top of page
  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

From Leamington to Qatar: Eustáquio set to hit International Stage with Canada in FIFA World Cup

Photos courtesy of: Canada Soccer by Martin Bazyl.

by Garrett Fodor

Years of dreaming, training, and preparing are coming true, as Leamington native, Stephen Eustáquio, is suiting up for Canada in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Growing up, the nearly 26-year-old got his start on the pitches and fields of Leamington. Stephen was born of Portuguese parents. While his brother, Mauro, and his parents moved here when he was one, Stephen was born in Leamington. They began playing in the Leamington Minor Soccer Association before moving on to FC National in Windsor.

Mauro noted that it was in Leamington where he and his brother began to kick the ball around and later fell in love with the game.

“There’s always a dream. I remember – and it’s quite common and every kid that lives in any sport – you name yourself, you’re Ronaldo and the next day you are Messi. There’s always that dream that you want to push forward and make it happen,” recounted Mauro, who had a 10-year career as a player and recently began coaching with York United of the Canadian Premier League (CPL).

Photo courtesy of Mauro Eustáquio

Mauro will be in attendance in Qatar to watch his brother, Stephen’s, World Cup Debut.

“To be able to even step onto a field while that event is happening, I think is unbelievable. There’s actually no words,” Mauro continued. “I’m curious how I will be feeling in those first couple minutes, or and then the warm up, or whatever it is, looking at him in such a big event. It’s definitely unbelievable that there’s no words to express it.”

Following in his older brother, Mauro’s, footsteps, Stephen often found himself quickly playing against bigger, older, and, more importantly, better competition.

“I’d be going to play with older guys, so obviously test myself at soccer tournaments and whatnot, and he would always tag along with my parents and had done a very good job in the sense that they would not let me do anything without my brother,” Mauro said. “He was always smaller, but you know, he always embraced that challenge. They would always say watch out for the little one because he’s a good player.”

Photo courtesy of Mauro Eustáquio

The Eustáquio’s left Leamington when Stephen was seven and Mauro was 10, returning to Portugal. It was there where both Stephen and Mauro began their time in the academy ranks, before working their way up.

Both Mauro and Stephen began at Nazarenos. Stephen later began his senior career in 2013-2014 with stops in Torreense, Leixões, Chaves, Cruz Azul, Paços Ferreira, and lastly FC Porto of the Primeira Liga. That is Portugal ‘s top-tier, where he played for the last two seasons, appearing in the club’s champion league competitions.

Their time in Portugal paid off, with both athletes going on to play at the highest levels and both later having an opportunity to suit up for the Canadian National Team across various competitions.

When Stephen arrived at his first Team Canada camp, Mauro noted it featured a lot of the same players he would have suited up with and trained with as well.

“It’s funny, because at his first international camp, I was texting the older guys to kind of take care of him. He was a little kid walking into a big environment,” Mauro said. “That’s what you take from soccer. I have great friends on the national team, so it’s going to be a very nice feeling, seeing my blood, but also people that I shared the pitch with and developed with, knowing how hard and seeing firsthand how hard people have worked to get this far.”

While Mauro and his family celebrated the official announcement of Stephen making the team last week, he also noted they rejoiced at seeing the likes of Atiba Hutchinson and Samuel Piette will also get to make their first World Cup appearances, after spending years representing the country in previous World Cup qualifying cycles and working for decades collectively as stalwarts of the nation.

He explained how important of a role they played to help the team get to where they are today, but also by inspiring the next generation with their play.

With Canada’s spot also secured in the 2026 World Cup as a host nation, Mauro hopes to continue to see the country’s love and passion come through in the sport. He is proud to have seen the growth and development of the Canadian Premier League, something that was not available prior to 2017.

Having increased development, training, and opportunities, Mauro hopes youth will continue to be encouraged to lace up their boots and play, and not have to leave the region. He hopes hearing the story of his career and Stephen’s, along with the others for the 26-man roster in the World Cup, will help to continue to grow the game.

He said that it is one thing to be there currently, it is another to remain there, continuing to develop not only as players, but also tactics and coaches. He is optimistic for the future of the game in Canada, seeing the growth and change in the game already from when he had played.

Throughout his time in the game, Mauro always finds himself sharing the same lessons he often heard from his parents and the same messages Stephen would receive. He noted to enjoy the difficulties, and that there are going to be good days and bad days.

“I always say there’s tons of quality that actually never make it and I think the biggest difference in all levels is the mentality and the discipline,” Mauro described.

“I have a bunch of friends myself and my brother had a bunch of friends that were more talented than we were. But if you think, we had the focus, the discipline, and the mentality to push through hard moments, and that’s something that obviously came from our parents’ education and the way they looked at life and … the values that they wanted to pass on to us. There’s a lot of hard days, there’s a lot of sacrifices, and those things don’t show. But, they do make sense to do that because again, you see the results,” he said.

“An example from Stephen is he went three-years without eating anything fried. I’m not saying everybody has to do that to be successful, but I’m saying that that’s the type of committed discipline he had for his career. He always worked very hard to be strong. He was working hard to be the fittest he can be and took care of his body on and off the field. And I think that’s really important.”

Recounting Stephen’s journey, Mauro noted he is extremely proud to see his brother starring on the international stage. Throughout their time growing up and playing soccer, there is one memory that sticks out to Mauro, as he laughs, showing how far Stephen has come.

“We were in Leamington playing on the fields, which were by the curling rink,” Mauro described. “I had just finished and my parents and I were watching Stephen’s game. He had a great first half, running around dribbling, and scoring seven goals before halftime. The second half starts and Stephen gets the ball, dribbles around some people, shots, and scores. But, he forgot that they switched sides, so he scored against his own goalie.

“To the parents and everyone, it was a funny moment, but obviously for Stephen, at the time he was a child, he was a little embarrassed. But like so many children, it started in house league before working his way up through the ranks.”

Wearing number seven, Stephen will serve as one of Canada’s Central midfielders. They kick-off their tournament Wednesday, playing Belgium at 2 p.m., before facing Croatia at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

bottom of page