Living in Europe was a dream come true for James Fraser.
The Pinnacles FC product returned home in the spring after spending a year taking in the culture of Holland and working to become a better soccer player.
“It was not only a soccer experience but a life experience as well,” said Fraser, who trained and played with SBV Excelsior Rotterdam’s youth academy, a professional program in which the Pinnacles have partnered with to send players abroad. “I have always loved it. When I got the opportunity to go down there and train for a whole season, I pounced on it. Living in Europe alone, you learn a lot of things. I learned lots as a person and soccer-wise you train everyday.”
Fraser, who plays for the Tim Hortons Pinnacles in the Pacific Coast Soccer League’s Premier Men’s division, experienced how much quicker the game is played compared to what he is used to in the Okanagan. Skill is the focus in Europe where physical play takes a back seat.
“I did okay over there. I scored some goals,” said Fraser, who netted 16 goals in 24 games. “For me it’s all just speed. Doing everything that I did here, just way quicker.”
Marco van Lochem, head of the SBV Excelsior Youth Academy, said the start of the season was very fast for Fraser. He then saw great skill development in October and November as he scored beautiful goals, while putting in solid performances.
“At that moment we were thinking, ‘OK this is the James we want to see,’” wrote van Lochem in an email.
Then Fraser got injured and following the Christmas break had a tough start.
“In March he played well, but in April we said to him that he would be better to go back to Canada because the competition was starting there,” said van Lochem.
While the speed of the game is quicker in Holland, van Lochem said Fraser adapted. Fraser also benefitted from defenders in Holland who aren’t as strong than those he faces in the Okanagan. He began making better tactical decisions and held the ball at the right moments.
“James wants to know everything and is a hard worker and a good team player,” said van Lochem.”He was a quick learner and his development each week was better and better.”
Fraser said he was glad he spent the year in Europe, but decided to attend university in Canada.
“That experience over there gave me experience to come over here and get really nice offers from a ton of universities,” said Fraser.
Pinnacles coach Paulo Araujo likes that Fraser brings intensity with skill.
“He’s a very good target man,” said Araujo. “What we want to do is we always want to hit that centre forward. Look for that second ball. We know that he can always hold the ball. He will score some goals, opens up opportunities for other players.”
His intensity was on display against the FC Tigers in Vancouver on May 16 as he got into a heated exchange with Edmond Amadeo. Fraser wouldn’t repeat what was said between the opposing players.
“He was definitely bigger than me. He was definitely stronger than me. I thought if I got under his skin maybe I could get him a few yellow cards,” said Fraser, who late in the game was knocked in the head by Amadeo. “I always do that. I’m always a little bugger on the field.”