Inside the Penalty Box: Akum Dhillon

By Ellis Henderson

Dhillon catches ball in 5-0 win against Trinity Episcopal.

Soccer at Collegiate has grown to become very popular. The varsity soccer team is 3-2-2 this season with Head Coach Charlie Blair at the helm. Not only has the varsity team developed into a prominent aspect of Collegiate sports, but so has the Collegiate soccer program. Many players try out for varsity without success, but there is one player that made the cut and is a stand-out performer. Akum Dhillon (‘20) is one of the up-and-coming varsity goalkeepers at Collegiate School. So far he has not had many starting opportunities, as current starter Zachary Cohen (‘18) has done well in the seven games the team has played this season.

Dhillon takes goal kick in 4-0 win against Episcopal High School.

Dhillon’s dreams of soccer stardom started during his recreational soccer days when he was younger. At age eight, he was chosen to play goalie, and he remembers saving his first save as “the absolute best feeling ever.” He loves the sport because of ”the idea of being the last line of defense “and because the keeper is “one of the most important players on the pitch.” In the past*, he has traveled to Sweden and Portugal to attend tryouts**, where professional soccer teams like S.L. Benfica, Malmo FF, FC Arlanda and Sporting Lisbon came to recruit players to play for them.*** Dhillon says S.L. Benfica asked him to return “as soon as he can,” and he was “invited to join the team at FC Arlanda.”

The one club he has dreamed of playing for since he was young is FC Barcelona. But if he does get the chance to play professional soccer, he doesn’t want to limit himself to just Barcelona. If he could play professional soccer, he would “love to become a member of S.L. Benfica’s squad” because they have expressed interest in him based off of his Dhillon dreams of being one of the school’s next great professional soccer players. Former varsity soccer keeper (and Match writer) Sawyer Gaffney (‘16) played for Quilmes AC and AC Banfield on trial in Argentina this past spring. Other professional soccer players include our very own soccer coach Rob Ukrop (’88), who played for outdoor and indoor teams, including the Richmond Kickers and New England Revolution (MLS), but retired in 2004. Could Dhillon potentially be the next Collegiate star? I had to ask other players what they thought of the young keeper. 

Former Collegiate student and retired goalkeeper Giles Thaxter (‘17) says when he saw Dhillon at tryouts in August, he looked “surprisingly sharp and has quickly adapted to the varsity play style.” Dhillon is “definitely more composed now,” says former student and soccer player Zach Moelchert (‘17). ”He put in the work over the summer and has gotten a lot better.” Ethan Ruh (’18), one of the seniors on the varsity team, said. Ruh continued, “Akum has been working really hard this year, but he definitely has a lot to work on. In my opinion, Zach is the far better goalie, but Akum can step up in the next few years to play a big role on the team in the future.” Former varsity captain Shaan Sharma (‘17) says Dhillon has “a long way to go if [he] wants to reach Sawyer’s godly status as a Collegiate goalkeeper, but with the right mindset and work ethic,” Sharma is excited for what the future holds for Dhillon.

All photos by JoAnn Ruh.

*Not all of the tryouts were this past summer, as previously stated.

** Dhillon went to a tryout, not a camp, as previously stated.

***It was for recruitment, not training, as previously stated.

About the author

Ellis Henderson is a Junior at Collegiate.