Terrace’s Cam Hundal is now aiming for a spot in the North American pro soccer leagues after being blocked from pro ball in Germany by language and situational barriers.
“It was hard to get a trial, especially being a Canadian,” Hundal said of his tryouts in Germany this past July.
“Being a Canadian, being a foreigner, it’s really difficult to make it over there… because of how much they have to pay you, they have to give you a work permit and a visa, whereas they could sign a local player for much less money,” Hundal explained.
“So if you are going to make it there, you have to be the best player on the team by a long shot.”
Hundal went to Germany this past July for their soccer pre-season, attempting to get into the European pros.
That followed a very successful four years in amateur soccer, playing on the University of Victoria Vikes for four years, 2012 to 2015 where he has earned multiple awards. That included being named All-Star of Canada West every one of those four years and winning the 2015 Player of the Year for Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).
He also signed with the Victoria Highlanders in 2014 and 2015 and played in the Premier Development League.
Hundal said he has had several offers from semi-pro teams over the last few years, but turned them down, opting to first finish his kinesiology degree at UVic, which he graduated with last April.
After that he decided that he wanted a shot at the European pros because it’s a more technical, higher skilled game, with way more leagues and opportunities.
“Over there, because the leagues have been around for so long, it’s so organized and there is a lot more opportunity,” Hundal explained. “If you are doing well on a team, you have a lot more opportunity to move up in the ranks really quickly, because there are so many scouts everywhere.”
Hundal went to Germany July 7 to Aug. 8 and trained with FK Pirmasens and VfB Oldenburg, teams in the fourth division of soccer in Germany.
But Hundal said the experience was tough and disappointing because of the barriers he faced.
“The language was bit of a barrier… They all speak German there at practice, so it’s tough because you don’t understand what the coach is saying. When you start drills and stuff, you have to look around for a couple minutes and see what is going on and then just kinda learn yourself,” he said. “The players are all really nice, but at that level, and in a different country, especially when everyone is battling for a spot, guys aren’t as helpful.”
Besides the language, Hundal found that being a foreigner who would need a work permit and visa to sign with a team, closes a lot of doors with coaches.
“[I learned quickly] about the harsh reality that a lot of guys are good enough, but if you can’t get a look, there’s not much you can do,” he said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to it being a business more than anything.”
“When I was playing there I was never out of place or anything and with the teams I trained with, I think I was one of the better players, but I didn’t think it was worth it for me to stay… It was a bit disappointing because I couldn’t get the trial that I wanted to, but the training and the experience was really cool,” he concluded.
Hundal returned to Canada early in August and is taking a position as head coach at the University of St. Michaels in Toronto, a connection made through one of his Victoria coaches.
In January, he plans to try out for a team in the pro leagues here and is deciding between three options: Arizona United in Phoenix, FC Edmonton or Ottawa Fury.
He said he knows the Ottawa coach, and has had prior offers from the Arizona and Edmonton teams.
“The NASL is a higher league in terms of the North American soccer pyramid, but USL Pro has more of an affiliation with the MLS (Major League Soccer), which is the top league,” Hundal explained. “So it’s either I go to a lower league so I have more of a chance of making it to the top league, or I play in a higher league but with less chance of making it to the top league.”
He added that he also has to consider the coaches and teams themselves.
“Do I want to play for a so-called better team or do I want to play somewhere where I can get more playing time, more chance to develop,” he wondered.
Hundal said that despite the short time he spent in Germany, he learned things that he will take with him.
“The mentality over there was a lot different. They take it so seriously,” he said. “The training is very intense all the time… no messing around… I can bring that mentality back here with me.”
The experience also raised the bar on his game.
Hundal watched some of best pro German teams train, and said it was a completely new level of soccer.
“Guys were making passes that I didn’t even see, and I wasn’t even playing,” he said. “It’s another thing to strive for now, moving forward…
“Even training for one month at that level, it makes you that much better and you get to realize how technical the game can get, and how skilled you can get,” he added.
He said that though skill is developed by playing more than anything, he was able to learn a new style to “add to his arsenal” as he shoots for the pros here.