“As I see it, there’s beauty in struggle sometimes. I see the lessons I learned from it.”

Two things we’ve learned about Darlington Murasiranwa since his arrival to Valour FC last August:

-First, at age 23 and with 15 Canadian Premier League matches to his credit including 13 with FC Edmonton and two with Valour last season, he remains a bit of an unfinished painting as a goalkeeper. The general consensus is the skillset is there and he simply needs more minutes.

-And, secondly, the man brings an obvious energy to the Valour net and his communication skills have been praised by GM head coach Phillip Dos Santos and goalkeeper coach Patrick Di Stefani.

“I’m a very positive guy,” explained Murasiranwa in a conversation with earlier this week. “I’m always trying to smile no matter what and try to encourage the guys in a positive way.

“I want to bring that energy to the guys, where it’s encouraging and positive in the locker room. I want to be able to light everyone’s day up. Things will get hard sometimes. And sometimes you have to smile through it.”

The source of that energy and his infectious enthusiasm, it turns out, is part of what makes Murasiranwa such a fascinating story. Born in Zimbabwe, he and his brother Kudakwasae were separated from their parents when their father, Armstrong, left for North America as a refugee to find a better life for his family, leaving behind his wife Emillia, who was pregnant with Darlington at the time. Emillia would join Armstrong not long after, but because she was unable to secure a visa to allow her sons to join her, the boys were left with their two grandmothers hoping the arrangement would just be temporary.

It wasn’t until 2014, however, when Murasiranwa was 13, that he met his father for the first time and was reunited with his mother. There’s more — their half-brother, Armstrong, Jr, died of pneumonia when he was just 21.

“As kids, at first, we weren’t with the decision of our parents leaving. It was more, ‘Why?’” Murasiranwa recalled. “My dad left to go abroad before I was born so I never saw him for 13-14 years. Then my mom left when I was one year, six months old so I pretty much didn’t see her until years later – all we had was just a phone call.

“When we got here (Edmonton) we started to see how they just wanted a better life for us. That’s how God works sometimes. I remember quite a bit about those days. We could be sitting here for the whole day talking about it. It was really hard, but there was also beauty in it in that I got to mature quickly, especially when I came to (Canada). It was like I had already been thrown to the wolves.

“As I see it, there’s beauty in struggle sometimes. I see the lessons I learned from it.”

Murasiranwa repeated that phrase a couple of times in our interview – ‘there’s beauty in struggle’ – and it’s a perspective and approach he brings to work, and to life, every day.

“I’m super-religious and I believe God puts us through these tests to build our faith up a little bit more,” he said. “When you’re struggling that’s when you have to look up instead of down because through the storm and the rain there is always a rainbow at the end. That’s the beauty in it and that’s how I look at my life. Whenever I lose someone or something bad happens it hurts in the moment, but it helps you to grow, too. That’s how I find the beauty in it, that it’s helping me grow into someone stronger.”

A further example: after this particular training session on a spring day when most were cursing a giant dump of snow, he was excited simple to head out to a café afterward.

“There are so many cafes in this city,” he said. “I like this city.”

He likes his new teammates — and the returnees –as well. And as the upcoming preseason trip to Portugal later this month approaches, he is eager to see this new squad’s continued transformation.

“We’re all super excited for the season,” he said. “We’re all buzzing for the season and the first game. And after that a season is always a roller-coaster season, but it will be a journey with a lot of good guys around. As I said, we’ll find the beauty in struggle.”