Clovis North graduate Villyan Bijev follows soccer dreams overseas
You know Villyan Bijev is serious about soccer when he refers to the sport only as futbol, like the majority of the world.
Futbol, in fact, is so serious to the recent Clovis North High graduate, who turned 19 on Tuesday, that he gave up a college scholarship to Washington to test the professional waters overseas.
It’s a risk, but one Bijev couldn’t pass up. The lean 6-foot-1 striker, who made three appearances on the All-Bee team, signed a three-year deal with the English Premier League’s Liverpool FC after a sensational tryout in July when he produced five goals and two assists in two games for the club’s U-18 academy team.
“With his combination of skill and deft touch, Bijev figures to have a bright future ahead either at forward or center midfield,” said J.R Eskilson of Goal.com USA.
Bijev’s deal with Liverpool is for two years with a one-year option. The club loaned him to Fortuna Dusseldorf of the Tier 2 German League for seasoning.
This week, Bijev is in Florida training with the U.S. U-20 national team; he will leave for Germany when Fortuna’s season starts in February.
The 2011 Tri-River Athletic Conference Player of the Year scored 63 career goals playing at Edison before transferring to Clovis North his senior year. He also represented California Odyssey for four years in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
The Bee caught up to Bijev through emails last week.
Question: How did you develop your impressive skills at such a young age?
Answer: It wasn’t easy balancing school work and futbol. I learned a lot from my coaches, as well as putting in a lot of work on my own. I am fortunate enough to have a father who pushes me hard to succeed and friends who never get tired of putting in extra hours of training. I trained every day, juggling, shooting, fitness and weights, and watching a lot of futbol on TV contributed to my learning.
What advice would you give kids who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
Never be overwhelmed. You have to really want it and strive to achieve. Every day you have to want to become a better player. If you tell yourself that and put it into effect, then gradually you get better and better.
Did you realize how big a deal it was signing with Liverpool?
I knew it was, but told myself I wouldn’t let it go to my head. I knew that signing was simply the beginning. Now the real work would begin.
How were you accepted once you got to England? Easy to make friends?
Off the field, everyone was extremely friendly. But, to an extent it’s hard to be friends with someone whose job you are trying to take.
Has this always been your dream?
I wanted to become [a professional player] more than anything, so all of my drive was dedicated to achieving that goal.
What’s the transition to European soccer been like?
The speed of play, as well as the technical abilities of the players, was much higher than I was used to. Now I feel like I have adapted well and understand things that are required to play at the highest level.
What do you miss most leaving America?
I missed my family and friends. Seeing familiar faces of the people I care most about is priceless.
Who or what style did you pattern your game after?
Along with the majority of the futbol world, I have been intrigued by Barcelona. The way Xavi [Hernandez], [Lionel] Messi and [Andres] Iniesta move the ball around is hypnotizing. I would like to play a similar style of quick 1-2 touch passing.
Do you regret not going to college?
No. I still recognize the value of a good education. There is no age limit for attending college. As for being a professional athlete, you have to take advantage while you’re young. I would have nothing against going back to school to get a degree. We’ll see what God has planned for me.
By Jeff Davis / The Fresno Bee