Perron pursues pro soccer dream in Hong Kong

Adam Perron is hoping to begin his international soccer career soon after attending tryouts for three teams in Hong Kong recently. Reminder Publications submitted photo
April 4, 2012

By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

GREATER SPRINGFIELD — For as long as Adam Perron can remember, he has wanted to play professional soccer overseas.

Now the Western Massachusetts native, born in Northampton, raised in Ludlow and Hampden and most recently residing in Westfield, may soon have his chance.

Perron returns home on April 4 after spending the past several weeks in China and Hong Kong trying out for professional soccer teams and hopes he has earned an invitation to join a team's training camp in July with a shot at a contract, complete with monthly salary, room and board and food.

Perron is vying for an opportunity to grab one of four spots open to international players on a team in the Hong Kong First Division League and after what he felt were some very good sessions, he feels he has a chance.

"I've been to two matches here, in beautiful 7,000-seat stadiums set within the city, and believe I can really help a team here. When I fly back to the states [on April 4], it is out of my hands, however, and need to rely on a combination of faith and a bit of luck as I feel I put my best foot forward with the two teams I trained with," Perron said in a March 31 interview with Reminder Publications. "I train with one more team on April 1 to try and expand my options, but I believe I have a good shot to come back in the summer."

While now carrying an optimistic outlook, The University of Massachusetts (UMass) goaltending coach and former Western Mass. Pioneer team member's trip nearly ended in disappointment. But overcoming long odds is nothing new to Perron.

"I would have to say the main lesson I've learned in life is to do what you can to pursue your dreams and never stop fighting for what you want to do in life," he said. "Many times throughout my career, I have been faced with adversity coming in the form of a lack of playing time for a given team, a run of bad form, mistakes, injury and being cut. It is those adverse moments, however, that make the triumphs, awards, wins, saves, and achievements that much better."

After playing at Wilbraham & Monson Academy, Perron received little to no attention from college programs at any level, something he for which he blames his lack of understanding of college recruiting.

"That would be a word of advice to the youth soccer players looking to play in college — do your homework on the process and visit as many schools as possible, talk to coaches and enter their summer camps so they can see you up close," Perron said.

After making a video tape and sending it to several schools, Perron caught the eye of Peter Steese of Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire. Perron won the starting job as a freshman, finishing second in rookie of the year voting and earning second team all-conference honors and started all four years. He was the team's Most Valuable Player his junior year and an all-conference honorable mention as a senior. He ranks second all-time in wins and fourth in goals against average for the program.

He spent the summers after his senior year playing for the Pioneers, who then were part of the USL-2 professional league, and spent the winter in the Big E Coliseum playing minor-league indoor soccer for the Massachusetts Twisters.

In his second year with the Pioneers, tragedy struck as Perron shattered his ankle, an injury that nearly cost him his career. However, Perron was able to recover and play one more season in Western Massachusetts.

In 2009, Perron turned to coaching, going to Utica College in New York where he coached the goaltenders and worked toward his master's degree while playing for the Albany Highlanders under current Pioneers coach Joe Calabrese. He spent two years there before re-joining Calabrese with the Pioneers in the summer of 2011, splitting time with three other goaltenders.

Feeling he had played well the last two seasons, Perron decided that if he was going to pursue a career playing international soccer, the time was now.

"I sent numerous tapes and emails to Sweden, Germany, England, and Mexico, really not getting much in return," Perron said. "Finally, I took a shot in the dark and called my grandfather, who remarried a young Chinese woman. She had some contacts in China, and helped me arrange the opportunity to come over here. One of the contacts is the technical director for all of China, and has coached in the professional ranks here."

UMass head coach Sam Koch gave Perron permission to spend a month in China to pursue his dream, but upon his arrival, the trip nearly turned into a nightmare.

"When I got there, I learned the league does not accept foreign goalkeepers, only field players, as they try to protect a not so great pool of goalies," Perron explained. "I was devastated. I was that close to my dream of trying out professionally only to have it taken away from me. The same rule is in place for Korea, Japan, and China."

Perron made the most of his opportunity and trained with the Beijing Sports University's men's soccer team and played in an exhibition game against the U-17 Chinese national team.

Two weeks later, Perron was introduced to the technical director of the Hong Kong First Division League, who explained the rules in Hong Kong were different because it used to be under British rule.

"I nearly fell out of my chair at the Korean restaurant we were at because I was very excited," he said.

Perron extended his trip by a couple of weeks and took part in four days of tryout sessions with Citizen FC and then TSW Pegasus and said both he and the goalkeeper coaches from the teams were pleased with the results.

"I played very strong, mistake-free goalkeeping. It was like, I'm finally getting my opportunity and I am not going to blow it," Perron said. "It was indeed high level of play, but the goalkeeping, in my opinion, was not great which leaves a door open for me."

Perron said he was sure to take time to see the sights and experience the culture of Hong Kong, which he quickly fell in love with. He admitted there was some culture shock and some differences that were evident right off the bat, like the fact that the 6-foot-3 American "stuck out like a sore thumb."

"Many times I was asked to pose for pictures with Chinese people at many of the tourist attractions, which was pretty sweet," he said.

Perron took full advantage of his unique opportunity in Hong Kong and China and visited the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Lama Temple, the Shaolin Temple, the home of Jet Li and the Shaolin Monks, and took in a Chinese professional game in Beijing.

"This place [Hong Kong] is absolutely gorgeous. It has seven times the skyscrapers of New York City, the climate of Florida, and is made up of multiple islands and mountains with beautiful landscapes," he said.

Perron said that while his life and career have taken some unusual turns, he wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

"Some people might question my motives for coming over here or try and convince me I should be trying to start a conventional career back home and 'settle' for possibly doing something I am not happy doing," he said. "I love coaching, so that is not an issue, but I set a goal for myself to try and play professionally overseas and grabbed the opportunity by the horns when it finally came to being. It is true that I may not end up on a team out here, but at least I can say I put my best foot forward and gave it a shot and have cherished the experience I gained and the people I have met over here."

Having dreams is important, he added, but pursuing them makes all the difference in the world.

"To any kids back home, set a dream and a goal and go after it. Never stop until you are satisfied with the results," he said.

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