Anthony Bahadur might not be a name that is familiar to most Canadian soccer fans unless you have closely followed the CSL for many years. Bahadur is a Toronto native who has traveled the world chasing opportunities to play soccer at a professional level. The game has taken him from Canada to Mexico, Singapore, Thailand, Israel, and Egypt all before his 25th birthday.
Bahadur came on to the scene in the OSL with Cruz Azul Shooters. He was named the 2006 MVP of the OSL U21 East division despite being under 18 at the time. He also scored the only goal in Italia Shooters 1-0 win over Serbian White Eagles in the 2006 CSL championship game. After making a name for himself at such a young age he joined a group of Canadians led by one of the top coaches in the CSL, Rafael Carbajal. That trip resulted in three Ontario based players signing professional deals with clubs in Singapore including Anthony. He landed at Senkang Punggol along with Murphy Wiredu signing a full time contract at just 20 years of age.
That trip to Singapore was just the start of an interesting journey for Bahadur. He found some success in the league, proving to be a consistent scorer over his two seasons in Singapore before moving on to Israel. He signed with Israeli club Maccabi Haifa but was only there for six months before being released when the coach that signed him was sacked. He then spent a season with TOT SC of the Thai Premier League but was released from his contract by the club after one year, allowing him to pursue playing options elsewhere. Bahadur was lining up a move to Egypt and had found a club in Ismaily SC, but was forced to leave the country after the revolution broke out back in the spring causing a lengthy delay in the league.At only 24 years of age now, Bahadur has been around more parts of the world than most players will ever see. He is back home in North America now and hoping to finally get the chance to play professional soccer closer to home. He is currently training in Ohio but Bahadur said that he is hoping to land the chance to trial with a MLS club before the new season. So far he has no leads on a trial but has been talking to people around the league and NASL to see if he can make something happen.
If he is unable to find a home in MLS, which he admits is made more difficult by the league's roster rules, he plans on heading back overseas. He has the option of going back to the Far East to play and said that he is looking at the option of going to a place like Finland. The key for him though is finding a way to take that next step.
He has played in some quality professional leagues but the problem is that they are so far out of the way that even the most avid Canadian soccer fan will have a hard time following them. Bahadur even remarked that his parents had a hard time getting updates about his games when he was playing out in Asia. That is why he wants to end up closer to home now that he feels his game is at a level where he can make a difference in a league like MLS. It would give him the chance to stay closer to friends and family while doing what he loves, which is a goal that most professional players share.
Coming closer to home would also be helpful to Bahadur for another reason and that is his goal of one day earning a cap for the Canadian national team. He spent many years in the youth setup for Canada having been involved in the National Training Center and playing at various youth levels. His last time in a Canadian shirt was over a year ago now though when he was with the U23 team at IMG in Florida. Now he is hoping to catch the eye of Stephen Hart and get the chance to play for Canada.
If Canada never comes calling he does have another option waiting in the wings. Bahadur has already been contacted by Trinidad & Tobago asking if he would be willing to play for their national team. He is eligible to play for them because his father is a native of the island and he spent time there as a child. Bahadur was part of a school boy's team while in T&T which he figures put him on their radar. When talking with Anthony, he was quite clear that his dream is to play for Canada because that is his home country and where his family is. He added though that he would not wait forever for Canada to give him the call and would have to start considering the chance to play for Trinidad and Tobago in the coming years if nothing changes.
The interesting part of looking at the career of a player like Anthony Bahadur is that it illustrates just how many miles Canadian players often have to travel to make a reasonable living playing the game they love. He was never going to make a good living playing in the CSL so as a young man he was forced to make the decision to go over to Singapore. In many ways that jump seems to be more extreme than taking the route that other Canadians like Simeon Jackson have taken and tried to find a home in the lower leagues of Europe.
Bahadur was not the first Canadian player to make the move to Singapore though. It was a move that had already worked out for Issey Nakajima-Farran who used a successful stint in Singapore to secure a move to Denmark and eventually a call to the Canadian national team. It also helped that Anthony was given the chance to go over to trial with a group of other Canadians and a talented coach who helped to facilitate his move. Once in Singapore it came down to his athletic ability and eye for goal impressing people that opened up new doors.
Now he is looking to take that next step in his club career and find a home that will increase his profile. He has played on the same field as the likes of Robbie Fowler, Didier Drogba, and Fernando Torres while in Thailand. It is that sort of experience that he is hoping will convince people to give him a shot.
It would be nice if one day, a player like Bahadur could stay in Canada and play at the professional level from a young age while making a good living but that is still a long ways off. He now has several years of professional playing under his belt when if he had stayed at home he would just now be leaving school and probably looking at an entry level MLS deal. Even know with three MLS and one NASL teams in Canada the move to a country like Singapore can be far more lucrative for a young Canadian player but it means going far from home and possibly falling off the radar of the national team.
Hopefully, Anthony Bahadur gets his chance to impress at an MLS club or finds a good home to keep on playing. At this point in time the more Canadian players we have playing at a good level the better. It is even more crucial at the forward position where Canada remains thin on consistent options. Either way though, his journey has already been an interesting one and at just 24 years old it is just getting started.
If you want to keep up with Anthony you can follow him on twitter.