Tariq Jeeroburkhan

Mauritian-Canadian Kevin Chan Personifies a New Generation

Second-Generation Canadians Using Soccer to Bridge the Gap

— Tariq Jeeroburkhan

September 20, 2011 – While traditionally most home-grown Canadian kids with athletics in mind grow up dreaming to become ice-hockey stars, a new generation – the sons and daughters of immigrant parents to Canada in particular – seems to have developed more of an appreciation for the global game of soccer and the opportunities to connect internationally which “football” provides. Montrealer and current Université de Montréal midfielder Kevin Chan is a prime example of this new generation who seek to share what Canadians have on the world stage.

Kevin, whose parents hail Mauritius and are of Chinese ancestry, grew up in LaSalle and played his youth soccer for the Lac-St Louis Lakers in the West Island region of Montreal.

At an early age, young Kevin recognized his skills at soccer and realized, thanks in part to his parents, the opportunities that pursuing a career in the sport could provide in life as well. Kevin, and his father Patrick, made a priority for the advancement of Kevin’s soccer career, and with a few years of hard work Kevin was invited for Canada’s Under-17 National Soccer Team.

Kevin, now 21, spent a year at Vanier College in Montreal, after his U-17 National Team experience to concentrate on his studies. That effort paid off with a scholarship to Syracuse University in New York and a spot on the school’s NCAA Division 1 Orangemen Soccer squad.

With two years of invaluable experience, contacts and life lessons in tow, Kevin has now returned to town to continue his studies at the French-language Université de Montréal. He has also secured a spot as one of a slew of strong midfielders on the school’s soccer team.

And while the competition and emphasis placed on Inter-University sports in Canada may be different, Kevin says it’s not less.

“In the United States, the coaches place the emphasis on training and fitness levels – while in Canada there is more of a focus on technique. It varies with the coaching staff, but I always appreciate a coach who will tell me how or what to do to improve, not just that I did something wrong.”

Making the improvements necessary to succeed at life is what Kevin and his family have been working at steadily since they arrived in Canada. And succeeding through soccer has the potential to open the doors to an entire world of contacts and possibilities.

Recently, Kevin was invited and selected to play for the Quebec Provincial Under-23 team which hosted the youth squad of FC Metz, the professional team from France, for a series of challenge matches in Quebec. With each one of these experiences Kevin is seen by more and more scouts worldwide and the opportunities expand.

“There seems to be a lot more involved in team selections than simply the talent of a player,” said Kevin. “There are players and coaches who I know and who know me and this will help to see how far we can go.”

Kevin is on a 60-man list of players to be called up to the Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team, and has grown up practicing and playing regularly with many of the top players in Canada today. The professional Montreal Impact team, which will compete in North America’s top professional league next season, is well-aware of Kevin and the talent he can bring on the field and the local interest he can generate off the field.

Members of the Mauritian community in Montreal play soccer regularly throughout the spring and summer in Verdun, holding an annual tournament in the fall, which was held this year in LaSalle – the Canadian hometown of the Chans. Kevin did not participate in the tournament because of his commitment to U de M and its soccer team, but he was in attendance with a large contingent of Mauritian-Montrealers to cheer on the players, who ranged in age from 15 to 70.

Patrick, Kevin’s father, captained one of the teams so it was an interesting role reversal as it was the younger Chan in the stands watching the entertaining matches, while his father played.

In fact, every soccer game can be regarded as a cultural event, and perhaps that is why a distinct generation of young Canadians has taken to soccer as their means through which to express themselves athletically – recognizing that soccer truly is a global game. In addition, the love of the sport carried forth by many young Canadians’ parents remains a link that is able to bond family members, despite different generations having grown up with different realities and circumstances.

There is a Mauritian restaurant in Verdun that is the annual post-tournament meeting place and, for some members of the community here in Montreal, it is the only time some Mauritians will see each other over the course of the year. Given the atmosphere of joviality and sega music that lasted long into the evening, it is safe to say that this community group has put into practice the best of Canadian and Mauritian values and traditions, making sure the next generation is actively involved. Kevin Chan and his family have soccer to thank for that.

Tariq Jeeroburkhan is an Independant Content Enhancer and can be reached at tjeero@hotmail.com

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