Caelan Budhoo leaves indelible mark on CBU
Head coach describes replacing midfielder as 'daunting task'
by Corey LeBlanc
It certainly isn't the way that Caelan Budhoo wanted to wrap up his Atlantic University Sport (AUS) soccer career.
Rather than preparing for the homestretch of a highly-competitive conference regular season and playoff run with his Cape Breton University (CBU) Capers, the veteran all-star midfielder is at home in Winnipeg, where he has turned his attention solely to academics.
"It is a huge project," the stellar student-athlete says of what has been a more than one-year process working on his honors thesis in psychology under the guidance of assistant professor Geoff Carre.
After walking across the stage with his well-earned CBU degree in May (if health restrictions related to the continuing Covid-19 global pandemic permit such celebrations), the multi-time Academic All-Canadian will turn his focus to completing his doctorate in clinical psychology.
"I know it sounds cliché, but I just want to help people," he says, when asked about his career aspirations.
Over the past four years, Budhoo has not only excelled academically but also athletically as a key contributor to AUS championship teams in each season; not to mention gold, silver, and bronze medals in the U Sports national title tournament.
"It will be a daunting task to replace him," Caper head coach Deano Morley said of his all-star student-athlete.
He adds Budhoo has been "so focused on what he wanted to achieve in football and academically."
Describing him as an "unbelievable" 1-v-1 player, Morley says Budhoo is the "most technically gifted" one he has seen – not only with the Capers but also in the entire conference.
"Caelan has a tremendous skill set under pressure and an unbelievable motor," he adds.
Morley also marvels at his "incredible commitment to fitness."
"When players are getting tired, he is just getting going," he says.
Describing Budhoo as a "silent leader," Morley notes that leadership comes "in many ways."
"Some need an armband, while others lead by example rather than vocally," he explains.
Morley adds that his accomplished midfielder "never wavered" in helping lead his team to success.
Whether it is athletically or academically, the Caper bench boss says Budhoo "assumes nothing and works for everything."
Not surprisingly, the CBU student-athlete is humble when it comes to reflecting on his contributions to the success of the program.
"It is difficult to say," Budhoo says, before quickly turning his attention to heaping praise on former teammates, such as Peter Schaale, Cory Bent, and Charlie Waters – just to name a few.
"We had so much talent," he adds of the Caper roster during his years.
Noting he is "not the best, smartest or fastest player," Budhoo says he always focused on "doing whatever he could do to contribute and to help our team [win]."
'Best decision for me'
Five years ago, as he was winding down his time at a soccer academy in Spain, Budhoo decided he was going to return to Canada and start university.
"I thought that it would be the right pathway," he remembers of his decision to combine playing the sport he loves with continuing his education.
While he considered multiple universities, Budhoo remembers Morley "really sold me on his vision."
He adds his head coach made CBU – athletically and academically – along with the Island "sound great."
"It was absolutely the best decision for me," Budhoo says.
Recalling their first encounters – via phone call and video chat – Morley remembers the pair "connected straightaway," while describing his student-athlete as "hungry, keen and mature."
Budhoo says he is "grateful and thankful" for having "so many experiences and chances to grow" during his time on the CBU campus.
"I couldn't imagine being anywhere else," he adds.
While living in what has become a home-away-from-home, Budhoo says he has "tried to explore and experience as much as possible."
"There is so much to offer," he adds, describing the "beauty" of Cape Breton.
He only wishes he was "able to do more."
"It is a beautiful place, with beautiful people," Budhoo says.
'Special and emotional'
When asked about losing the opportunity to play a fifth varsity season – due to the cancellation of AUS fall sports as a health measure in helping prevent the spread of Covid-19 – Budhoo says it was "certainly disappointing."
"It was so unexpected, which makes it even harder," he adds, noting it "would have been nice to get that closure."
Nevertheless, not having an opportunity to end his career on his terms doesn't wipe away the countless memories of his time donning Caper orange.
"It was a huge relief," Budhoo says of the program winning U Sports' gold in 2017, noting the "tremendous effort" everyone put into reaching the national pinnacle.
And, he adds, there will always be a soft spot in his heart for last season's bronze medal-winning effort.
"It was a huge deal – a total team effort," Budhoo remembers, describing that victory as "special and emotional."
Although there will be none coming on the field, he anticipates getting some closure when he returns to the CBU campus for spring convocation in May.
Budhoo expects his parents – Garvin and Ivanka – will also make the trip to the east coast.
"They have supported my decisions all my life and it continues today," he notes.
"I couldn't be more thankful for them."
Budhoo predicts that upcoming visit to Cape Breton will not be his last.
"I won't leave any stone unturned," he says of his focus on subsequent stays.
When it comes to his playing future, Budhoo says it is "up in the air."
"But I am going to keep playing," he adds, describing soccer as a "love of mine."
Whether it is a recreation or semi-pro league, or if "luck is on my side," a professional opportunity, Budhoo will be there and ready to play.
"I am always going to take any chance I can get to be on the field," he says.
No matter where the next stops on his journey take him, Budhoo agrees he will always be a Caper.
He praises "everyone" who has made his CBU experience so special, including his teammates, coaches, the athletic department, professors, classmates, fans, and friends.
"My time there has been truly remarkable," Budhoo says.