Defender finds a home at Laurier
All the pieces have fallen into place for Ché Jayawardena.
The 18-year-old, St. Francis Secondary School student wasn’t sure what to expect in his final year of high school with the COVID pandemic wiping out sports across the country.
The St. Catharines native did know he wanted to attend Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and continue to play soccer.
“It (COVID) definitely brought some uncertainty,” Jayawardena said. “Everyone’s league got canceled and it was the most important year so I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t have much film so I didn’t know if I was even going to be able to get recruited.
“I knew I had the ability but I didn’t know if it was going to happen.”
Jayawardena was able to play in a few exhibition games set up by Empire Niagara Soccer Academy technical director Davide Massafra, which he said made a huge difference in the recruiting process.
“I was able to get to lot of film from that and that really helped,” Jayawardena said. “I was able to put my highlight film together.”
Jayawardena then met with the Laurier coaching staff on a handful of Zoom calls where things came together.
“I was thinking about a few schools (Brock, Western) but I pretty much knew I wanted to go to Laurier,” he said. “It was close to home and I really liked their business program and, more specifically, their co-op. It’s well recognized across Canada. It was something I was interested in and I thought it presented a lot of opportunities.”
Jayawardena admitted it is a huge relief to have his immediate future mapped out.
“It feels great. Now that everything has come through and I know the next steps and I’ll be playing soccer for Laurier, it puts the mind at rest and you know what to get prepared for.”
Jayawardena likes where Laurier’s soccer program is heading.
“Playing university soccer was always a goal for me. I think Laurier has a really promising future and something I really want to be part of. I think years three and four will be really good.”
Jayawardena began playing soccer as a youngster and has trained with Empire Niagara for the last seven years.
“Ché is an amazing outside defender capable to play in the middle as well,” Massafra said. “He has unbelievable strength and speed and a great left foot which allows him to cover several positions on the left side of the pitch.”
Massafra feels will excel at the next level.
“I’m not surprised Jayawardena was selected to play at university level as he has all the physical and technical skills to compete,” he said. “Honestly, I believe he would have gotten several U.S. scholarships offers without COVID.”
Jayawardena feels his training at Empire Niagara has prepared him for university soccer.
“Practices have always been really intense. Davide really pushes us so in that aspect of it I will be prepared for it,” he said. “All my coaches always tell me everyone gets bigger and stronger at the next level and the game just gets faster. I think I will be prepared for that because of our practices and because I’ve always been physical and fast. There is never a practice where you are just sitting around and not doing much. You are always getting pushed and that really helped my skill set and mind set.”
Empire Niagara manager and assistant coach Chris Czeban has trained Jayawardena since he began with the club.
“Ché has served as assistant captain with the team. He is a fast, outside defender who has strong footwork and can create opportunities on the attack,” Czeban said. “He has strong defender instincts and is a good kid who is friends with all on team.”
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