Friends, family rally around ailing Canadian soccer player Drew Beckie

Drew Beckie, top, of Canada, heads the ball in the first half of a CONCACAF Olympic qualifying soccer match in 2012. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

TORONTO — Drew Beckie went to Europe in search of a soccer team. Instead the former Ottawa Fury defender found himself struck by a serious virus.

After a positive tryout with a Finnish first division team, the 27-year-old flew to Sweden to visit a friend. While there, he experienced pain in his chest and elsewhere. After a week in hospital, they determined he was dealing with a virus that was attacking multiple areas of his body.

Beckie, whose younger sister, Janine, is a Canadian international striker, was able to return home to spend Christmas with his family. He’s now back in Florida where he played for the Jacksonville Armada last season in the North American Soccer League.

But he faces a long journey back.

"It will be about an eight-month recovery … six-to-eight months," said Janine Beckie, who plays professionally for the Houston Dash.

"He was just between contracts while he was there (in Europe) so he wasn’t insured medically," she added.

His travel expenses covered a small part of his expenses overseas but he still has medical bills to pay, with more to come this year as he recovers.

Friends and family have started a gofundme campaign to help him with his medical expenses. As of Tuesday, more than 200 people had raised close to US$16,000.

"To all who have reached out to me during this time, I am so thankful for you and your unbelievable kindness," Drew Beckie said via social media. "I am at a loss for words but I’ll be back."

"It is true I have had a setback, but it is one I fully intend to overcome and, God willing, I will return to the field," he added.

Janine Beckie says her brother is seeking some second opinions to determine exactly what kind of virus it is.

"It is a bit of a frustrating process but he has a great attitude about it," she said.

Born in Regina, Drew Beckie was raised in Colorado after his Saskatchewan parents moved south of the border. He has been part of Canadian under-17, under-20 and under-23 teams.

He was taken 28th overall by Columbus in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft before spending the 2014 and 15 seasons with Ottawa. He spent 2016 with the Carolina Railhawks.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.