Photo by Thunder Bay Chill
Thunder Bay, Ontario, has become Sullivan Silva’s home away from home.
After growing up in Goiânia, Brazil, Silva decided to attend and play for Oklahoma Baptist University. Following success at the NAIA university, Silva earned a professional contract with the Austin Aztex in 2009. He then signed with Canadian Soccer League team Capital City F.C. in 2011.
Friends from university made Silva aware of the Thunder Bay Chill early into his professional career, but he was not able to move to Ontario until years later. In 2012, the club’s current Director of Soccer Programs, Tony Colistro, was finally able to bring him to the team, where he hit the ground running.
“Even before coming to North America, I didn’t know where Thunder Bay was, but that’s just how life is. You never know where life’s going to take you,” Sullivan said.
“When I came over to Thunder Bay, I was still a young player. And even before coming, I was having a hard time in the professional league. I was still trying to adapt to the soccer here in North America. Working with Tony and with the new coach Giovanni [Petraglia], they’ve helped me a lot to improve as a player – not only on the field but off of the field. That’s why I had a great season in 2012. … They always kept me positive and always supported me. That’s why I have them as my family. Tony has always offered support, even with my injuries. He’s always here, giving me advice and telling me that everything is going to be OK. This really means a lot to a player. When you are going through hard times, they’re by your side.”
Sullivan scored a PDL-high 13 goals in 2012, but he suffered a broken foot in 2013 before injuring his knee a year later. Sullivan tried to play through the pain, but surgery was needed. Now back with the Chill for the 2016 season, Sullivan is feeling much better and has started the regular season off well, scoring three goals in five games.
Unlike most players in the league this year, Sullivan has two children – a three-year-old daughter and five-month-old son. The forward will turn 28 in July, making him one of the oldest players in the league.
“I have my kids over here, so this is my second home. I have no idea when I will be home [in Brazil] again, but for now, this is my home Thunder Bay is my home.
“It’s a small city, but everyone is so friendly. It’s my second family, my family away from home. My home is always going to be Brazil because that’s where most of my family are. So every time that I get a chance, I go back home, but nine months of the year, I spend my time here in Thunder Bay.”
While he may be one of the veterans on the Chill’s team, Sullivan does not think he is better than anyone, despite his experience. That mindset, he says, is what makes playing for the Chill an amazing experience.
“Every time that players come here, I’m just trying to give it my all – the experience that I got from playing USL or in the Canadian league – but I don’t see myself as the best player on the team,” Sullivan said.
“It’s all about the team. It’s about everyone. That’s why Thunder Bay in the past has been so successful because they teach you that here. It’s not about one player, but about the whole team, so I’m always going to try and give my best.”