Van Isle Wave and St John’s Football Academy player Damian Jamal-Olander has been invited to an identification camp held by the Football Association of Finland. Coaches from the Finnish U-15, U-16, and U-17 national teams will be present to evaluate and select players from the regional tournament.
The tournament will take place in Eerikkilä, Finland from December 7-9.
“It’s amazing for Damian, for Wave, St John’s, and for Pacific in general because he’s a player that has come in here and used this platform to play and show his ability,” says Jamar Dixon, Manager of Football and Player Development for Pacific FC and Academy Director for The Football Academy at St. John’s.
Jamal-Olander’s quality was clear early on with both Van Isle Wave and The Football Academy. Thanks to that ability, the youngster was called up to train with the Pacific FC first team during the 2023 season. Now, Jamal-Olander looks to continue his incredible trajectory through this opportunity with the Finnish national team.
“He’s a very smart kid, first and foremost,” says Dixon. “He analyzes the game very well, he plays as an eight or a six, and can slot in at centre-back. All of those positions require a lot of thinking, a lot of critical thinking.”
Chris Merriman, Jamal-Olander’s VI Wave coach, calls him a box-to-box midfielder capable of dictating the tempo of a match from the middle of the park and highlights the attitude with which he comes into every session.
“Damian is dynamic and versatile with the ability to play numerous roles,” says Merriman. “His positive habits in the training environment set a demanding standard for himself and his teammates. For a young player, he has a professional approach with a consistency and a dedication to his craft which will ensure a high ceiling.”
Given those traits, it’s no surprise a national team call-up has come so soon for Jamal-Olander, who holds dual citizenship with Canada and Finland.
As big of an opportunity as this is for the young man himself, it also speaks to the work being done behind the scenes and on the training pitches by those connected to VI Wave, The Football Academy, and Pacific FC.
“These opportunities are what footballers strive for and Damian deserves this moment,” says Merriman. “From a club perspective, to have players recognized on a national and European level speaks to the environment we are providing within the Wave and Pacific.”
Dixon says the level of training Jamal-Olander and others are receiving in both programs is second-to-none.
“This boy is now getting an opportunity to train in the morning and afternoon (with St. John’s Academy and VI Wave). He’s getting six sessions a week as opposed to maybe three sessions. It helps his game significantly. He’ll stay sharper, he’ll be more engaged in the day-to-day aspect of the game, and at this age that’s the most crucial and critical piece. All those things are working full circle.”
Although it isn’t the country he calls home that’s calling him up right now, this is still a massive moment in the bigger picture of a young player’s career.
“I’m happy for him to excel and get the chance to do something in his football career he’s never got to do,” says Dixon. “He chose Finland because that’s the team knocking on the door for him right now. If he does well, which I think he will, there’s no telling when Canada will give him a call and then that’s where he’ll have decisions to make. At the end of the day though it’s all positive, we take it step by step, and we just want him to enjoy this experience.”
“He’s from here, in our backyard, and he’s playing with Wave and St. John’s. So 100% this is a local success story.”