Former NPL NSW youngster Daniel Solsky is about to start his first full season in Spain with CD Leonesa.
In March 2022, Solsky was first invited to trial with Leonesa after impressing for Manly United’s first grade side in pre-season. After conversations with his family and agent, he made the leap to go test himself overseas. After a tough first week, Solsky grew in confidence and began to impress.
“At first it was a bit confronting being in a non-English speaking environment,” Solsky told Kick360.
“I’m used to being one of the louder ones in the changing room and cracking a few jokes, but now I was in a place where I had to adjust and change myself to be the person I needed to be for the team. It took a couple of sessions to adapt to the different style of goalkeeping and communicating despite a language barrier.
“However, in my third session I did really well so my teammates began speaking to me a lot more as I began earning their respect on the field, so I took a lot of confidence from that. I was living in a residence with the other players so now I was beginning to make friends, learning who spoke even a little bit of English so I could hang out with them, and once that started to fall into place it became much easier to deal with the day-to-day side of being overseas.”
And it was whilst on trial that he found himself in the stands for the U19 team’s match against Atletico Madrid, managed by former Atleti and Liverpool legend Fernando Torres.
“As soon as I saw him, I knew I had to get a photo with him so I stayed behind after the game to have a brief chat with him and get a picture. He’s a lovely guy, and despite being bombarded by loads of other guys, he recognized I wasn’t from Spain and that I spoke English, so we had a short conversation ourselves.”
An injury to one of the team’s ‘keepers saw Solsky stepped in to train with the team, although he couldn’t play any matches due to missing the registration window. However, even being able to observe one of Spain’s best youth teams was a valuable experience for him.
“Not only getting to meet a legend like Fernando but also watching Atletico play against our boys, it was great eye opener as to the level I need to get to. It also gave me confidence seeing the little bit of polish the Atleti ‘keeper had because I definitely think with some hard work and with the quality of coaches around me, I can reach that level.”
After gathering momentum, Solsky excelled in the new environment, and at the end of the trial he was training with the club’s “B” Team. Shortly afterwards, a unique opportunity presented itself for Solsky to join Team Australia for the 2022 Maccabiah Games, an international sporting event held all across Israel for those of Jewish faith.
He became the starting goalkeeper for the football team, playing in three group matches against Spain, France and Great Britain. Despite opening their campaign with a 3-0 win against Spain, back-to-back defeats against France and GB saw the team bow out in the group stage. Regardless, Solsky thoroughly enjoyed the experience of representing both his country and his faith.
“Once I worked out the dates aligned with my summer break, I thought it was too good an experience to miss. It was incredible. Firstly, to be back with Australians and English speakers was something I didn’t take for granted!
“To be with fellow Jews as well was amazing, especially taking Shabbat with the Australian delegation, because you can’t really express your Judaism living alone in a city where there are not so many Jews around. It was great just to be able to practice my religion and say some prayers with my team, and even to go to the Kotel in Jerusalem. It’s been a really special experience.”
Solsky was also impressed by a number of his teammates, including Royie Rahamim, who is part of Perth Glory’s academy team.
“He’s only 17 and the maturity he plays with in his game, the way he uses his body to win aerial balls and the determination and constant hunger he has to win the ball makes him fantastic. Jake Shaked is also from Perth, and he’s been immense for us, covering at centre back despite being a right back. Josh Foxman has been a standout too in midfield, he’s playing NPL for Hakoah Sydney City East.”
Solsky himself came through Hakoah’s academy, rising through the ranks before moving onto join the first-grade set up at Manly United. He played four times for them in pre-season before being invited on trial at Leonesa, but the experience at both clubs has proved invaluable, as he faces a season in men’s football in Spain’s Tercera División.
“It’s no secret that the standard of technical ability is a lot higher in Spain, but my time at Manly should allow me to deal with the more physical challenges such as shot power or collecting high balls.
“I also had experience with playing out from the back with Hakoah and Manly, unlike most other clubs in Australia who would prefer a much more direct long ball game, as we wanted to develop a more European way of playing. Subsequently, from U16s upwards I got comfortable with having the ball at my feet which will serve me well in Spain. I learned quickly that it was okay to make mistakes if I was trying the right things, and it’s helped improve my game.”
Now Solsky’s attention turns to getting his head down and performing for his new club in 2022/23, with the goal of taking as much from the experience as possible as he hopes to forge a career for himself.
“I’ve got a fantastic opportunity at a great team, so my aim is to get some exposure to the first team, even just training with them. Being from Australia makes things tough because people look down on us as we’re not perceived to be a footballing nation, but I want to show everyone what I can do.
“With the right opportunities and training, which I know this club will provide for me, I’m excited to see where I can get to.”
Images Supplied: Dan Ulman/Aptitude Photography and Daniel Solsky