A friendly visit to Scotland fuelled by an Elmira family’s passion for soccer quickly turned into an experience they won’t soon forget.
Siblings Cassidy and Austin Hunt earlier this month found themselves testing out their skills with professionals from the Glasgow Rangers football club.
Austin, 13, was taking part in a soccer camp hosted by Kitchener’s Red Academy of Soccer, where he trains. While he lives in Elmira, Austin is often found on the field in Kitchener, where he is playing for the Red Academy. During the summer the Academy invited the Glasgow Rangers to come visit Kitchener to see how things were on this side of the pond. In return, Austin and eight of his teammates got the opportunity to visit Scotland to be a part of a high development camp.
“It was really fun, the facility was really nice and I got to stay with the coaches. Everyone was really comforting,” said Austin, who was chosen to participate in the camp.
As Austin joined in on various activities and training during the camp, his sister and the rest of the family were taking in the Scottish experience. Cassidy’s skills caught the eye of the Glasgow Rangers. Cassidy, who plays for the Kitchener Academy soccer team, has been involved in the sport since she was very young. She says she was honoured when the Rangers took interest in her.
“They taught me a new style of how to play like in a different position, but other than that it was kind of a twist on how I’m used to playing. It gave me new ideas and things to try out when I get back,” said the 16-year-old who got to train with the U19 and U23 Glasgow Rangers women’s team.
During her time in Scotland, Cassidy got to meet with girls her own age who gave her some pointers on the sport she has always loved.
“It’s amazing how they all kind of bonded over a short period of time,” said her dad, Jeff Hunt, who was there to support both his kids.
As the week went on, Austin was able to play in a few games where he scored seven goals in three matches, earning him the ‘man of the match’ title during his time with the Glasgow Rangers. Aside from all the training, the athlete also got to tour the Ibrox Stadium that was built in 1872.
The highlight of his trip, he said, was getting to meet two soccer idols, Jermain Defoe, who previously played for the Toronto Football Club (TFC), and Scott Arfield, the captain of the Canada national team. “They surprised all of us when we went to take a tour of Hummel Training Centre. We got pictures and signed shirts and stuff,” said Austin.
As the women’s Glasgow Rangers team took a liking to Cassidy and her skills, they invited her to join them to play a friendly with a professional team, Ayr United. During the match Cassidy didn’t hold back for a second and was even able to score the winning goal, which left her with a feeling of accomplishment during her time in Scotland.
Both of the siblings have been playing the sport for as long as they can remember and instantly fell in love with the game.
“I got a stuffed animal that was a soccer ball and I started kicking that around and just loved it,” said Austin, the younger of the two. While for Cassidy, her love of the sport comes from her parents who have always encouraged her to play even as she first started out playing for the Timbits team.
What originally was a trip for a soccer camp quickly turned into a family memory that will be remembered for years ahead, they enthused. As Austin and Cassidy get older, they both intend to continue playing soccer and hopefully go professional some day, but for now they’re happy with the opportunity they had to play and train with the professional club.
“I think the neat thing is … both of them going across the world to a country where football is life. And to have had as much success as they did, I think it is a testament to their work ethic and their commitment to the sport,” said Jeff.