At 16 years old, most kids are in the grips of high school drama, drivers training and still figuring out what they want to do in the real world. Life is a little different for 16-year-old FC Edmonton midfielder Hanson Boakai.
Boakai made his professional debut for the North American Soccer League club last weekend against the Carolina RailHawks, replacing Sadi Jalali in the 65th minute.
Stepping onto the field earned Boakai the title of the youngest player to ever play in the NASL. At 16 years and 231 days, he beat the previous record holder who was none other than his FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller. Recently appointed as interim head coach for the Canadian national team, Miller made his debut with the Toronto Blizzard in 1982 when he was 17-years-old.
“[Miller] said ‘okay kid, now’s your time,’” Boakai explained about the moments before heading into the game. “It was really special because I look up to Colin a lot.”
Miller’s record had been tied earlier this year by another FC Edmonton player - striker Sadi Jalali – who came on as a substitute in April, also against the RailHawks in a 2-1 away loss. Jalali, who was 17 on the day of his debut, made way for Boakai in the June 16 game.
“He’s a special wee talent,” said Miller. “Every once in a while you come across a player that has that little bit of magic and has the potential to change the game. That’s Hanson. He’s got something and it’s exciting to see him play.”
Boakai made quite an impression on Canadian soccer fans in the U-17 qualifications for the World Cup. He scored twice at the recent CONCACAF Championship, with one goal proving vital in helping Canada advance out of the group stage.
Signing a professional contract with FC Edmonton in February, he was one of five others that signed with the club after appearing with the Eddies Reserves in 2012.
Boakai is expected to see more Eddies action as the team with two games left in the Spring schedule. FCE plays away to the San Antonio Scorpions on June 22 and a final home game on June 30 against Minnesota United FC.
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