July 20th, 2024

Nova Scotia star Shaffelburg at Copa America an ‘achievement for the whole family’

By Cassidy McMackon, The Canadian Press on July 9, 2024.

Canada forward Jacob Shaffelburg (14) and Venezuela defender Jon Mikel Aramburu (4) battle for the ball during a Copa America quarterfinal soccer match between Venezuela and Canada in Arlington, Texas, Friday, July 5, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Richard Rodriguez

HALIFAX – For Zachary Shaffelburg, watching his younger brother Jacob emerge as a shining star during team Canada’s first-ever appearance at the Copa America soccer tournament feels like an “achievement for the whole family.”

From Port Williams, N.S., a small town in the Annapolis Valley, Jacob Shaffelburg, 24, turned heads as a second-half substitute during a match against Peru on June 25 when he assisted the only goal of the game, scored by teammate Jonathan David. Then Shaffelburg scored the opening goal on July 5 before Canada knocked out Venezuela 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the quarterfinals.

His recent displays on the pitch have earned him the nickname the “Maritimes Messi,” after the global superstar Lionel Messi – who just happens to be leading No. 1 Argentina, Canada’s semifinal opponent Tuesday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

“Even when he was quite young, he’d be stinging these crazy hard shots at my friends that would try to play in net,” Shaffelburg’s older brother said in an interview Monday.

“He’s worked quite hard for this … I couldn’t be happier that he’s doing this.”

Shaffelburg is the only Nova Scotian competing at the Copa America this year – a tournament held every four years in which 10 teams representing South American countries compete alongside two additional invited teams from outside the continent.

The team Canada forward left his home province when he was 15 to attend the Berkshire School, a prep school in Massachusetts before getting called up to the professional leagues with the Toronto FC academy. His current home team is Nashville SC, where he plays midfield.

The youngest Shaffelburg is not the only one in the family with a love for the game. His older brother also left Nova Scotia at 15 to play at a soccer academy in the United Statesbefore going on to the youth national league.Jessica Shaffelburg, the middle sibling, is a great soccer player as well, said Zachary, who credited her influence on Jacob’s early development.

“She definitely didn’t lay off on Jacob at all when it came to tackling him,” he said. “Any hard challenges he’s had this tournament he’s already received from his sister when he was younger.”

To sweeten the victory after his game-winning assist against Peru, Shaffelburg received a locker-room visit from Sidney Crosby and later shared a photo of Nova Scotia’s hockey hometown hero to social media. Zachary said he hopes his brother’s prowess on the field, combined with the visit from Crosby, will inspire more soccer stars from small-town Nova Scotia.

“When I was a kid, it wasn’t really something you thought was possible, so now it’s nice to have Jacob at that level and so nice to see him with a guy like Crosby because they both put forward what we value a lot in Nova Scotia – which is sometimes to our own detriment: modesty,” he said.

“Our population is smaller and on a national level, there hasn’t been a lot of attention paid to Nova Scotia because the assumption is there’s no one that’s good enough for the higher level.”

Zachary will be in the stands Tuesday night for the semifinals against Argentina. He said he booked an open-ended flight down to the United States and hopes his trip ends at the final.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2024.

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