Jason South has been travelling the world doing what he loves – playing football. His next destination is Serbia, where he will be competing with Team USA on Oct. 28 as the only Canadian on the field.
“It’s exhilarating,” he said. “The captain of the team contacted me… he wanted to know if I would like to come play defensive end for them… you can’t say no to that!”
The 27-year-old from Petrolia has most recently played in Iceland, Austria and Germany, and while he said he’s certainly been blessed with opportunities, those opportunities come down to hard work and discipline.
“The harder you work for something, the more opportunity it creates,” South said.
South began playing football at age 11. After the death of his grandfather, he was motivated to focus his energy on the field, and that’s when he discovered his strengths.
“When you lose someone you love, that you’re close to, you don’t really know what to do with yourself,” South said. “I took that negative energy and applied it to football, and I just fell in love with the sport.”
South played throughout his teens when he attended both St. Clair Secondary and LCCVI. He continued playing when he moved on to post-secondary school, as well as for the Canadian Junior Team in Waterloo.
South said for a lot of university players, once graduation day comes, that’s the end of their football career. But when he left the University of Guelph, he wasn’t ready to give up the game just yet. He had a dream of making football into a career.
“I thought football was done, but my friend recommended a website called Europlayers.”
South made a profile on the international recruiting site and was soon in contact with teams throughout Europe. The teams aren’t just looking at skill level, they also want players who can communicate and interact well within a team atmosphere, he said.
After his first international experience in Austria in 2015, South’s mind was opened and he realized he could make his dreams come true. While his goal is to play for the CFL, the fact he’s managed to make football his career at all has been an experience of a lifetime.
“The stereotype for Canada is that you go to university, and everyone’s dream is to play in the CFL,” he said. “In reality, not many guys get to go play in the CFL… it’s very competitive and tough to enter.”
South said his experiences in other countries has pushed him to work harder – he trains six days a week for three to four hours, maintains a healthy diet and stays on track with his sleeping schedule.
“You have to have a very strong work ethic,” he said. “The international exposure shows that you’re able to add diversity in the game of football… each country has different leagues… it’s very different.”
South said he hopes to promote and expose football in other parts of the world to people in North America – while most people watch CFL or NFL games, South noted that there are plenty of talented players abroad worth watching. As one of the few Canadians to play overseas, he wants to open the door to more opportunity for other Canadians.
“The love of the game is the same as it is here,” he said. “It’s a growing sport over there, but people in North America aren’t really exposed to it.”
He said after he returns to Serbia, he’ll be preparing for the off-season, doing strength training and preparing for the next opportunity that comes his way – South is hoping the CFL or another European team.
“You have to work hard, stay positive and hope for the best,” he said. “It may seem like a farfetched dream, but it could also become a reality.”
If you're a football player looking for new opportunities, or if you are interested in sponsoring South is his football journey, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.