Victoria's Simon Thomas quickly climbing soccer ladder

Simon Thomas of Victoria has probably earned some down time after a whirlwind week in which he established himself as one of the top three soccer goalkeepers in Canada and moved up to a European Premiership club.

After the scoreless 2018 World Cup qualifying draw by Canada in El Salvador, it was 24 hours of travel to get to Norway for the media conference last week announcing his new three-year deal with Bodo/Glimt of the top-level Tippeligaen. The Bays United product moves up from Strommen of the First Division OBOS-ligaen, where he played in 28 games this past season.

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“I knew this was in the works through the Canada call-up,” said Thomas, who arrived back home Monday.

“The players in the Premiership play smarter and with more pace and more discipline,” added Thomas, of the move up.

It’s been a long journey since that day in Bays United Under-9 youth soccer when Thomas put his hand up to volunteer for the crease when the regular goalie was hurt. The six-foot-three former Oak Bay High student-athlete dressed for Canada along with back-line starter and fellow 25-year-old Bays United and Lower Island Metro product Adam Straith as Canada began the CONCACAF fourth round of World Cup qualifying by taking four of a possible six points against Honduras and El Salvador.

The twice-capped Thomas was dressed in reserve, along with Kenny Stamatopoulos, behind Canadian starting ’keeper Milan Borjan. But you know what that also made him? One of the top three goalkeepers in Canada.

“That [status] really hasn’t hit me yet,” said Thomas.

“I see myself up there one day [as Canadian starter.] I’m pushing for that. For me, this month has been just part of my work. All 22 Canadian players have to prepare like they are going to play and that’s how I approached it.”

Thomas is the lone goalkeeper signed so far by Bodo/Glimt for the 2016 Tippeligaen, which runs from March through November, with training camp opening Jan. 4. Canada’s next World Cup qualifying games are home-and-away against Mexico in March.

“I see this [next year] as getting on with the next phase of my career,” said Thomas.

CORNER KICKS: Another Victoria product moving up to the European Premiership level is teenager Dario Zanatta, who recently made his debut with Hearts in Scotland by subbing into a game against Thistle at Firhill Stadium. The 18-year-old Gorge F.C. and Lower Island Metro product, and Canada U-18 and U-20 player, signed a two-year contact with Hearts in August. After his first-team debut, Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson described Zanatta to The Herald newspaper of Scotland as a “huge talent.”

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