Ballenas Whalers soccer player Wylee Franks has aspired to become a professional soccer player ever since he was four years old.
The 17-year-old, who also plays for the Nanaimo Storm in the Upper Island Soccer Association, took another step toward that goal recently when he received an invitation to attend an elite academy, Marbella United FC, in Lisbon, Portugal.
The invitation came from the head of Marbella, Bobby Lennon, who scouts young players in Canada and United States. Players are offered a chance to develop their skills and help them advance to the professional level.
Franks, who will be in Grade 12 next school year, was excited about the offer. He said that the higher level of soccer he will be exposed to in Europe will help him hone his game.
“I love competition and I always want to be the best player,” said Franks, who regularly plays defence because of his speed. “I want to learn how the Europeans play. I watch them on TV all the time. Just their mentality throughout the game, knowing where they’ll be at the right time, where to put the ball. I just want to perfect my game as fast as I can.”
Franks is also excited for the opportunity to play against some of the prominent soccer clubs in Europe.
“I was looking at Marbella United’s season in the last two years and they played against the top clubs in Spain,” said Franks. “That opens up an opportunity to get scouted. Last year they played against Real Madrid youth academy. Just playing in those games will be an excellent experience.”
Franks also faces one major task if he is to attend the soccer academy, where he will stay for eight months and do most of his school courses online. He needs to raise approximately $40,000 to pay for this opportunity and he has until the end of August to come up with sufficient funds.
Franks has already drawn support and to date has raised $6,260. Anyone interested in helping Franks and make a donation can go online at https://www.gofundme.com/f/Gofundme-Wylee-Franks-Marbella-Fc
“I want to put pride on my hometown,” said Franks, who is not only a good athlete but also an honour roll student at Ballenas. “There’s not a lot that goes on in Parksville and I just want to make something out of that. If I get the opportunity I am not going to squander it. I am going to make the most out of it and show people something to be proud of. I want to make it all the way.”
Franks is holding a bottle drive fundraiser at his parents’ garage on 319 Pioneer Cr. on July 18, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.