Freestyle football great makes history with ninth world title
When Eric Thomas turned pro at the age of 15 in 1992 and played for the Calgary Centennials of the Canadian Junior Football League, he had never heard of the World Cup.
So when the World Cup of Football rolled into Calgary for the first time in history as an expanded 32-team tournament in 1994, to much fanfare.
It was the first of five times Thomas has graced the football stage, in fact, but the highlight for Thomas was winning the 1997 tournament, which the former North American national team midfielder is still the only player to have won it in five tryouts. He also won the 2004 edition in his final shot at the tournament, and he still leads all-time records for the tournament with six world titles and 29 tournament appearances.
“It was amazing,” Thomas said in an interview earlier this week. “That was an honour for my entire life.”
In the years since then, Thomas has carved out a reputation as one of the most tenured and consistent players in football, his career still going strong well over a decade later, and he has become one of the most sought-after in the game after turning 40 this month.
That being the case, one of the final games of the Calgary leg of the tournament in June, should have also been the start of a new career, but Thomas was sidelined by a shoulder injury. He took a rest and returned in early July, and, ever since, he’s been waiting for the chance to make his return, no matter who he plays. He is determined that his dream of playing World Cup of Football is finally realized, the first since he was 15 years old.
“I can’t wait until this World Cup is over. This year is going to be a little different, I’m going to be out for some time,” Thomas said. “But I’m not going to let it get me down because I’m hoping to get enough games in the competition in some way or another to get my chance, which would be a world title.
“You never know what is going to happen in your career, but I don’t want to have to wait a year that doesn’t turn out in my favour for it.”
Thomas believes it is unlikely that he will get that chance