said. “So at the half, the coach put Ryan in net. The final score was 9-0.”
In 2013, he was selected Male Player of the Year at Burlington Youth Soccer Club.
Already, Raposo has competed in France, Portugal, Philadelphia, Montreal and Germany. He also took part in the 2014 Ontario Summer Games in Windsor.
Raposo appreciates all that his mother and father (Rui) have done for him over the years in soccer. In addition, he says his older brothers, Spencer and Lucas, have been helpful, too, by taking him down a notch and not letting him become “cocky”.
“My parents drove me all around Canada and North America,” Raposo said. “And they sent me to places like Portugal, Germany and France. If your parents aren’t as committed as you are, then you are not going to go far in soccer. It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance.”
Raposo also became more skillful by watching his brothers. Said Lori: “Ryan used to watch Spencer playing soccer. And while at the games, he would always have a soccer ball at the end of his foot learning tricks.”
Two days after returning from Costa Rica, Raposo attended a Burlington Bayhawks practice for next season’s team.
“I still want to become a professional soccer player,” he said. “But it’s hard in Canada. In Europe, they have so many clubs to go to and so many options.
“My goal is to play in Germany. I was there on trials for a German team. They want me to come back. Hopefully, I can go there when I’m older.”