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CP: Teen Finds Home in France

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Toronto teenager grows into the game, finds soccer home in France

posted January 13 @ 18:52, EST

(CP) - Calvin Rosario is a study in perseverance. Deemed too small by more than a half-dozen European soccer teams, the Toronto teenager was turned down again and again.

One growth spurt later, the attacking midfielder is playing in France and looking to move up in the soccer world.

Rosario, who turned 18 last month, returned to Europe this week after spending Christmas with his family, rejoining his clubmates on the under-18 side at Tours, a French club about 90 minutes from Paris.

While Tours is a third-division team, it is bucking for promotion. And its under-18 team plays with youth sides from the big boys - clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, Nantes, Bordeaux and Toulouse.

"I find it amazing," Rosario said. "I'm enjoying every minute. I wake up, go to school in the mornings and then play soccer."

Rosario's road to Tours was filled with challenges - and setbacks. A star player at 12, he was left behind physically when others his age started to sprout.

But thanks to his father Clayton Rosario, and the European connections of Toronto soccer entrepreneur Francois Glasman, Calvin Rosario went on to trials with Fulham, Chelsea, Mansfield and Blackburn in England and Tourcoing, Caen and Le Mans in France.

All seven turned him down because of his size.

Now six foot and 154 pounds, he was 5-2 and maybe 120 pounds as a 15-year-old when he had his first trials in England.

"When they saw me, the only thing I could offer was maybe creativity," he said. "I didn't have the speed or the aggression. I kind of accepted it and just kept moving on."

Initially rejection took a toll.

"I thought it was my fault. I didn't do good enough. I was horrible at this and that."

But he finally saw the positives.

"Every time I didn't sign, I just took it as a learning experience and just kept going and going. It was like speed bumps."

And at 16, he started to sprout. And he began to turn some heads, joining Tours last year.

Next season he has a chance to move up to the senior team at Tours, although he is also considering other clubs. He has already played four games for the Tours reserve side, including a cup game.

He spent six weeks at Fulham and two weeks at Chelsea when he was 15. Last summer, he had a 10-day trial at Blackburn. Rosario was impressed by what he saw around him.

"England puts a lot of money into their youth," he said.

While at Fulham, Rosario met the likes of Edwin van der Sar, Steve Marlet, Chris Coleman and Junichi Inamoto. At Blackburn, he shared a room with Damien Duff's younger brother.

His favourite player is Arsenal's Robert Pires, an attacking midfielder full of tricks. Rosario notes Pires almost quit the game at 16.

"He was too slow, too small and too clumsy. But he kept fighting and fighting ... It really inspires me."

In France, Rosario does not get paid but the club pays for his room and board. He is one of 14 youth players, living in a house two to a room. A nutritionist swings by each morning for breakfast, then the players study before practice.

Rosario speaks French and studies with his peers, although he spends some of his time doing correspondence courses.

As for his international allegiance, Rosario has yet to play for a Canadian side and has British citizenship through his mother. He will also be eligible down the line to apply for French papers if he remains there.

In the meantime he is keeping his options open.

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Hey everyone again, its me giving a lil' insight on the young players. I played with Calvin for a few years on the wing. He played for Mississauga and always was a good player, but he was always so small. In U17, I remember him and I were playing on the wing against one another and he was lipping at me how hes going to hit me hard, etc. I always laughed because he was like 5'2, even though he did have great speed and skill, I definitely had the strength advantage and the height advantage. We didn't get along too well while playing one another. I played against him again in U18 and he still played for a struggly Mississauga team, same team as Yeovil Town Youth prospect Gavin McCallum. (A bunch of those players grew up together and played on always a powerful Mississauga team, until around U17, U18... players such as Shyle Braithwaite, McCallum, Rosario, Noskov [players for Princeton now], and a bunch others) Over this past summer, I did see him at a nightclub, and I went up to him and I couldn't believe how tall he was. Once being 5'2, and I towered over him, then it seemed like he was surprisingly taller then me (I'm only 5'10 or so). I spoke to him a bit about soccer and one of my good soccer friends from Mississauga is best friends with Calvin. All in all, he is a great player, even when he was short, he was always very speedy with lots of moves. I'm sure he's improved even more now playing at a higher level. Although he does have the height, he might need the weight and strength to go with that, because being 6 feet and a 154 pounds isn't right. Thats just my insight on the guy, I fond memories of playing against him.[:P]

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