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Luke Max and the global game that is soccer
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Luke Max is ready to travel the world to pursue his dreams.

Moving from Sudbury to Toronto in grade 10 and leapfrogging from the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club (GSSC) to International FC Academy might not have seemed like that big a deal for the now 18 year old midfielder.

But devoting the next two months of his life, at this point in time, taking a real crack at earning a spot on the Viterbese Division III roster in Italy is a whole other level altogether – and one which he might not have fully appreciated, even as he migrated quickly to the world’s most popular game as a youngster.

“I started playing house league (with Sudburnia) and I really enjoyed it,” said Max, just days before heading overseas. “I did all of the sports, but I kept telling my dad to put me in competitive soccer.”

At the age of 12, that wish would be granted, connecting with coach Stephane Legrand and the GSSC crew. “When I was younger, I was more of a goal scorer,” Max recalled. “With GSSC, it was mostly offensive (roles), but he (Legrand) would move me around.”

“They did well at teaching me the basics of soccer, the fundamentals, how to take the ball down and make a good pass. They introduced me to the world of competitive soccer.”

Yet for as much as the GSSC is showing wonderful signs of progression, the truth is that it’s still not the GTA. There are simply some advantages that come with a city of three million people that Sudbury cannot duplicate.

“It was a lot more competitive, just because we had a chance to play a different team every single weekend, which we couldn’t do here,” said Max. And while that wider scope of soccer was welcomed, there was clearly going to be an acclimatization process, one which pretty much every local athlete encounters when they make their way south.

“Most of the team was better than me when I first started (with International FC),” said Max. “It took about half a year to three quarters of a year to actually start playing pretty good with the team. I would dribble a lot because I loved to dribble and I was able to do it, playing for the GSSC.”

“When I went there, I lost the ball a lot. It was more about passing.”

Before long, opportunities were becoming available for the youngest of four kids in the family.

“Once I started playing well near the end of the year, I got opportunities to play in the States in the age category above me,” Max explained. “My teammates were getting selected at ID camps, but unfortunately, I got kicked in the face and lost four teeth, so I missed the camp.”

Thankfully, last May, another door opened for the local product. His growth as a defensive midfielder had progressed to the point of accepting a month long stint in Italy, joining a small handful of Canadians that included talent from Vaughan, London and Montreal.

He now knew exactly what he had to show.

“I think I am good at intercepting the ball and quick pressing and then playing it simple, off to the midfielders who can make a nice play,” he said. “For me, it’s more about reading the play and getting in the right position to intercept it. I’m quick, but I wouldn’t say that I am super quick.”

“But that’s what IFC taught me, how to read the play. That was a main thing that they worked on with me.”

If Toronto soccer is different, Italy is a whole other world entirely.

“Everyone is so passionate about soccer there, it’s almost an art,” said Max. “It’s really quick there, with a lot of one touches and very aggressive. It was nice to make some friends who knew English and Italian so they could tell me what was happening on the field.”

Mixing in time with both IFC as well as the Ryerson Rams university team (practice squad) since his return to Canada last summer, Max makes his next international excursion well-stocked, now armed with an approved Visa and stamped papers to accommodate his ultimate goal.

“I am kind of hoping that I can make this team (Viterbese) or play with another third division team,” he said. “Being consistent, that’s the whole thing – perfect passes, the touches, everything – being quick and knowing the game better.”

Still, Max acknowledged that if you drop below Division III soccer, the options back home become much more favourable. He’s going into this next stretch with an open mind and a back-up plan in place.

“It all depends on what happens at the end of these two months,” he said. “It depends on what team I might be playing on; Ryerson University is also a really good team.”

And truth be told, Luke Max will go wherever his soccer dreams may take him.

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