A big-name amateur soccer player in the Lower Mainland and across Western Canada, Terrace’s Cam Hundal is shooting to go pro in Europe next summer.
Graduating with a kinesiology degree at the University of Victoria in April, Hundal says he is exploring soccer opportunities in Germany and Holland.
“I’ve played against pro teams a lot throughout my career… so I kind of know what to expect,” said Hundal. “The only thing I am unsure about is the style of play. In terms of my individual abilities, I’m sure I’d be able to keep up fine, but the thing is, the level of coaching and the style of play there is just so much different.”
North American soccer is more about athletic ability, but in Europe it is more strategic, with players smarter and quicker with the ball.
“That’s going to be the major adjustment. I think if I can do that, figure out the mental part of the game, I should be fine,” he said.
Hundal started playing soccer in Terrace when he was five and flourished under Coach Nick Kollias.
Looking back he says his Terrace background benefitted him as a player by giving him the freedom to develop his own style of play, rather than having high-level coaches who “restrict you a bit more and fit you into their system.”
Moving to the Lower Mainland at 14 to live with relatives and pursue soccer, Hundal hears from coaches now that he is “a different type of player that they don’t really see much of.”
Now 23, Hundal has played on professional development soccer teams every summer since he was 16, first for Surrey United, then Vancouver Whitecaps.
In 2014 he signed on with the Victoria Highlanders, who were part of the semi-pro Premier Development League (PDL) with teams across U.S. and Canada.
This summer, Highlanders faced financial trouble and almost went bankrupt.
They managed to survive but dropped out of the PDL and played the season in the lower-level Pacific Coast Soccer League.
Hundal seized the chance to take a break, playing only part of the Highlander season and returning home to Terrace for six weeks between April and June.
“I think having a break is good,” he said. “I’m used to playing all the time [and] playing that much and training at that high of a level for that long, kind of takes a toll on the body. [Taking a break] is good for you physically and mentally… At the same time it gets you excited to play again… once you do get back into it, you are ready to go again and you are motivated again.”
Hundal says his parents Kaka and Rajinder have always supported his soccer, yet also encouraged him to balance it with education.
Even when he talked to his dad with a plan to move to Surrey at age 14, his dad “didn’t even hesitate.”
“For a parent to send a kid at that young of an age is kind of hard. At the same time, I was a pretty intense person and an intense athlete, so I think my dad knew that if I was going to commit to this, I would commit to it 100 per cent,” he said.
After high school, Hundal says he could have pursued pro soccer, but chose to get his degree first.
“It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do, get a degree,” said Hundal.
“The other thing is with playing sports, it’s never a guarantee. You never know when something can happen, you can blow a knee or get an injury and your career could be over. So having that degree is always a nice back up, something to fall back on.”
While he completes his degree, Hundal plays for the university Vikes, where he has earned multiple MVP and All-Star awards. In 2011, the Vikes won university nationals, and Hundal was named team MVP and tournament All-Star.
He has also been named the Canada West All-Star in the North American PDL for all four years so far (this year still to be announced).
Vikes Coach Bruce Wilson says he is “very happy [Hundal] chose the University of Victoria.”
“He has done extremely well for us: captain of our team, outstanding player, outstanding student. He is a great representative for the University of Victoria from an athletic point of view and from a student point of view,” said Wilson.
What attracted Wilson to Hundal as a player was his speed and ability to quickly accelerate and decelerate (called change of pace) –something you can’t really coach, said Wilson.
“He was very, very quick… and his skill that went with it was outstanding… [He had the] ability to stop a ball and take the ball and leave people standing,” said Wilson. “His ball handling is very good, his first touch, his control of the ball is excellent and his dribbling ability is excellent.”
As for Hundal’s plans to pursue soccer in Europe, Wilson said “why not?”
“He’s young enough, he’s talented enough. I think it’s probably worth a chance,” he said. “It’s obviously very, very competitive over in Europe but he is certainly one of our outstanding players at the university level, not only in UVic, but right across Canada.”
Hundal is now in his fifth year and says he will finish with the Vikes in April, then play the early-season with the Highlanders and head to Europe in July to catch the pre-season.
“I feel good. I’ve been preparing for this for a long time, and now it’s finally at the point where I can take the next step,” he said.
“Playing amateur soccer for as many years as I have, it’s fun and I’ve been lucky enough to accomplish a lot in terms of what you can win as a amateur.
“I just kind of feel like I’m ready now to take that step into the pro ranks and see what I can do there,” he said.