Coming off of his first year of playing as a Maple Leaf at Goshen College, Ethan Francois-Ravalier is following the plan he started when he was a young boy in grade school in England – to play international professional soccer.
Francois-Ravalier, born in Leicester, England, played his first international soccer game for the island country of Grenada on June 1, losing to Puerto Rico 3-4 in penalties. Six days later, he played against Antigua to a similar result, losing 1-5. Both games were part of the Caribbean Cup, a soccer tournament for teams that are members of the Caribbean Football Union.
Though Grenada fell to both teams, Francois-Ravalier saw a considerable amount of playing time for his first national appearance, playing around 70 minutes in each contest.
“They had me out at right midfield, rather than fullback where I usually play,” he said. “I think I played better in the first game rather than the second.”
Francois-Ravalier, now in his sophomore year at Goshen, was called down to play after the Goshen men’s soccer coach Arron Patrick connected him with the technical director of the team, Trevor McIntosh. Patrick knew that McIntosh was looking for young talent from the States, and also knew that Francois-Ravalier had connections in Grenada due to his mother being native to the country.
“It was nerve-wracking at first,” he said about his first week playing international soccer. “I was a little intimidated. I was the youngest one there at 19; I think the oldest was 35. I already stuck out having an accent and all.”
Over time, Francois-Ravalier said he began to settle. He began to spend time with some of the other younger players, around ages 20 or 21. His sister also made a trip out to visit him, which also helped calm his nerves.
“I knew Ethan would be fine,” said Patrick. He claimed that the only thing Francois-Ravalier would need to worry about was the size difference. “It’s a pretty big deal for our team and the Crossroads League. To my knowledge, in the ten years I’ve been here no other player has played for a full men’s team [professionally].
Francois-Ravalier claimed that the international game was a lot more physical than what he was used to, playing college soccer at Goshen College. It was also different playing with a team that he was only able to train with a few times, rather than training together every day, as it was in Goshen. In that respect, Francois-Ravalier said that it is difficult to build team chemistry.
It was different in other aspects as well, in how he’s experienced soccer as well as his expectations for the new level. Grenada doesn’t have as high of quality facilities as the biggest teams in the world, though it is a step up from anywhere he had played before. Before every game, teams would walk out through a tunnel in a stadium to line up while each competitor’s national anthem was played.
“I didn’t really like it at first, but I wanted to play internationally,” he said. “Also, it looks good on your CV.”
Francois-Ravalier explained that he’s wanted to play the highest level of soccer ever since he was around 14 years old. He began playing at 10, and by 14 years old he was moving in and out of clubs in his area. By the time he became an adult, he’d heard about playing at the college level in the U.S. and made his way over.
“I hope this shows our guys that dreams can come true, and that I will do my best to stand behind players that I feel can go to the next level,” Patrick said about the impact Francois-Ravalier’s experiences may have on the team.
As to his role on the team for the time being, Patrick says that’s “up to him.”
“He’s a leader, but needs to improve how he leads,” Patrick continued. “He’s a top fullback but needs to improve on how he can impact games more. He’s a good teammate but can develop into a great one. In my opinion he could be a top player in the league; he has all the attributes.”
Right now, Francois-Ravalier’s goal is to continue playing professional soccer, leading to Major League Soccer or United Soccer League after he finishes his college career.
“I’d like to play MLS if I can,” he said. “Or USL, England if I can. I’d also play in Australia or Dubai, anywhere I can.”