St. Clements resident Ashton Barless won’t be spending New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop. Instead, he’ll be on a flight to Italy.
The 14-year-old soccer player was selected to attend The Halima Haider Memorial Tournament Showcase in Rome.
He’s one of two goalkeepers going to represent Canada.
The team was formed through The Canadian Academy of Futbol out of Toronto and the team will be coached by Canadian soccer legend Dwayne De Rosario.
He finished last season playing for the Woolwich Wolfpack and this season joined the London Elite Academy Garrincha. He joined the London team to be able to play at a higher level. The London team called him up to play in some tournaments last season before he officially joined the team.
He had to attend tryouts in November to make the all-star team, and made it, securing his spot for the tournament in Italy. The team is made from players born in 2002 and 2003.
“I was pretty excited once I heard, especially because I’m going with one of my friends also,” Barless said.
He started playing soccer when he was four in St. Clements. He wasn’t always a goaltender though, and just switched to become one when he was 10.
“I was always the tallest on the team and they put me in and then I ended up liking it,” Barless said.
He decided to try out for the team because he wanted to play in the tournament and also, he’s never travelled to Europe before.
His mom, Lori Simon, says he’s thrilled to be able to play at this level.
“He’s trained really hard and done a ton of training to get to this point, so he’s pretty excited that he’s going to be able to go. It’s just a bigger stage out there than it is here,” Simon said.
His training works out to four to six practices every week.
“He’s kind of doing three things right now. He’s doing a keeper clinic in Milton and then he’s playing for his London team, he’s still doing all that, and then he’s doing the CAF team as well,” Simon said.
The other teams are coming from around the world and he’s hoping he’ll get noticed by scouts and get the opportunity to play again in Europe.
“I’ll know that there will be people watching me all the time while I’m playing,” Barless said.
He’ll be there for nine days and will play seven games. He’ll also get to do some outings including attending a mass at the Vatican.
They’ve been fundraising for the trip through friends and family. Local businesses and the Lions Club have also stepped up to help.
As for how his friends at St. David Catholic Secondary School feel?
“They’re excited for me definitely, a little bit jealous that I’m going. They’re definitely supportive though,” Barless said.
The Halima Haider Memorial Tournament Showcase takes place Jan. 3-7 and the team leaves on Dec. 31.