Defender earns spot with Whitecaps - Squamish Chief

Karl Bhandal committed to pursuing elite soccer

By Neil Judson

Although local soccer may be winding down for most, the sport has just begun for a young soccer player who has earned a spot on the U14 Mountain Whitecaps Football Club.

Howe Sound Secondary School Grade 9 student Karl Bhandal is keeping the ball up and out through the rest of the spring and summer as one of Mountain WFC’s centre backs. The squad is one of three Whitecaps Super Y-League affiliates. The league consists of a series of regional divisions within North America containing the premier clubs and players for Canada and the United States.

With the selection, Bhandal is well on his way to pursuing a serious future in soccer. And although he’s turning just 15 years old in August, he seems to have already reached the maturity level needed to achieve his goals.

“You have to be committed to the team,” he said matter-of-factly from his home in Valleycliffe. “If you want to play on the team you have to show up. You’re there to be there, you’re not there to goof off because all the players are at mature levels. There are times to have fun but really it’s about listening because you’re there for yourself. You’re not there for anybody else.”

Bhandal has a mind for self-improvement. After playing Squamish Rep soccer for years, he moved on to play for the North Shore Selects this year. Bhandal’s former Squamish coach Rui Pereira said he foresees great things from the 6-foot-tall defender.

“He was always a player I could depend on,” said Pereira. “He’s a natural left-footer and you don’t run into that a lot. It makes him very hard to read, the way he moves.” Bhandal played the sweeper position for Squamish, which meant he had to be vocal and control much of his teammates’ positioning. The role brought out his leadership skills, said Pereira.

“Making the Whitecaps is huge, it’s really a huge step,” he said. “I think he will do very well.” Bhandal was close to not even trying out for the team but Whistler Youth Soccer Club president Peter Shrimpton convinced him to give it a shot, said Bhandal. When it came down to battling for a position he felt comfortable trying out against about 70 other players.

“When I came to the Whitecaps I didn’t have any nerves or butterflies in my stomach because I knew I deserved to be there,” said Bhandal. “What I like is that I’m representing that Squamish isn’t just a normal small town. There’s a lot of skill that comes out of here.”

Mountain WFC’s season consists of 16 games starting at the end of May and running until mid-August.

If the team wins the Super-Y Northwest Division over teams from Coastal, Surrey, Abbotsford, Okanagan, Victoria and American teams from Seattle, Spokane and Yakima it moves on to the North American Finals in Florida – where the soccer scouts will flourish.

njudson@squamishchief.com