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Men’s Soccer’s Felix De Bona: Leading by Example

Team’s tri-captain reflects on family and future aspirations

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Head shot of Felix De Bona

BU men’s soccer player Felix De Bona (CGS’15, CAS’17) has netted eight goals this season, closing in on matching or exceeding his own mark for most by a Terrier in a single season (nine) since 2009. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

As a euphoric Felix De Bona ran bare-chested across Nickerson Field after curling in a golden goal from just outside the penalty area that gave the BU men’s soccer team a 1-0 win over Dartmouth October 18, it’s a safe bet his father saw it live from his home in Brazil. Men’s soccer games are among the sports streamed live on the Patriot League Network.

“He’s always watching,” says De Bona (CGS’15, CAS’17), one of this year’s soccer team tri-captains. “Usually the next day or two days after, he’ll call me and give me his analysis of every play. That’s the kind of relationship I have with my father. Sometimes we don’t talk about anything other than soccer, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

During De Bona’s BU career, he’s scored the most goals by a Terrier in a single season (nine last season, a number he’s at arm’s length of matching or beating this season) since 2009, earned first team honors on both the All-Patriot League and All-Region teams, and started in 51 of the Terriers’ last 54 matchups. De Bona has also been named to the watchlist for the 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s top men’s and women’s soccer player.

Men’s soccer head coach Neil Roberts credits De Bona with striving to push himself on and off the field since he first arrived three years ago. “His fitness has improved a great deal. In his work ethic, he’s improved, and academically, he’s improved,” Roberts says. “Everything he’s done since he’s been here has gotten better.” And that determination, he says, has earned De Bona the respect of his teammates.

“He’s not a real loud guy,” Roberts says. “It’s just a matter of example. They see what he does and how he does it, how loyal he is, how helpful he is, and how hardworking he is.”

De Bona, who currently leads the team with eight goals this season and collected his first overtime-winner as a Terrier with his shot against the Big Green, says soccer is in his blood.

Born in Urussanga, Brazil, he spent nearly every day playing soccer. “In Brazil, my dad used to be a coach,” he says, “and I just grew up in the soccer world. When I came here, that came with me.”

The family moved to Everett, Mass., when he was seven. “My dad chose to come here for a better future,” De Bona says. Those early years playing soccer in Brazil were an advantage when he took up the game in the United States. “I started playing soccer here as soon as I could,” he says. “Having the experience of growing up in Brazil and playing every day, I was always a little ahead of whomever I was playing with. That gave me a good boost.”

While he cites Brazilian soccer icon Ronaldo as his professional role model, De Bona is quick to name his parents, Gilmar and Graca, as his true heroes, and he attributes his success to them. “My parents were a great part of what I am and where I am playing today. My dad was my biggest supporter,” he says. “I know a lot of kids that could’ve gone somewhere, but didn’t have the proper support system. My dad really took the time to make me a better player. He really enjoyed the game and enjoyed watching me.”

Felix De Bona celebrating a goal shirtless

Men’s soccer tri-captain Felix De Bona celebrates the first overtime-winning goal of his BU career during the Terriers’ 1-0 victory over Dartmouth at Nickerson Field on October 18. Photo by BU Athletics

After a successful high school career in Somerville and time spent on the club teams of the New England Revolution, greater Boston’s Major League Soccer team, De Bona set his sights on playing at the collegiate level. He says he knew instantly that BU was the right fit.

“I wanted to stay as close as possible to Boston. I chose BU because the coaches made me feel like they really wanted me and needed my kind of talent for the team,” he says. “I had visited other schools, and they did not seem as excited to have me. When I came to visit BU and talk to the coaches, it took about one day to make my decision.”

With his parents now back in Brazil—“they felt it was the right time to move back financially and be close to family”—De Bona says he looks to his wife, Julliane, for strength and support. They were married in 2013.

“My parents don’t live here, so it’s really good to have her around. She supports me with everything and really encourages me,” he says. “A lot of people may look at it like, oh, you guys got married too early, but when you meet the right person, you meet the right person.”

“Felix is an example and an inspiration to all who know his story,” says Julliane, who describes him as both dedicated and caring. “He always knew that his soccer talents could take him far, but he also knew that he needed to succeed academically as well if he wanted a better future.”

That future could involve being drafted by a Major League Soccer team. De Bona played for the Revolution’s U-23 team last summer and practiced for a week with Sporting Kansas City. Playing professionally “has been my dream for a long time, and I would like it if the Revs take a look,” he says. “Being a local kid playing for the Revs, I hope that means something, but I would take any opportunity to play at the next level. Whether it’s the Revs or another club, I hope I can show something that gives me an opportunity.” (The annual Major League Soccer SuperDraft is held in January.)

“Right now, I believe I am in a good spot for the draft, being ranked number one in the conference and number 56 nationally on topdrawersoccer.com. There is a possibility to get called for tryouts or to go overseas somewhere, but I really want to focus on MLS,” De Bona says. “I am a Revs homegrown player because I played in their youth academy, so they get first dibs if they want to sign me.”

Roberts says that if De Bona can work on his movement off the ball, “he’s got a shot,” at reaching his professional aspirations. “He’s a good teammate, and he works hard. His work ethic and his passion for the game are what Felix is all about.”

When his playing days are over, De Bona hopes to use the degree in international relations he’s pursuing to work for the US government. “Outside of soccer, I’ve always had aspirations of working for the government,” he says. “That’s something that really interests me. Right now, I focus on foreign policies and security studies.”

“He’s got big goals, and he works hard toward them every day,” says goalkeeper and fellow tri-captain Matt Gilbert (Questrom’17). “You see it every day. He’s a leader by example.”

The BU men’s soccer team takes on Army tomorrow, Saturday, October 29, at 7 p.m., at Nickerson Field, 285 Babcock St. Admission is free for all BU students with a sports pass, $3 for faculty and staff, and $5 for the general public. The Patriot League Network will broadcast the game live.

Taylor Raglin can be reached at traglin@bu.edu.

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