Bringing professional soccer to an island near you
Gear up soccer fans, Greater Victoria will soon be home to a fast, exciting, and uniquely Canadian brand of “the beautiful game.” Starting in April, Pacific Football Club will compete in the inaugural season of the Canadian Premier League (CPL), playing out of the newly-renovated Westhills Stadium in Langford. Pacific FC will give the Island a team of their own to root for, and an opportunity to share in the growth of Canadian soccer.
The inaugural season — running from late April until October — will have seven teams based in Langford (Pacific FC), Calgary (Cavalry FC), Edmonton (FC Edmonton), Winnipeg (Valour FC), Toronto (York 9 FC), Hamilton (Forge FC), and Halifax (HFX Wanderers FC). If successful, the CPL hopes to expand to 16 teams and develop second and third divisions that would create a relegation and promotion system, similar to those used by top European leagues.
CPL commissioner David Clanachan states that his goal for the league is to develop Canadian talent while growing the popularity of the world’s most played sport. To fulfill this goal, quotas on Canadian content have been set in place. Each team’s roster must have at least 50 per cent Canadian players and must field at least six Canadians in the starting lineup for each match.
Pacific FC is led by B.C. soccer legends Josh Simpson and Rob Friend, as well as Vancouver businessman Dean Shillington. Simpson played in 43 matches for Canada between 2004 and 2012, and has played professionally in England, Germany, Turkey, and Switzerland. He will serve as team president. Friend played for Canada 32 times from 2003 to 2011, and, like Simpson, spent the majority of his career in Europe playing for big-name clubs such as Borussia Monchengladbach of the German Bundesliga. He will take the position of the club’s Chief Executive Officer.
Pacific FC’s inaugural match will take place on April 28 at Westhills Stadium against the HFX Wanderers.
These football minds are joined by the business acumen of Dean Shillington, who is the president and founder of Knightsbridge Capital Group. He has been actively involved in youth sports including serving as president of Vancouver’s Highlands Little League Baseball, and is now putting his money towards helping Simpson and Friend grow soccer on the Island, in British Columbia, and throughout Canada.
The squad, while very much a work in progress, appears to be built around young, exciting, and local talent such as Noah Verhoeven, Matthew Baldisimo, José Hernández, and Terran Campbell — who all grew up in the Vancouver Whitecaps organization. They will be joined by other up-and-comers such as Kadin Chung and Alessandro Hojabrpour. Meanwhile, Mark Village and Ben Fisk will provide much-needed experience.
One of the players to watch is 30-year-old Marcus Haber of Vancouver, who Pacific FC hope will come as advertised: a tall striker (6’3) with an innate ability to put the ball in the back of the net with both his feet and his head. Haber comes with big game experience from playing with Dundee and St. Johnstone of the Scottish Championship, as well as West Bromwich Albion of the English Championship (England’s second division).
Pacific FC have also recently announced the signing of Marcel de Jong who joins the club after three seasons with the Whitecaps and has experience playing in the Bundesliga with FC Augsburg. He looks to be one of the biggest names to sign on to the CPL and is expected to be a starter for Canada (for whom he has already played for 56 times) in their upcoming qualifiers.
Under the watchful eyes of head coach Michael Silberbauer and assistant James Merriman, this squad will continue to be shaped and added to in the months leading up to their first match at the end of April.
Although the rest of their schedule is yet to be released, Pacific FC’s inaugural match will take place on April 28 at Westhills Stadium against the HFX Wanderers. Tickets can be purchased at pacificfc.canpl.ca.