By Ottawa Sports Pages, For Ottawa TFC Soccer Club
Astel Essindi, Cedric Devos, Isaac Ajani and Arjun Kahlon have been friends and teammates for the better part of five seasons, and now the graduating Ottawa TFC youth players are poised to spend about five years more at each other’s side as future members of the Nipissing University Lakers varsity men’s soccer team.
Together most every day of the week for training with the Ottawa TFC Senior Elite Boys Academy, it just made sense to the inseparable quartet to keep that connection alive during the next step in their careers.
“Our friendship has helped us understand each other on and off the pitch,” underlines Kahlon, a clinical 6’4″ striker who will study criminal justice. “It has helped us understand how to get the best out of each other in games and in training, which pushes us to our limits.”
Essindi was the first member of the group to take a strong interest in playing for the North Bay school. He was glad to know he’d have an opportunity to earn playing time even as a newcomer to the squad. Having three friends follow him was of course a huge bonus, though all four independently determined the school and team was a good fit for them.
Defensive anchor Ajani felt his personal philosophies matched those of Lakers coach Tony D’Agostino after they spoke by phone.
“I chose Nipissing University because I knew I would be getting an excellent education while playing in an amazing, competitive and inspiring soccer program,” adds Ajani, who will study physical education and health.
Much like the family feel present at Ottawa TFC, Essindi was drawn to the feel of a “small school that really connects with the community as a whole,” explains the future sociology student who pledges “to leave my mark on Nipissing University.”
Czech trip creates bonds, motivation
Through their time at Ottawa TFC, the boys collected a treasure trove of memories. Winning tightly-contested matches with their local rivals from the city’s south side were always major highlights.
A 2017 team trip to the Czech Republic also stands out. That included the chance to play against professional academies, and to solidify bonds between teammates.
“That was such a great experience for all of us,” Kahlon reflects.
Devos, a future business student who leads by example and also with his voice, says that getting to see pro settings in the Czech Republic provided fuel in his own soccer quest.
“I always had that in mind as my goal to become a professional,” signals Devos, a creative attacking midfielder who joined Ottawa TFC following his family’s move from Belgium. “I think this university can be a really good step in my career.”
Watching the four friends develop as players and people over many years – and now to see them choose to carry on their soccer journeys together – is naturally a very proud moment for their club.
“Good luck to all the boys at Nipissing,” states Ottawa TFC Boys Club Head Coach Vladan Vrsecky. “We can’t wait to watch you continue to grow and to see what amazing things you’ll accomplish.”