Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Media
Growing up in the Jane and Finch area of Toronto, Cpl. Daniel Veiras joined the neighbourhood children in playing soccer, basketball and baseball.
That’s what he really loved about sports at an early age. It was an opportunity to get outside and hang out with friends. Staying inside to play video games wasn’t really a thing at that time.
Veiras also took any opportunity to play any sport offered in school, but not just for the enjoyment of playing.
“I was on every team…basically did whatever sport I could because that meant I got to go out of class,” he says. “That was a huge motivation, for sure, but definitely the sport I stuck with and that I have most of an influence in would be soccer.”
That’s not surprising, he says, considering that while his mother is Canadian, from New Brunswick, his father was born in Spain.
“Being the son of a Spanish immigrant, soccer was basically a day one sport for me,” Veiras says. “That was the first sport I ever got into and it was, honestly, as soon as I could walk I was already kicking a soccer ball.”
It was in high school when sports became more competitive for Veiras. There was a hunger to compete and be successful.
“You really start to want to win and want to be on the best team and want to be the best athlete you can possibly be,” he says.
Veiras dedicated his time to playing soccer. Playing for a Mississauga-based Dixie soccer club was his first taste of playing at a provincial level and travelling around Ontario. There were also showcase tournaments in Canada and the United States for an opportunity to play in front of scouts, which was important for the players seeking scholarships.
“We won almost every tournament that we played in and there were some tough teams, especially in the States,” Veiras recalls.
He went to play for teams in Vaughan and Durham. His goal was to play professional soccer, but it was a challenge without first securing a scholarship. Major League Soccer was still in its infantry and Toronto FC was just starting up, but before they had academies available.
“I hit a point where reality kind of sank in and figured the chances of me going to Europe or somewhere where soccer is massive are very slim so it’s maybe time to focus more on school and focus on getting a job that I like,” Veiras said.
That job, he thought, was firefighting. He was inspired by firefighters growing up as they had a great reputation in the area he lived in.
Taking co-operation in his final year of high school, Veiras determined a placement at a firehall would be the ideal opportunity. His teacher swayed him in a different direction, explaining that he wouldn’t be allowed to be on the trucks or go out on calls. He would mostly be cleaning at the station.
His teacher suggested a placement with the military to get some basic training and earn his final credits, plus there would be no commitment to stay beyond high school.
Veiras took that advice and loved the placement so much that he continued on, starting his military career as an infantry reservist with the 48th Highlanders of Canada in Toronto.
“I thought when I joined it was just going to be ‘alright, get my credits, get the experience to put on the resume and leave’ but I stayed in the reserves for seven years,” he says.
That tenure lasted from 2010 to 2017. It was in the final few years that Veiras learned firefighting was a position in the military. He completed his firefighting training at Humber College and put in a military transfer for full-time firefighting and got posted to Trenton.
Veiras had no idea that competitive soccer was about to become a big part of his life once again. He wasn’t aware of the sports opportunities in the military until he was about to join full-time.
He recalls being at Denison Armoury in Toronto, the headquarters of 4th Canadian Division, Joint Task Force Central and the 32 Canadian Brigade Group. There was drop-in soccer on Wednesdays and Fridays.
“It wasn’t super-competitive, but it was fun and I got to meet a lot of people who were in the military,” Veiras says.
Veiras noticed one very talented player who later introduced himself as Jermaine Burrell. He wondered how long Veiras had been in the military and told him “we could’ve used you in Oman.”
Veiras wasn’t sure what that meant, but learned it was the 2017 CISM (International Military Sports Council) World Football Cup tournament. Prior to competing in Muscat, Oman, Burrell had travelled with the Canadian team to Texas for a two-week training camp.
Burrell was encouraged to get in touch with the Canadian team staff. He also learned about the base team sports to compete provincially and nationally.
“It was mind-blowing. I had no idea,” Veiras says. “I thought my days of playing soccer were over once I joined the military.”
His first opportunity to play base sports came while he was completing some training at CFB Borden. The team didn’t win the regional tournament of Ontario bases, but he still moved on to compete at the national soccer championship that year.
“The winning team of the tournament is able to pick up three players from other bases to play in nationals,” Veiras said. “Trenton picked me and I played with them at nationals and that’s when I met the coach of the CISM team.”
Veiras attended training camps, most of which were held in Kingston and Ottawa and he earned a roster spot with the Canadian team that would compete at the 2019 CISM Military World Games in Wuhan, China.
He joined the team for the final training camp in Germany, but that’s where his journey ended.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to China because I got injured in the training camp in Germany, but they went and from what I heard and what I saw it looked like a blast,” Veiras says. “It looked like the Olympics. They built a whole athletes village and everything.”
In hindsight, Veiras now recognizes Royal Military College in Kingston would have been a great option to play sports and get an education. He didn’t realize all the career options available in the military.
Still, he’s loving life as a firefighter and he has started a new job with the Toronto Fire Department and has returned to the reserves with the 48th Highlanders. He’s excited to continue playing base sports there and hopes to continue with the Canadian CISM team as well.
“Reservists can play with base teams and with the CISM team as well. I had no idea,” he says. “For seven years I was in the reserves and I had no idea that base teams even existed.”
Firefighting is an ideal career for Veiras as he can relate it to his sports background.
“Growing up playing on teams my entire life, the camaraderie is something I can’t live without anymore,” he says. “Just from being exposed to being a part of teams my entire life, it’s been such a huge part. I’ve always been surrounded by friends, highly-skilled team members just working together towards a common goal. That’s something I just find so much satisfaction in.”