Emmanuel Dolo came to this province as a six-year-old from Liberia and, aside from the winters here, which he found a little tough to take, he’s settled in pretty well.
“It was a lot different,” Dolo said comparing his birthplace to St. John’s.
“I found it pretty hard to get settled at first,” he admitted during an interview after a soccer match at Feildian Grounds last Sunday afternoon.
“I found it hard to get used to the weather. It was very cold in the winter time,” he added with a smile.
Dolo said things started to turn around for him as he got older and after he started playing soccer locally.
He began in house-league play, then he got a tryout with St. John’s youth side, Now, he’s a regular with various club and all-star teams.
And although he won’t turn 15 until next month, Dolo played a game with Feildians Ernst & Young’s Challenge Cup team last year and has played half a game three times with the Double Blues so far this season.
Mostly shy, except when he’s around friends, the soft-spoken Dolo has obviously grown accustomed to his new home.
Helping the transition was his love for soccer.
He was playing the game before he came to Newfoundland and Labrador, but he noted “We’d just kick the ball around with a bunch of friends.”
Dolo’s a natural and it wasn’t long before he was opening eyes locally with his deft play and scoring ability.
He’s already established himself as Newfoundland and Labrador’s brightest young player, perhaps the best the province has ever seen.
Those who didn’t know about the youngster before began paying attention after he starred for Newfoundland’s under-14 team at the national championships last October in Alberta, where he scored an incredible 17 goals in five games.
That accomplishment, among others, was good enough for him to win accolades.
Opportunities have followed.
He was chosen the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association (NLSA) youth player of the year. He attended the U15 national camp. He attended the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps trial and the Montreal Impact of the MLS have also shown interest.
Dolo was selected for Team Atlantic for the nationals in British Columbia later this month and ge recently captained the Feildians U15 team that won the Gloucester (Ont.) Invitational tournament tier one division while also beating a Montreal Impact academy side.
He’s scored 12 goals in the four games he’s played with Feildians in the St. John’s U16 league.
There’s no doubt Dolo has received more attention within the local soccer community than any player his age.
You tend to draw attention when you are playing in the Molson Challenge Cup League with most of the players who are twice your age.
He played 40 minutes during the second half of the match Sunday against Mount Pearl.
Dolo’s first couple of touches were accurate passes to teammates, but he got little room to maneuver the rest of the way and was not a factor during his time on the pitch.
He was also in a brief encounter as he attempted to shake a Feildians defender. The exchange involved some clutching and grabbing. but Dolo held his own.
He didn’t appear to be intimidated by the older, stronger opposition players. He took a hard tackle that sent him to the ground just before he was subbed off with five minutes to play.
“It’s been pretty good. A lot of good players and a fast pace,” he says of the Challenge Cup league.
“I’m getting a lot better. I’m getting to know the players and the feel of the game,” he added.
He said it was “hard to say” which team he prefered playing with, his U16s or the senior club.
Feildians Ernst & Young player-coach John Acreman calls Dolo a very special player.
“I’ve been around this game a long time and I’m impressed with his skill set at such a young age.
“He’s still has a lot of growth, of course,” said Acreman, “and he has to keep his feet on the ground, but he has skills above and beyond anyone I’ve seen in his age bracket.”
Acreman says Dolo has the ability to think quickly with the ball and his dribbling skills are second to none.
“His timing on his runs and his ability to skip past players with the ball close to his foot at all times is impressive,” noted Acreman, adding it will be very interesting to see where Dolo’s skills will take him.
The Feildians coach said the teenager has fit in “quite well” in the few matches he played with the Double Blues senior team this season.
“If you saw him and didn’t know anything about him, you’d never guess he was a 14- or 15-year-old the way he plays at the senior level.”
Acreman said Dolo’s quickness helps him avoid the physicality of the senior league.
“He has ability to gain ground quickly, so people are often chasing him.”
Acreman said Dolo needs to a higher level of competition to push him.
“He’s so good he can get away with doing the wrong stuff and still have it come out right. In order to get where he wants to go he needs strong competition.”
“I don’t know where his ceiling is in terms of growth,” said Acreman. “He still surprises me.”
Dolo said he enjoyed his time at the Vancouver camp and is looking forward to a possible Impact camp.
“It’s been my dream since I was a little kid to go to the big leagues and get good,” he said.
The Vancouver camp in May opened his eyes.
“There were a lot of good players there and it was a very fast pace”
“I still need to get to work on my fitness and (on) using my right foot,” said the five-foot-five, 140 pounder.
The Grade 8 Leary’s Brook student, who is looking to go to high school with Prince of Wales Collegiate, said he wants to take soccer “as far as I can go.”
At this stage in his development, there doesn’t seem to be a limit.