It’s no secret that many professional athletes that are emerging on the big stages have been raised in Toronto. Some of the names that have appeared over the years are Johnathan de Guzman (Netherlands National Soccer Team), Dwayne De Rosario (Canadian National Soccer Team), and Andrew Wiggins (NBA), among many other athletes, who have put Canada on the map of professional sports. However, very little credit is given to Brampton as being one of the premier incubators for young athletic talent in recent years. The fact that many of the Toronto FC academy members are from Brampton, is one good example of this.
Consider the story of Brampton’s Doneil Henry, who was the first academy member to make the jump to senior first team soccer for Toronto FC and is native of our very own Brampton. He was cut from an Ontario Youth Soccer League try-out, and it was at that tryout that he was spotted by a scout from the newly inducted Toronto FC academy. Despite not making the OYSL team, Doneil impressed enough to receive a call the next day from the TFC scout and thus began the first step into his professional career as an international soccer player.
Doneil went on to make 49 appearances for the TFC first team and at the age of 19 went on to represent the Canada Men’s National Soccer team. Over the next couple of years, Doneil improved both physically and technically, to the point where he was transferred to Cypriot club, Apollon Limassol, to gain European match experience in the Europa League. However, he was immediately loaned back to TFC who wanted to retain the services of their starting centre-half until the end of the 2014 MLS season. It was during this period that Doneil was allowed to train with West Ham United of the English Premier League, on two occasions. Under the strong recommendations of former TFC manager and former EPL player, Ryan Nelsen, Doneil was granted a long term contract with the London Borough based club and can now go on to being the second Brampton native to play for arguably the most competitive soccer league in the world.
With this chance, Doneil now has the opportunity to realize the dream that is shared among many Canadian athletes. However, the EPL is a very different league to MLS, and how he adapts to the new environment is yet to be seen.