For Canadians by Canadians. It’s a tagline that was used in the first-ever promotional video released by the Canadian Premier League. Wrapped up in that is the mission statement of the league, one created to augment the standards of Canadian soccer both on and off the field.
We’ve known who that second group of Canadians has been for some time: the league staff that have been working behind the scenes to make all of this possible, and a little more recently the coaches. Today, we found out the group of Canadian players whom this league was created “for.”
Kyle Bekker and Chris Nanco (Forge), Allan Zebie and Randy Edwini-Bonsu (Edmonton), Zachary Sukunda (HFX Wanderers), Nik Ledgerwood and Sergio Camargo (Cavalry FC), Skylar Thomas (Valour), Kyle Porter (York 9) and Kadin Chung (Pacific FC) were announced as the league’s initial signings.
It’s a group in a variety of different career stages. They aren’t household names; their names alone won’t put fans in seats, at least not yet. However, they all fit the league’s central purpose: a professional league created with Canadian players in mind.
This initial announcement of players provides evidence of the two groups of players that are most likely to benefit from the creation of this league.
There are the veterans, the players like Ledgerwood, Porter, Bekker and Edwini-Bonsu who have plied their trade throughout Europe and now have the opportunity to come home to play professionally. They will bring experience and wisdom to the next generation that has too often been too far away from Canada in the past to make a long-lasting impact.
Then there are those looking for a second chance. The likes of Camargo, Chung, and Thomas, who have been edged out at MLS clubs (there are only so many first team jobs after all), and now need a new home.
These are the types of players who have really slipped through the cracks in the past. Chung is a prime example of this type of player. The promising youth prospect, who once scored in the Canadian U-20s’ win over a Marcus Rashford-led England, left the Vancouver Whitecaps system after they folded Whitecaps 2.
He then did what Canadians his age have always been forced to do: try to make it in Europe. Now, because of this league, he is back playing in Canada, in an environment that is tailor-made to make sure players like him continue to develop.
Kyle Bekker is probably the most impressive acquisition for the league. That might come as a bit of a surprise for Toronto FC supporters who remember him as a member of some of the worst sides in the club’s history. But after 7 goals and 16 assists in USL this past season, Bekker continues to prove that perhaps it was more club than player that contributed to those struggles in red.
There are no real surprises among the list of players. Only the most fine-tuned Canadian soccer fans will recognize more than a couple of them. These are players with national team experience, but none are really in the national team picture right now. Some of them probably could have made more money elsewhere.
But they are a statement that the league intends on delivering on its promise. Players from abroad and maybe even some more recognizable signings may come shortly. But this league is putting Canadian players first, and so it should only make sense that its first players are Canadian.