Red Deer U-18 boy's soccer player Turner Johnson passes the ball up during action at Edgar Athletic Park in Red Deer

The long road to turning pro

Turner Johnson still wants a professional soccer career, but the 18-year-old isn’t about to put the cart before the horse.

Turner Johnson still wants a professional soccer career, but the 18-year-old isn’t about to put the cart before the horse.

Johnson attended a pair of camps in Germany in late March and four teams have contacted him about playing in their club system. But because of visa and immigration issues, Johnson just can’t pack up and head to Germany at a moment’s notice.

“It’s a long process to get a work visa and permanent residence, so I have to wait and see how it all works out,” explained Johnson, who is with the Red Deer Renegades U18 tier II team.

But he isn’t about to sit around and wait. He will spend at least this season with the RDC Kings prior to looking at moving on.

“I heard the German teams were interested in having me over next week for the opening of their training camp, but there’s no way that will happen. … I’m not ready for that,” Johnson said, “I’m going to spend at least the first semester at the college. It gives me a chance to stay in shape and to play at a high level. I’m looking forward to it.”

As is RDC head coach Steve Fullarton, who also coaches the U18 Renegades with Ado Sarcevic.

“He’s got everything you want in a player,” said Fullarton. “He has the physical size, he’s technically strong and has a good understanding of the game … every thing you need to be a top player in the ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference).

“It’s also a good fit for him to play with us if Germany isn’t happening right now.”

Johnson spent close to two weeks in Germany working out with two club programs — FC Kaiserlaupern and Eintracht Trier — at the U19 level.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “They’re both good teams and nice guys. The skill level was really high.”

The biggest issue for Johnson was the language barrier.

“They didn’t explain anything in English, I just had to follow along what they did,” said Johnson, who along with one player from France were the only foreign players at the camps. “But overall it worked out.”

Johnson got the opportunity to travel to Germany while attending a camp in Vancouver.

“I was invited to attend the Vancouver camp and they had a guest coach from Germany, who invited me to go over,” said Johnson, who has been playing soccer since he was four and living in Vancouver.

“My dad (Grant) played and I got interested and fell in love with it,” he said. “I was watching a video the other day from when I was four and playing with a U7 team.”

Johnson moved to Red Deer in 2001 and has been with the Renegades program since he was nine.

“It’s a good program and helped me develop,” he said.

He’s also been training with the Kings the past two seasons, something he feels is a definite asset when it came to trying out in Germany.

“It was an opportunity to train at a higher level and definitely helped prepare me for what I saw in Germany,” he said.

At close to six-foot-four, Johnson has the size to play a number of positions, with centre midfield is his favourite.

“I can play three or four positions, but prefer the midfield,” he said. “The (German) coach told me when I went over to not tell them I play a number of positions, but just concentrate on one. I told them I played midfield or forward and they put me where I wanted.”

Johnson is excited about attending RDC this fall and then concentrating on Germany, if and when it comes about.

“I know I’m excited about the future,” he said.

The Kings will open training camp in the middle of August with close to 30 players on hand, according to Fullarton.

“We should have a decent squad again this year,” he said.

He’s also looking at least “one other” player off the U18 Renegades as well as “several players” down the road.

“We have a fairly young (U18) squad and several players are two years away,” said Fullarton. “But we have talent. We play in an Edmonton Tier I division and did well, It’s a great sign. I love the talent on this team.”

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