By Dan Kinvig
In addition to being a sensational soccer player, Gagan Dosanjh boasts an impressive linguistic repertoire.
The 18-year-old speaks in English, owing to his Abbotsford upbringing; Punjabi, owning to his parents’ Indian heritage; and French, owing to his immersion schooling at Chief Dan George Middle and W.J. Mouat Secondary.
It’s somewhat ironic, then, that Dosanjh is beginning his overseas professional soccer career in a nation where none of his three fluent languages are of much use to him. The dynamic midfielder is currently in Germany, on a one-year loan from the Vancouver Whitecaps to FC Energie Cottbus, and he’s found that the language and cultural aspects pose a steeper learning curve than the soccer.
“I like to make it tough on myself, I guess,” Dosanjh said with a chuckle during a phone conversation with The News on Thursday. “The language is tough to get a grasp of. But I’ve been picking up words here and there. I know how to say good morning, thank you, you’re welcome, right, left – basic kinds of things like that. But I can’t put together sentences yet.”
As he expands his German vocabulary, Dosanjh has been letting his play speak for itself. He arrived in Germany just over a month ago on a three-week trial brokered by the Whitecaps. Just three days into his trial period, the Cottbus coaching staff told him they’d like him to stay. Cottbus’s first team plays in Germany’s Second Bundesliga, and Dosanjh is training with the U23 side.
Dosanjh hasn’t been allowed to suit up for any league games yet as he waits for a mountain of paperwork – releases from the Whitecaps and the Canadian Soccer Association, and work permits from German government – to be completed. There’s a chance, though, that all the loose ends could be tied up in time for him to play this weekend.
“I watched one of the games they played, and I wanted to be out there really badly,” he said. “But I’m just being patient.”
For such a young athlete, Dosanjh has already accomplished a lot in soccer. In 2007, he was part of the inaugural class of the Whitecaps’ residency program, and he distinguished himself as one of the team’s offensive catalysts in Premier Development League play. He also earned two caps with Canada’s U17 national team.
Prior to his time in the Whitecaps residency, Dosanjh honed his skills with the Abbotsford Soccer Association. ASA head coach Colin Miller said that Dosanjh’s development makes him an ideal role model for young players in the local soccer system.
“First of all, he’s Indo-Canadian, and what an example for young players in that community,” Miller noted. “And Gagan is also a tiny player (five-foot-five) in terms of his physical size. He’s not a big guy at all, and it just goes to show what can be achieved if your attitude is right.”
The ASA has sent other players overseas on pro trials, but Dosanjh’s loan to Cottbus has the potential to be the longest stint by an Abbotsford-trained player in Europe.
As for Miller’s “role model” talk, Dosanjh said that he embraces the notion of setting an example for others.
“I take a lot of pride in what I’ve accomplished,” he said. “Hard work can take you a lot of places. If what I’ve done has inspired people, that’s good.”