Having left home at 11 to pursue his footballing dream in Spain, Luca Koleosho has worked hard to get where he is today. Now 18, the RCD Espanyol winger is in the camp with Canada but has plenty of international options having been born in the United States.
Having left home at 11 to pursue his footballing dream in Spain, Luca Koleosho has worked hard to get where he is today.
Now 18, the RCD Espanyol winger is in camp with Canada but has plenty of international options, having been born in the United States to a Nigerian father and an Italian-Canadian mother, born in Montreal .
Koleosho has four passports. Although he has yet to choose his international path, he says he is enjoying his time with Canada.
“Reconnecting with the players, the coaches and all the staff has been really nice,” Koleosho said. “The training has been really good so far.”
His first contact with the Canadian team was somewhat chaotic. He was part of Vancouver’s ill-fated side in June when the players boycotted a scheduled friendly with Panama over a contract dispute.
Koleosho left camp early and was not involved in subsequent CONCACAF Nations League matches against Curaçao and Honduras.
“After all the turmoil off the pitch, you wondered if he was going to come back,” coach John Herdman said when announcing his roster for September friendlies.
“Literally the kid came in and he was only slated for an experience for that Curacao (match) period. We weren’t willing to put him on the pitch at that time because that would have meant the ‘equal cut (him).’
“It was a tough experience,” Herdman added. “But he enjoyed it. He enjoyed the environment. I think Alphonso Davies is his favorite player and he’s formed a good relationship with Johnny David and some of the young players. And he’s certainly connected well with the staff. “There was never really any doubt that he wasn’t going to come back. This window, we’re going to be looking to get him some minutes.”
Koleosho was not one of the six substitutes used in Friday’s 2-0 win over Qatar’s number 48 in Vienna. That could change on Tuesday when the 43rd-ranked Canadians take on a star team from Uruguay, ranked 13th in the world, in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Like the Qatar match, it is a friendly match so unlike the CONCACAF Nations League match, Koleosho’s international future would not be decided if he enters the pitch.
Koleosho, who turned 18 on September 15, is still weighing his options.
“But I’m having fun here. So we’ll see how things go,” he said.
Herdman has followed Koleosho’s progress with great interest.
“He started to become this level 1 player (of the league). And that’s exciting for Canada,” Herdman said.
Koleosho is an attacking winger who likes to run and challenge defenders.
“It’s something I’ve been doing since I was young,” he said. “I love playing against players and trying to get to the goal and score as much as possible.”
Aside from the June camp, Koleosho was impressed with the Canadian organization.
“Everything went well,” he said.
Koleosho already had a taste of the USA setup, having made the USA Under-16 team in 2019.
He was 17 when he made his La Liga debut in May, coming on as a substitute in Espanyol’s goalless draw at Granada.
“When I was on the bench and heard the crowd, I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous,” he said of his first-team debut. “When they told me to go warm up, I ended up getting pretty calm. And when I walked onto the pitch, I really didn’t notice anything. I was just focused on the game.
“And after the game I was able to sit down and think about it. It was quite a special moment.”
He trained with the first team this season. He played against Celta Vigo and Rayo Vallecano last month in the opening two games of the campaign but picked up the injury ahead of the next game – against Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid.
Last season, he helped Espanyol U19 side reach the Copa del Rey Juvenil final where they lost 2-1 to Real Madrid after extra time. He also played for Espanyol’s B team.
Koleosho came to Spain in 2016, spending time with former club Reus (pronounced RAY-oose) before joining Barcelona-based Espanyol.
“I love it there. I really love my coaches and my teammates and everyone there,” he said. “It’s been pretty fun so far.”
It has not always been so. Koleosho was alone when he arrived in Spain. His family remained in the United States but visited him several times a year.
Although he is fluent in Spanish now, he did not speak the language when he arrived there.
“You have to grow fast,” he said of the move. “You have to become very independent. You have to really grow and learn to take care of yourself.
“So I feel like I’ve matured and grown a lot faster than if I had stayed in the States with my family and friends.”
He found himself in Spain thanks to one of his coaches, originally from Barcelona. The coach convinced Koleosho’s family that he would learn more in Spain.
“I wanted to do it. It doesn’t matter how old I am,” Koleosho said.
Espanyol (1-4-1) are currently 17th in Spain’s 20-team top flight.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 25, 2022
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press