Hundreds of emails later and William Tonning finally got the call he was hoping for — he was offered his first professional soccer contract.
The former Brandon University goalie’s phone rang last Sunday, and it was the coach of Ytterhogdals IK, a professional Swedish soccer team that plays in the Division Two Norrland league.
The 21-year-old helped the Bobcats win their first MCAC soccer championship in 2019 and was named league MVP. Adding to his list of accomplishments, he is the first Bobcats athlete to sign a professional soccer contract.
“It means a lot. I hope I can be the first of many, obviously,” said Tonning. “Last year we had a lot of key players in there that could definitely make it if they give it their all. I hope I can be the first of many, but absolutely being the first is always a milestone and something I’m proud of.”
The leagues in Sweden run from April to November and Tonning said he will be heading to Sweden in February for some preseason action. Playing in Sweden will also keep him closer to his home in Slagelse,Denmark.
“It means that my family can come visit, my girlfriend can come visit. It’s a bit easier than Canada for sure,” said Tonning with a laugh. “It’s up north in Sweden with nice nature and a lot of lakes around. It’s a small, small village but I think it’s going to be a great experience for sure.”
Tonning has been commanding the crease since he was 10 years old. He plays an aggressive style and he said fellow Danish keeper Peter Schmeichel has always been a role model for him. He likes how the former Manchester United goalie was a leader on and off the field and always commanded his box.
The coaching staff at BU said Tonning brought something new to the school’s soccer program.
“The mentality and standard he brings, it really helped get our program to another level,” said Bobcats head coach Jesse Roziere.
“William is constantly in the gym five, six days a week. Constantly training, constantly looking after himself in those ways. I think it set a new standard for the whole program… I’ve coached a lot of people and he’s definitely up there in terms of the mentality and competitiveness and those types of things.”
Even though he played just one season with the Bobcats, Tonning said it made all the difference in him pursuing a professional career.
“Before I got to Canada, I think my love for soccer had just been going downhill for a while,” said Tonning. “But as soon as I got over there, I sensed that team spirit and got that family feel, I really, really found the love for it again and that’s how it really helped me most, I think. It helped me get back into the game with my heart.”
Roziere said he’s not surprised Tonning is going pro and he hopes he isn’t the last MCAC player to do so.
“I’m just grateful he took the chance on us as well because we benefited from him on the field. But we really enjoyed having William the person here,” said Roziere.