Kunle Dada-Luke was training on his own when he got the call.
“(A friend) told me that (Atlético) Ottawa’s holding a closed-door tryout,” he told CanPL.ca. “I got invited, and I said sure, I’ll come out.”
The 20-year-old, who was announced on Wednesday as the latest signing for the CPL’s new club, took a flyer and showed up to train in front of Ottawa’s coaching staff after leaving Danish second-division side Helsingør.
Within a few short weeks — perhaps days, even — Dada-Luke had an offer from the club. Something about his trial, he said, turned a lot of heads.
“The coach said ‘wow,’ he really liked the style from me,” Dada-Luke recounted. “He said, ‘Give me your number, because I want to talk to you privately.'”
Two days after that first contact, Dada-Luke heard from the club, who told him they wanted him on board. Now, he’s in Madrid, where he joined his new teammates for their first-ever training session under coach Mista at the Club Atlético de Madrid facilities on Wednesday morning.
Dada-Luke told CanPL.ca that training was light on day one — a jog, some touches on the ball, and a strength workout, he said — but things will come together quickly in their extended pre-season camp in the warm Spanish weather.
Although the full squad isn’t quite assembled, Dada-Luke already has designs on where he’d ideally fit into a lineup. After playing mostly as a winger in his time with the Toronto FC academy and TFC II squad in USL, his move to Helsingør last year opened his eyes to new possibilities.
“I came into that club as a winger, I had a couple sessions (at wing) in a game,” he explained. “The coach had a talk with me and he said, ‘would you mind making a change to right-back? I could see you excelling over there,’ so I said sure, why not?”
Dada-Luke continued: “I played a couple games there, against Werder Bremen and other teams, and I really excelled. He told me from then on, ‘that’ll be your position. I could see you going far there.'”
So, he’s a right-back now. That’s the position where he impressed at his trial with Ottawa, and it seems that’s the role he sees for himself this year.
Funnily enough, Dada-Luke isn’t the only Ottawa player with a story like that. Malyk Hamilton, also a right winger for TFC II at around the same time, turned himself into a right wingback at Cavalry FC last season after coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. suggested he move a little further back on the pitch.
So, it’ll now be up to Mista to determine how best to use both players.
“(Right-back) plays to my strengths, so I said okay, this is my position from now on,” Dada-Luke said. “That’s really where I can showcase myself and show everybody my full potential.”
Atlético Ottawa’s training camp will see them remain at the world-class La Liga facilities until early April, before they head back for their first ever game, away to Forge FC on April 18. That match is over a month away, with their home opener not until May 16, but already the anticipation is building.
Dada-Luke, who travelled to TD Place while with TFC II, has fond memories of the atmosphere he saw from then-Ottawa Fury fans.
“I was shocked that Ottawa had that many strong-willed fans cheering them on,” he admitted. “When I saw that I was pretty amazed.”