18 Apr 2012
Relocating to a foreign country is no easy feat, but an overseas move tends to be a little easier when it provides you with the opportunity to live out your dreams - just ask Oakville Soccer Club alumn Andrew Barsalona.
Barsalona has been living in Germany and playing professional soccer for Eintracht Braunschweig, a second division Bundesliga club since the beginning of this year. The Bundesliga is the primary soccer league in Germany and the first division boasts a bevy of talented teams including Bayern Munich – the most successful German soccer team in history.
Barsalona was a member of the Oakville Soccer Club Bluestars and played for Hamilton FC before moving to Europe, where he spent time playing in Italy and Switzerland before signing with Eintracht Braunschweig early in 2012.
Moving to Germany has been a big adjustment for Barsalona, especially learning the language and missing family and friends back home in Canada, but he says the opportunity to live and breathe soccer has made it all worthwhile.
“The support for soccer here is unlike many places in the world - it is like a religion to them,” he said. “I have seen the support in Canada grow over the years but it’s just very exciting to be here and see so much support behind the game I love. It makes everything more enjoyable.”
Barsalona says the thing he misses most about Canada is family and friends. His family has always supported his soccer career and his parents and siblings all share his passion for the sport. His sister Danya currently plays professional soccer for SD Lagunak in Pamplona, Spain while his brother Matthew plays for Hamilton FC in the Premier Development League and hopes to secure a soccer scholarship to a US school this upcoming year.
“Both of my parents love the game and it is something that we have a common love for in our family,” said Barsalona. “My family and friends all support my goals and it makes me stronger knowing that I am making them proud as well.”
Playing his first game at the tender age of three, Barsalona credits his time with the OSC Bluestars in helping him reach his goals. He says his former coach Phil Iafrati and former team manager Dan Pastoric were both incredibly influential in his development as a person and player.
“My time with the Oakville Bluestars was definitely one of the major growth stages for me as a footballer and my time with the Oakville Soccer Club was invaluable,” he said. “We had so much success there, winning everything that we could possibly win with the club. The Canadian National title is something I will never forget winning.”
In addition to winning the U14 National Championship in 2004, Barsalona cites winning the Caribbean Youth Cup held in Trinidad and Tobago with the U15 national team in 2005 as his favourite soccer memory. The championship team was coached by Stephen Hart, who is now coaching the senior national team.
An injury prevented Barsalona from being considered for the U23 national team in the recent Olympic qualifiers, a tournament in which many of his former national teammates and former Bluestars teammate Kyle Bekker participated. Barsalona believes the future is “very bright” for Canadian soccer and says it would be an honour to suit up for the national team again one day.
Still recovering from injury, Barsalona is working toward very ambitious goals one day at a time. He’s currently working with the Eintracht Braunschweig reserve side to prove himself as an eventual starter for the first team. Ultimately, Barsalona says he would like to play in one of the top leagues in Europe, Serie A In Italy or La Liga in Spain are his top choices, as well as win some of the most prestigious titles in the world of soccer.
“I would like to win the Champions League one day,” he said. “I want to work hard and get noticed and continue my career as a footballer. I take it one day at a time and always keep the big picture in mind. And one day, I would like to win the World Cup, just like any other player in the world who loves soccer.”