France. Japan. Singapore
Notre Dame men’s soccer left back Felicien Dumas has one word that weaves these three very different countries together: home.
Even on a Notre Dame team used to having an international flavor, Dumas stands out. The Paris native lived in both Tokyo and Singapore for a number of years before finally ending up in South Bend.
For most teenagers, moving halfway across the country to live away from everyone they knew would be a serious culture shock. Dumas took to it well, however, largely stemming from his experiences at his former high school, the United World College of Southeast Asia (UWCSEA).
UWCSEA is a unique school situated in the heart of Singapore, with 5,500 students representing more than 90 nationalities. Dumas claimed that this diverse melting pot is what taught him how to adjust to any culture shock that might have come his way.
“I moved from a school where we had a lot of different nationalities and people from all over the world, so I didn’t have a problem at all transitioning to the American culture,” said Dumas.
Dumas was hooked onto soccer by his father, who introduced his son to the sport when he was just four years old. From a young age, it was clear to Dumas’ coaches that he was a special athlete. By 14, Dumas was already playing against full grown adults in Singapore and holding his own.
“That was the moment I realized that I could handle this physicality, I can handle playing with high-level athletes,” said Dumas.
Despite receiving several offers from Singapore Premier League clubs, Dumas was looking for a way to both continue his education and continue playing soccer at a high level. His father, who Dumas credits as his biggest role model growing up, stepped in.
“My dad found this system in the U.S. that’s not that well-known outside of the U.S., so for me it was something really exciting and something I definitely wanted to do,” Dumas recalled. “So at that point, my dad said you can become a student-athlete in the U.S. You can do your academics and you can play college soccer at a high level as well, and at that point I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.'”
After receiving limited playing time throughout his first two years in the program, Dumas has blossomed into one of the most important players on the Irish roster. He’s currently leading the team in assists for the second consecutive season despite playing in the back line, but Dumas sees this as a sign of his teammates’ ability rather than his own individual prowess.
“Without my teammates, I would never be where I am today. …It’s a team effort, you know,” Dumas claimed.
While Dumas’ humility shines through, it is balanced by an intensely competitive nature that Dumas admits used to get the better of him in his younger days.
“It used to be really bad as a kid, where I’d never talk to anybody and I wouldn’t want to leave my room or anything, Dumas said “It’s become better, but I really do hate losing. I think that’s probably my biggest motivation, to not lose and to always win.”
Dumas takes pride in being able to make an impact on both sides of the field, stating, “I get to come forward and attack a lot as a defender, but at the same time I also need to work really hard to make sure that we don’t concede any goals.”
Dumas is also one of the team’s premier set piece threats, and no set piece this year was more threatening than his rocket of a free kick against Syracuse that put the Irish up 3-1 against their conference rivals. It wasn’t simply natural ability that caused that goal, however, although it is clear that Dumas has plenty of that. Years of tinkering and working on his free kick routine were on display in one moment of sheer magic.
“(My free kick ability) is not something that I picked up overnight or even the last month or year. It’s come from all the work I put in as a kid. I’m able to produce in the big moments because I’ve been doing this for so long,” asserted Dumas. “It’s basically muscle memory where I know, if I start the process, then my body will follow through.”
— ND Men’s Soccer (@NDMenSoccer) September 8, 2018
As a recruit from the Bobby Clark era, the trilingual Dumas (although he insists he only knows two-and-a-half languages as his “Japanese is super rusty”) has taken part in the first coaching change for the Notre Dame men’s soccer program in 17 years. Despite the departure of the man who brought him into the Notre Dame community, Dumas is very excited for the future of the program under Chad Riley’s watch.
“I think Coach Riley is definitely aggressive, and I appreciate that as well because there are moments where we need that spark and Coach Riley really does provide that for us,” said Dumas.
Dumas remains close with both his parents and two younger sisters. Despite the distance between all of the family members (his oldest sister, Melle, attends college at McGill University in Montreal), they keep in contact through FaceTime and Snapchat.
“Without my mom and my dad I wouldn’t be where I am today. … [My two sisters] are supportive of me as well, not just about soccer, but everything,” said Dumas.
Dumas’ mother and father still try to come out to as many games as possible, even though their son’s games are now 25 hours away by plane rather than local matches against men’s teams. Every game they come out to is extremely important to the full back.
“It’s definitely a commitment but when they come it’s always a special moment,” said Dumas.
Dumas’ achievements both on and off the field have been recognized. Dumas made the Third Team All-ACC, and he will most likely earn a second consecutive spot on the All-ACC Academic Men’s Soccer team when all is said and done.
The Fighting Irish have had a successful season, going 10-6-2 on the year and making it to the ACC quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Louisville. Dumas credits the successful season to the team’s culture and sense of togetherness.
“I’ve grown to love and appreciate the bond between our team. Some teams aren’t that close and they don’t like hanging out with each other, but our team has a really special bond going through us,” Dumas claimed. “We all get along so well, we all show up at the locker room on off days with no one organizing it, it just happens. We all just show up at the locker room and sit around to talk. That’s something special for me, and that’s something I’m going to hold dear for a really long time.”
Dumas and the Irish earned the No. 7 overall seed in the NCAA Championship and open the tournament at Alumni Stadium at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18. Notre Dame will host ????? in the round of 32 matchup.