Glenn Muenkat’s bio will give you the basic background info: the Valour FC midfielder was born in Toronto 20 years ago and was raised in Ottawa after moving to the nation’s capital when he was four.
But the man who first wore Canada’s colours as part of the U-18 squad in 2016 will insist he really began coming of age over the last two years during a stint with FC Kaiserslautern’s U-19 squad in Germany. And now he is trying to take his next steps as a pro here in Winnipeg.
“What did I learn about myself over there?” began Muenkat during a chat with valourfootball.club. “Good question. I learned that the system, the football, the training, is hard. It’s not easy, especially when you go overseas and you go to a different country where there is a language barrier against you, you don’t know the guys and can’t communicate with them in the language you’re comfortable with. It forces you to come out of your comfort zone. I learned a lot of things about myself at the age of 18.”
Muenkat was housed with the rest of the team for the first few months of his stay in Kaiserlautern – a city of around 100,000 in the southwestern Germany – before moving into his own apartment. While playing the game in a foreign country can be seen as an exciting adventure, it can also be challenging for a teenager away from home for the first time.
“It became depressing sometimes, but I worked through it,” said Muenkat. “The culture is completely different. You’ve got to be careful. Certain things that we do here and see as normal are not over there. Something like coming out with my Beats on while training… they didn’t like that at all over there.
“It forces you to grow up in a hurry and understand that being a man alone is not easy. You have responsibilities, bills to pay… when you come home from training your mom’s not there to cook for you. You have to cook for yourself even when you’re tired and discipline yourself to be up on time and find your way to training even though you don’t necessarily know your way around or the bus system. It was tough at times, but I made it through.”
All of this makes Muenkat one of the many who are thrilled to be back on home soil as the Canadian Premier League preps for its inaugural season. After all, the CPL is made for players like him – players trying to find their way in the game and perhaps reappear on the national team radar while having the opportunity to be followed more closely by friends and family.
“It’s different being here now,” said Muenkat. “I’m from Toronto, but the culture is similar. The guys are more welcoming and some of the guys I already know from Toronto FC like Skylar (Thomas), or guys like Dylan Sacramento I know from League1 (Ontario). But this is the first professional league in Canada in a long time. So, as a Canadian I wanted to be in this league and help start it off for the next generation to come. This is also an opportunity to showcase myself and get my name out there and start something new here in Winnipeg with Valour FC.”
That said, the transition from Kaiserslautern to Winnipeg wasn’t necessarily all sunshine and rainbows initially, and Gale hinted as much following Thursday morning’s training session.
“We know he’s got attacking, dynamic qualities,” said Gale of Muenkat. “It took him a few days to settle in… he’s just back from Germany and it took him the first few days to get up to speed. The lads held him accountable, we had a little quiet word in his ear and he’s really responded great.
“His work rate and his work ethic this week has been outstanding. We know he can do it going forward. Now we’re asking him to go at the right times in the defensive side and the defensive transition and he’s responded to it really well. That’s the sign of a good character.
“He’s one of the youngest lads, so we’ve got to be patient with him. There are lots of positives. He’s in full-time professional football now. When he was there (in Germany) he’s in the Under-20s, he’s on the reserve team. Paying your mortgage is not based on the results. Now he’s in the big leagues, so he’s got to know he’s got to bring it every day or it’s a lonely place on the bench.
“I like how he’s responded in a positive way to a friendly pat on the back from me and the team. Onwards and upwards for him.”
Notes and quotes from Valour FC training camp…
NICKS AND KNOCKS:
A handful of players were on the sidelines for Thursday’s morning session, including Dylan Sacramento, who had his shoulder in a sling. Gale, who stepped in to participate in a couple of drills, isn’t concerned though.
“For the most part we’re in pretty good shape health-wise – not me personally, but the team,” said Gale with a laugh.
ON THE HORIZON:
Gale continues to hint that more bodies are on the way. And that doesn’t include those already under contract who have yet to arrive, like Stephen Hoyle, Nestor Navia and Martin Arguinarena.
“We’re still waiting on a couple of lads and the visas coming in,” he said. “Very close to a couple of pieces. We just need approval now at the league level and are working on dates of arrival for the two to report. There’s still a position up for grabs, one or two, depending on those final two pieces.”
And when it was suggested he was teasing fans with all these hints about big fish coming in, Gale grinned and added:
“They’re very, very good. Stay tuned. Paperwork permitting.”