Maple Ridge teens Keegan Shankland and Manuel Mangu are about to embark on a European adventure.
Shankland, a centre midfielder, and Mangu, a goalkeeper, are heading to Genoa, Italy, where they will take part in a soccer program.
The 16 year olds will spend the first four days on Italian soil at the Genova International School of Soccer.
Then, for the following two weeks, the pair will be with FC Pro Vercelli, an Italian Series B professional club.
A member of the Alouette District Youth Soccer Association's U18 metro boys team, Shankland heads overseas on Wednesday.
"I'm pretty excited for it," Shankland said. "Playing with people from Italy, they're probably really good, so it will probably be more of a challenge."
Mangu is looking forward to showing his skills and, he said, "learning different things on how to become a better player from coaches over there that have more experience."
Mangu's main goal is to get an offer to stay and play in Italy.
This opportunity to go to Genoa came about after Shankland's dad David met with the director of the Genova International School of Soccer in June.
"He asked me to send a player profile and video on the players, which I did," David related. "He passed on the video and profiles of Keegan and Manuel to his contacts [at] FC Pro Vercelli, the professional club they are going to, and they offered to bring them over for the trials to have a closer look at them."
The process took about three or four weeks - just coordinating the dates took a bit longer, David said.
David is a former professional soccer player who suited up for the Tranmere Rovers and Bradford City in England and Hamilton Academicals in Scotland.
He knows the Italians take their soccer very seriously.
"Italy's one of the top countries in the world for football," David said. "They live and breathe it. It's a lot like hockey for sport in this country."
Even though the younger Shankland lived for four years in Scotland, his dad believes this trip will be a bit of a culture shock for his son.
"I think he'll realize how passionate the fans are, and just with the general population, how much they love football," David said. "It will be full bore. He'll get a lot of experience."
Genoa's soccer school takes players ages 16 and older from all around the world including Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Canada, and Singapore.
"It's a full-time residential school," David explained. "The players actually stay there, they go to school there, they live at the academy."
However, the club is the main focus for the two players' tour.
Keegan's ultimate goal is to play soccer professionally. He realizes he has some work to do to reach that lofty level.
"I will have to improve quite a bit," he said. "That's why I'm going to Italy."
A centre midfielder's role is to defend and then attack with the forwards, Keegan explained.
Last season, Keegan scored a single goal, from 18 yards away.
"I started out as a defender and then I moved over to centre midfield," he said. "I really like that position."
David said Keegan's soccer future is entirely up to him.
"I helped get him the opportunity," David said. "I played professional soccer myself so I know how difficult it is to get there, and stay there. It's a difficult journey and you have to really want it, especially if you are going to leave home and make a career out of it, you've got to really mature quickly."
Keegan is ready to take that next step, his dad believes.
"It's up to him if he's mentally tough," David said. "Physically, I think he's ready but mentally, it's going to be a challenge for him. I think this experience will either drive him to it, or he'll decide if that's really what he wants to do."
As for Keegan's travelling partner, Mangu has compiled an impressive resume.
Mangu played for Mountain United FC in Burnaby last season, and this season he will be returning for a second stint with the squad.
In 2010 Mangu helped Team B.C. capture the U14 national championships in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He was also a runner up in the Provincial Cup this season with Mountain United.
Mangu has recent experience playing in Europe. He trained in England and Scotland this past March, but this experience to Italy will be new for him.
"He's been to Europe on trials before," David said. "He's a provincial 'keeper up to 16 and a National Training Centre 'keeper, so he's good quality."
Mangu's favourite team is Manchester United. Naturally, it would be a dream for him to play for the Red Devils.
"It would be a dream, if one day I ended up playing for them," he said, "[but] I wouldn't mind playing any of Europe's top leagues."