Learning more about Nizar Khalfan and Gershon Koffie

Talented African duo in profile

Nizar Khalfan close-up

Photo Credit: 
Bob Frid

In our latest look at some of the new players at Vancouver Whitecaps FC, whitecapsfc.com's Carl Valentine speaks to the talented African pair of Nizar Khalfan and Gershon Koffie.

The midfielders are Vancouver's first two players to be signed to international roster spots for Major League Soccer this week, with the duo having first appeared for the club during their days as a North American second division outfit. We learn about their paths into the game and the adjustments that both have faced to living in Canada.

Q - How did you get into soccer?

Nizar - I started playing in school with my friends.

Gershon - We played street soccer. After school, I would play with my friends and this is how we learned soccer as young boys.

Q - How old were you when you got involved in organized soccer?

Nizar - I was 10 years old when a coach funded an academy for special players. It was there that I learnt my soccer. The coaches were very good and taught me a lot about the game.

Gershon - I joined an academy team when I was nine years old and played with boys that were 12 years old. It was hard, but good for me to play with older players. I also had good coaches, who were twins.

Q - When did you realize you wanted to become a soccer player?

Nizar - When I was 10 years old and I got involved in organized soccer. I loved the game and watched in on TV all the time. I knew then that I would have to leave my home and family to reach my dream of being a professional soccer player. When I heard that Vancouver wanted me to join their team, I was very happy.

Gershon - At 15, my coaches told me that I was good and that I needed to go abroad and learn more, so it became my dream. When I met (Whitecaps FC director of soccer operations) Tom Soehn, he gave me a CD of Vancouver, so I had an image of what it was like and I was very excited.

Q - Is it always hard being so far away from your home and family?

Nizar - Sometimes, it can be hard, but I have come here to find a better life, and become a good soccer player. I can miss the food in Africa, but I choose to live how a Canadian lives. I am happy here and would like to experience everything a Canadian experiences. When I am in Africa, I will be African, but while I am in Canada, I want to be Canadian.

Gershon - It can be, but after training, I relax and listen to my music from Ghana and think I am back home. When I first moved here, I missed kenkey (dumpling), which we eat a lot of with fish. So this time, I brought some tins of kenkey back with me to eat.

Q - What would you like to say to the fans of Whitecaps FC?

Nizar and Gershon - We would like to thank them for accepting us in Vancouver and we also like them. So they should keep supporting us and we will deliver for them.