As early as age 2, Hunter Blucke displayed a knack for kicking a soccer ball.
Now, eight years later, those special talents are leading the young Kelowna player across the Atlantic.
On May 4, Blucke will leave for Britain as a member of B.C. team for the Excel European Tour.
Some of the province’s best soccer prospects born in 2001, all hand-picked from across the province, will play as many as 10 exhibition games over a 15-day span in England and Italy.
Blucke, a centre midfielder, can’t wait for the trip to begin.
“I’m excited because it will give me a challenge against some good teams,” said Blucke, 10, a Grade 5 student at Aberdeen Hall in Kelowna. “It’ll be fun, too…I’ll meet lots of people.”
Team B.C. will spend five days in England and will play three games against Tottingham, Chelsea, and a third, as of yet, unconfirmed club, possibly Manchester United.
In Italy, the B.C. boys will play three games against club teams, including A.C. Milan, and four more in a tournament before the trip winds up May 19.
Hunter’s dad, Kevin Blucke, expects the tour to be an invaluable experience for his son.
“We hope it exposes him to more quality soccer,” said Kevin Blucke. “He hasn’t been challenged that much, so it will be good for him to see what’s going on in other places in the world. He wants to keep improving and finding the kind of competition that will make him better.”
During the early stages of his development, Hunter has shown better-than-average skills, always playing up at least one age group. Last season, Hunter played with the Kelowna United U11 squad.
Still, as much soccer as he has played in Kelowna, a large degree Hunter’s development came while training on the Lower Mainland for three years with Carl Valentine, a staff coach with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“My first impression of Hunter was a player who had some size and strength and a good work ethic in training,” said Valentine. “As I got to know Hunter I could see that he had a real passion for the game. Hunter’s game developed greatly in the time I spent with him, and I really felt he could be a fantastic player if he committed himself to the game of soccer.
“Hunter was also easy to coach as he was a good listener and always worked hard in training, Valentine added. “It would not surprise me if he plays the game of soccer at a high level because he was that good.”
Even at 10, Hunter already has aspirations of one day playing the game at a high level. His dream is to earn a scholarship at a British version of an Ivy League university, such as Oxford in England.
Hunter has also had offers in the past to train with European clubs during the summer in Italy and Denmark, but has so far declined.