When it comes to playing soccer, Jeremy Izad's passion is evident.
The 14-year-old Sunshine Coast lad has been playing the grand old game since he was five years old and that passion and determination is starting to pay off in a big way.
Already a stand-out striker with the Halfmoon Bay Rednecks in the Sunshine Coast Youth Soccer League, Izad was one of many youngsters who participated in the soccer clinic put on by Bobby Lenarduzzi and the Vancouver Whitecaps on the Sunshine Coast in September.
The coaches saw something special in Izad, so much so, they invited him to the Whitecaps Academy.
"I went down to their training centre and tried to really showcase my skills," Izad said. "That started right after the camp up here. Then in late December they called me and told me they wanted me to play in their youth super league program. I was just thrilled - it's such a great opportunity."
Whitecaps FC recently announced their selection of seven Super Youth teams for the United Soccer League (USL) Super Y League season.
More than 750 youths took part in a journey that started in November with an open trial for all players in B.C., culminating with final team selections in late December and early January.
In the off-season, the Whitecaps expanded the Super Y program to seven teams adding three new clubs to their system. Each team is represented with some of the best youth talent found throughout the Lower Mainland, from Abbotsford to the Sunshine Coast.
The 2004 teams include four boys' teams at the U13 to U16 level and three girls' teams from the U14 to U16 level. Izad will be playing for the U15 boys' team. These teams will compete in the Northwest Division of the USL Super Y League against such rival clubs as Seattle and Portland.
The program has already seen success, as last summer the Whitecaps U15 girls' team won the Northwest Division and a berth at the Super Y North American Championships in Chicago.
The Super Y League was developed by the USL to create a professional environment for top youth players to train and compete on a weekly basis.
"I was very impressed with the talent displayed by participants in the evaluations," said Whitecaps Men's and Club Development head coach Tony Fonseca. "I want to acknowledge many of the youth clubs in the community for the work they have done in helping to develop these players. We're looking forward to taking these players to the next level and introducing them to the professional club experience."
Fonseca will oversee the Super Y teams with support from an impressive coaching staff including Whitecaps Assistant Coach Jamie Fales, former pro Steve Watts, former Whitecap pro Sam Saundh and Canadian team player Frank Ciaccia.
"We're all pretty soccer crazy in our house," added Jeremy's mom Julie. "We live for soccer. To see Jeremy develop his skills the way he has here in Canada has been just tremendous. This is a great opportunity for him."
The Izads moved to the Coast in 2000. Jeremy was born in Monte Carlo and has played soccer in France.
Izad said he knows it's going to be a lot of work juggling school work while playing soccer, but he feels he is up to the challenge.
"Certainly I want to concentrate on my school work, but I'm doing something here that could affect my future," Izad said. "Soccer has been my life and I want to take it as far as I can go."