Donald O’Mahony, Staff Writer

Skipping senior year of high school, being away from family, living in another country and speaking a different language for a chance to play soccer requires commitment and a strong passion for the game.

For some, this decision would be difficult, but for freshman midfielder Derek Markheim, the choice could not have been easier.

Markheim spent the last two years in France with the youth academy at Amiens FC, a professional soccer team currently in the third division. For him, this was an opportunity to work towards his childhood dream.

“A manager saw me at a tournament I was playing in,” said Markheim. “He came up to me and said he thought I had what it takes to make it with his club and asked if I wanted to go to France.”

Although the decision was easy for Markheim, his parents were not as immediately enthralled with the idea.
“It was hard for them, but they knew how badly I wanted to be a [professional] player,” said Markheim. “They were willing to let me chase my dreams.”

At first, the biggest struggle for Markheim was living in a country with no knowledge of the language.
“The first two months were the most difficult for me because I didn’t speak a lick of French,” said Markheim. “During that time, I tried to learn on my own, but then I started taking classes, and now I am fluent.”

The language barrier may have been the most difficult part, but the training schedule was a close second.
“The club rules were very strict. You had to be on time for everything. I had breakfast at 7 [a.m.], training at 9 [a.m.], lunch at [noon], more training at 4 [p.m] and dinner at 7 [p.m.]. On top of that, I took classes and had mandatory study hall at 8 [p.m.].”

Despite the difficult schedule, Markheim saw definite improvement in all areas of his game.

“The competition was phenomenal. I learned a lot from both the players and the coaches,” said Markheim.
“They were educated very well tactically, technically, and mentally. I was presented with ideas and strategies that I had never seen in the American game.”

Markheim’s growth as a player during this time gave him the opportunity to train with the American under-20 national team.

“[Training with the U-20 team] was incredible. I got to meet people from all over the country,” said Markheim. “I loved the players and the diversity. In a setting like that, you really get to see the different styles and attitudes of people from all over the country.”

The U-20s played three matches in England against the reserve teams at Manchester United, Liverpool, and Bolton.

The experience is something that Markheim will remember for the rest of his life.

“It really touched me to be on the same field as some of these players that I grew up watching. I even got to meet [Cristiano] Ronaldo,” said Markheim. “I got goosebumps. This is my dream happening in front of me. It seemed unreal. It was one of the most inspiring moments of my life.”

Markheim was surprised to see both his father and brother in attendance for the matches.

“To have the two people that are most responsible for me playing soccer there with me at such a landmark moment was most important to me,” he said.

Looking back, it is clear to Markheim that he made the right choice.

“I would do it all over again. This is my lifelong dream. These experiences have bettered me and given me confidence that I will succeed if I keep working,” said Markheim.

Perhaps Markheim’s most interesting thought came from his time with the national team.

“We have a lot of talent and I believe we can win a world cup in the near future if we play together as a team,” said Markheim.

That prediction may be a bit of a stretch, but who could have predicted that Markheim would have been through what he has by now.

Markheim completed his first season with Mason, scoring one goal and recording one assist.

Markheim tallied his first collegiate goal in a 2-0 win over the Presbyterian Blue Hose on Sept. 11.

Markheim, one of 10 newcomers on the team this past season, had his season cut short after the team failed to qualify for the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.

Unable to replicate last season’s success, the team will look to rebound in 2010.

With the necessary talent to go along with his determination, the person most responsible for Markheim’s success in the future might just be the person he sees when he looks in the mirror.

Va tout droit, jeune homme. Go straight, young man.