“It’s exciting,” Kooner said Tuesday (Dec. 29) from his home in Newton, where he’s been quarantining over the holidays, upon his return from Braga.
On Monday (Dec. 28), a nine-minute “A Day With the Player” video, posted to the Lank Football Club channel on YouTube, documents Kooner’s signing to S.C. Braga. The team plays in the Primeira Liga, Portugal’s top soccer league, at the 30,000-seat Estádio Municipal de Braga.
“The video was done in October but my signing didn’t get announced until now, and they said not to say anything until the video was finished,” Kooner explained. “People started slowly finding out, people close to me, and now it’s out there.
The video opens with comments from a Lank academy scout named Tanou, and also features S.C. Braga’s technical director, Hugo Vieira.
“Juvy has been with our Academy since he was 15 and it has been an honour to watch him develop into the skilled, and strong player he has become,” says a post under the Lank academy video. “We are excited to continue following his career as he takes this huge leap into professional football.”
A central defender, Kooner played with Surrey United in the BC Soccer Premier League before joining the Whitecaps FC residency program in August 2015, according to a bio on whitecapsfc.com.
The 2002-born Kooner was at Surrey’s Tamanawis Secondary for Grade 8 before a move to Burnaby Central with the Whitecaps program. He studied online for a year while playing in Sweden before graduating from Burnsview Secondary in North Delta.
Kooner, who turns 19 on Jan. 2, first met with a Lank Academy rep in Toronto while at a showcase with Canada Soccer, he said.
“An agent there from Sweden was looking to start an academy to promote players from Canada and send them on to Europe,” Kooner explained. “He saw me play and then talked to me afterwards – it’s an academy that moves players on to the next platform.”
S.C. Braga helped Lank open their academy in the Portuguese city.
“I was in Lank Academy the season before, in a tournament against Braga, and that’s where they saw me play, and they’ve been watching me since then. And this season they decided to sign me.
“I was supposed to sign last year but then I tore my ACL,” Kooner added. “That was a tough blow but I just kept in touch with them, and Lank kept in touch with them and provided everything I needed. The rehab went really well and yeah, it was exciting to finally get the chance to sign.”
Kooner has signed a three-year contract with S.C. Braga.
“Hopefully after that I’ll get an extension or maybe I’ll go to another team, it all depends on how I perform,” Kooner said.
“Right now I need to quarantine for another couple of days here, and then I’m leaving around January 10th, for training, and the season hasn’t started yet, and I’m still playing with the U19s and U23s,” he added. “Even though I’ve signed a professional contract, I still have to work my way up the ranks of their club. And the season hasn’t started yet because of COVID, so hopefully that happens in January. They’re not sure yet.”
Born in Vancouver, Kooner moved to Surrey with his family when he was in Grade 2.
He has posted a photo of his signing to his Instagram account.
“I have a lot of agencies calling me now too, to represent me,” he said. “It’s crazy because I know me posting it (on social media) would bring a lot of traffic, but there’s been so many people contacting me, to do this interview or that interview, from agencies, including some from India, where my father is from.”