By Scott Eddy, Director of Athletics Communications
Few Bonnies have traveled as far as Remi Dujardin to don the Brown and White.
For the senior on the St. Bonaventure men's soccer team, home is on the other side of the globe – North Point, Hong Kong.
During the summer, he had an opportunity to do something he only does a couple of times each year – get back home. This time, though, was a little extra special.
Dujardin represented Hong Kong during the 2018 Asian Games, playing against some of the top competition in the world.
"I've been involved with the national team before, playing last year when we went to North Korea, but the U-23 level is a step above," he said. "Playing in the Asian Games is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Playing for my country is hard to describe. Representing seven million people is a special thing."
With previous national team experience under his belt, he stayed on the radar for this year's Asian Games squad through his outstanding play with the Bonnies. He logged nearly 1,400 minutes of action with the Bonnies a year ago and has started 51 of 58 matches with the program over three-plus seasons.
Set up like the Olympics and consisting of 45 participating nations, this year's edition of the Asian Games was co-hosted in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra, a province of Indonesia.
Dujardin's Hong Kong squad was able to advance out of group play with a 2-1 record after wins over Taiwain and Laos before a loss to the host nation. Not only did the games give Dujardin the experience of playing with and against top international players – mostly professional – but they also gave him the chance to display his skills in front of crowds of 30,000 screaming fans.
"It was kind of like the Reilly Center, just on a bigger stage," he joked. "It was 30,000 fans that never sat down. When you're in the tunnel and walk out, the crowd just goes crazy. It was special."
Dujardin said his team had the goal of getting past the round of 16, the furthest Hong Kong has ever reached in the tournament. The squad got to that point in the last two editions of the Games in 2010 and 2014, and would have to settle for that spot again after falling to defending champion Uzbekistan.
"We wanted to get to the quarterfinals and we just came up one step short," Dujardin said. "That's soccer sometimes."
Though the team's run in the Asian Games came up short of their ultimate goal, the experience was one Dujardin won't soon forget – and one he says will make him an even better player for the Bonnies in his senior season.
"It's a confidence booster. You want to play against higher competition to compare yourself," he said. "It was perfect preparation for our season here."
Dujardin held the distinction of being the only amateur player on the Hong Kong national team. He spent the summer gaining knowledge from professional teammates who left him with lessons he will use on and off the field in his final collegiate go-around.
"It was eye-opening for me," he emphasized. "I was able to learn from a team full of professionals. It was great to see how they act, how they prepare before games, how they interact with the media and fans."
Dujardin, who has aspirations of playing professionally after graduation, himself had professional opportunities four years ago. Instead, he made the life-changing decision to move to the United States to further his academics and future soccer career.
"The best place in the world to combine academics and athletics is the United States," he said.
Though he had offers from other schools in America, he found Bonaventure to be the right fit for his academic and soccer needs. Bona also provided an opportunity to set a new foundation for what was a rebuilding program under head coach Kwame Oduro who had recently taken the reigns of the program at the time of Dujardin's recruitment.
Dujardin and the rest of the Bonnies upperclassmen have indeed built something that is becoming very special at the Marra Athletics Complex.
His class won just two games during his freshman season of 2015. Since, the Bonnies have increased their win total each year before making the Atlantic 10 Tournament last season.
A win over Albany last week gave the Bonnies three wins in the past year over teams in the national Top 25 or receiving votes. Bona began this season by battling No. 6 Louisville in a 2-1 setback on the road – one of two contests Dujardin missed due to his Asian Games commitment.
"When my class got here, Coach stressed the importance of creating something, starting anew and building something that would go on for years to come," he remembered. "I feel like my class has done that. The program has come a long way. We're a respected side and we're off to a good start. It's something not only to continue this year, but for classes to come to keep building to something better."
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