When Colton Cook was still in elementary school, he told his parents, Alistair and Mary-Anne, that he was going to leave home at 16 and go play junior hockey back in Prince George, where the family had moved from a few years before.
And while such a boast could easily be chalked up to youthful exuberance, it turns out young Colton wasn’t far off the mark.
Sure, he got the sport wrong, and he’s leaving a year later than he’d originally planned, and yes, Germany is a little farther away than Prince George, but the 17-year-old South Surrey resident, who traded in skates for soccer cleats a few years back is still on the move.
Cook, in Grade 11 at Elgin Park Secondary, left Thursday for Stätzling, Germany – a small town 60 km outside of Munich – where he’s set to join SC Stätzling’s U17 soccer team. He’ll stay there at least six months – and finish his Grade 11 school year online – and, if he impresses team brass, could earn himself a longer stay.
“I’m very excited, it’s what I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” said Cook, who is a goalkeeper because “that’s really the only place for a six-foot-four 150-pound guy.”
Cook, who has played with both Peace Arch and Delta associations in the past, has played the last two years with the Vancouver Fusion FC of the BC Soccer Premier League. He came to the attention of SC Stätzling through some connections of his Fusion coach, and in August travelled to Germany, along with eight other players, to participate in a 10-day camp. He was one of two players offered a chance with the team this spring.
The other is his teammate – and fellow South Surrey resident – Andrew Grange, who is just finishing up his Grade 12 credits at St. Thomas More Collegiate in Burnaby.
Grange will also head to Germany for at least six months, but with a different team. He’ll suit up as a left-side midfielder with the U19 side of SC Fürstenselbrock – say that five times fast – which, Grange admits, is a name that’s awfully tough to fit on the front of a uniform.
“It’s a little long – I’m sure they just abbreviate or something,” he laughed.
While in Stätzling, Cook will live with his coach, along with two other players. He admits the move will take some getting used to – “the food is a lot different, for starters, but I’ll adapt,” he said – but he’s not completely unfamiliar with Europe. In addition to his 10-day visit in August, Cook travelled to Holland with the Vancouver Whitecaps prospect team when he was in Grade 6.
“That’s when I really started to take soccer seriously and realized I could go somewhere with it.”
He also has family in Croatia, whom he has visited before, and has cousins in nearby Switzerland.
“It’s going to be good, having (family) that’s kind of close,” he said.
As for his family here, Cook – whose younger brother Austin and younger sister Madison also attend Elgin Park – said they’re excited for him, but sad to see him leave.
“Sometimes, when I’m fighting with my brother for the XBox controller or something, he’ll yell, ‘I’m so glad you’re leaving!’” he laughed. “But I know they’re excited for me.”
Grange has limited experience in Europe, too. He’s played in international tournaments, but this will be his first prolonged exposure to European soccer.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing a new part of the world,” he said. “Being at your absolute best every single day is going to be a challenge, but that’s what you have to do to stick over there, so I’m just going to go and do my best.”