Willing to COVID, three Carleton Ravens soccer players will start realizing their dreams of a professional game this spring. The trio were selected in the Canadian Premier League (CPL) -U Sports Draft on January 29, 2021.

Central defender Cris Malekos and striker Stefan Karajovanovic went into the first round. Defender Tony Mikhael was selected in the second round.

In the days leading up to the draft, Malekos was nervous. “I’ve been pretty nervous all week,” he told Capital Current.

On drafting day, 22-year-old Malekos invited two close friends to join him, but they didn’t have to wait long.

When his selection was announced, Malekos said the cheers in the room were so loud he had to rewind the video to hear it again.

Atlético Ottawa took second place overall for Malekos, making it the first choice for the local club’s U Sports design.

“It’s a crazy experience and definitely a lot of pressure,” he said. “But I love printing and I want to do the best for the city, for the club and also for my school.”

“It was definitely an honor to be the first choice for your hometown club,” said Malekos.

Mikhael, 20, was at home with his family in Ottawa when he was selected 14th overall in the second round by Valor FC of Winnipeg, Manitoba

“It was an amazing moment,” said Mikhael. “It was wonderful to share with my family.”

The last 11 months have been difficult for Mikhael. In March he underwent an operation to repair a broken bone in his foot. It took six months to get back to soccer activities.

“I feel like I’ve been tested seriously this year,” said Mikhael. “My patience, my trust, my belief, all of these things have been tested.”

His hardship made Design Day even more rewarding.

“I feel like that moment when I was drawn in was definitely special because of all the things I went through last year,” said Mikhael.

Mikhael with the ravens before the game for the bronze medal at the U Sports National Tournament 2019. [Photo© Timothy Austen]

The 21-year-old Stefan Karajovanovic was voted seventh overall by the Halifax Wanderers. Like the other Ravens draftees, he recognized Carleton’s training for its success.

“The program is very well put together,” said Karajovanovic. “We have a lot of people looking after us and we have amazing alumni who are there for us every game.”

Drafting the CPL is an incredible feat, but it’s only the first step, he added.

Karajovanovic, who was selected by York United FC in the 2019 CPL Draft but did not offer a contract, is looking forward to a fresh start.

“I just heard great things about Halifax,” he said. “The city, the fans, the coaching team I’ve heard are amazing.”

CPL Draft Soccer Player chases ball down the fieldKarajovanovic with the ravens during a national tournament match in November 2019. [Photo© Timothy Austen]

“The next step is to just earn the professional contract I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid,” said Karajovanovic.

Malekos, who last played a game for Ottawa South United in August, said he was very excited to return to a professional football setting.

“It’s been so long,” said Malekos. “I miss the game that I’ve played all my life.”

The next month is about ripping my ass off to be as ready as possible whenever the training camp comes, ”he said.

The start of the 2021 CPL season is subject to COVID-19 restrictions. The training camp is expected to start in April and the season is expected to start in May.

Due to COVID-19, the CPL was forced to combine their 2020 season into a month-long tournament on Prince Edward Island called “The Island Games”. Forge FC defeated the Halifax Wanderers and won the championship.