They’ve been running a zillion miles an hour and scoring stacks of goals since Li’l Kickers. Over the years, they’ve added a great first touch and intelligent playmaking.
Today, as 12-year-olds, Owen Miller and Ben Purvis are ready for their biggest soccer stage yet with Team Thompson-Okanagan (Zone 2) in the B.C. Summer Games, July 19-22, in Surrey.
The Vernon United U12 Development Rep players made the grade following a pair of tryout scrimmages in Vernon.
Miller, a towering midfielder/striker, even played out of his comfort zone.
“I think I did a lot better the second game,” laughed Miller, a natural-born leader. “I played in goal in the first game and let one goal in.”
Purvis, a roadrunner who also usually patrols the midfield or forward, managed to find the net in the trials.
“I scored a really good goal from the last third of the field,” said Purvis. “I hit it right under the crossbar in the middle and surprised myself. It was in the last minute and it was 1-0 winner.”
Head coach of Team Thompson-Okanagan is Alan Scholes of Kelowna. He coached Kelowna United so got some peaks at Miller and Purvis during the U12 season when they were coached by Roy Cooper and Kevin Mitchell.
“Ben and Owen are skilled players and from what I’ve seen over the past season, they both can move the ball well and can strike the ball very well,” said Scholes.
“They were both picked because of their ability to move the ball and the hard work they put in during tryouts. They will be a good addition to the team and will help give the Thompson Okanagan Summer Games team a great opportunity to win gold.”
Miller, who will enter Grade 7 at Coldstream Elementary this fall, is a huge fan of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and Barcelona because of the way they pass and hold the ball.
“When they do give it up, they force the other team hard and get it back in a hurry. Ronaldo is a really fast runner. I like his quickness and his dribbling.”
He says the Zone 2 team has Barcelona-like traits and they go hard in training.
“The practices are really hard. We did 50 burpees today because we didn’t make enough passes in a drill.”
Miller, who hopes to secure a U.S. university scholarship and play in a pro league one day, lists his parents – Brian and Tracy – as his heroes.
“They coached me one year and they’ve always supported me. Whenever my mom and I are driving home from games, she tells me what she thought I did right and what I could have done better. They never miss a game. Sometimes they have to alternate between my games and my sister’s (Hannah) games.”
Owen and Hannah, who enjoy downhill skiing with their family, practise their shots on a six-by 12-foot net in their backyard.
“We play every day,” said Owen. “I help my sister out, showing her how to kick. We make little movies of our best shots.”
Purvis remembers being quite an emotional player as a tyke, where he was coached for two years by his father, Stephen.
“I cried whenever the other team scored a goal,” chuckled Purvis, who attends Vernon Christian School with longtime youth soccer teammates Joe Eggert and Dylan Huber.
“I liked all the cool goals on TV and I wanted to score those goals. My dad’s from Newcastle (England) so we’ve been to three or four games. It’s loud and crazy and a lot of fun.”
Purvis, who plays school hoops and volleyball, says the Summer Games squad is blessed with speed and hard, accurate shooting. His soccer idol is Lionel Messi of Barcelona, whose mixture of pace and trickery Purvis oftens imitates.
“I wanna play college and play for the Whitecaps and then play for Canada and Barcelona,” said Purvis, who has two brothers also in soccer.
He lists his late grandfather, Harvey Epp, of Vernon, as his hero.
“He made me laugh when I was feeling down and he taught me how to kick a ball when I was really little.”
The Zone 2 team played Prince George in an exhibition series last weekend in 100 Mile House.