Former Whitecap would love to score one for dad as father fights cancer back in Cuba
By Marc Weber
May 27 was always going to be special for Eduardo Sebrango.
It's when the popular Cuban forward returns to Vancouver, where he helped lead the Whitecaps to USL-1 championships in 2006 and 2008.
And where, as a 35-year-old last season, he turned back the clock and paced the team with 16 goals — more than triple any of his teammates and one-third of the team's scoring — before saddening fans with his decision to rejoin the rival Montreal Impact.
May 27 means much more than that now.
Sebrango's father, Julio Rafael, turns 65 that day. For two months he's been battling cancer that started in his lungs and has spread to his brain.
Last week, before the Whitecaps scored a crucial 2-0 victory over the Impact in Nutrilite Canadian Championship action, Julio Rafael asked Eddie to score him a goal.
The son wants so badly to answer that call in Wednesday's return match.
"It was a really difficult night," Sebrango says of last week's game. "I talked to him before the game and I couldn't understand really what he was saying, but my brother told me he was saying, 'Score a goal for me.'
"I was working really hard but it didn't happen. Hopefully it happens on the 27th, on his birthday. I'm going to be really, really focused for sure."
Sebrango left the Impact for two weeks in early April to be at his father's side. He'll go back to his hometown of Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, for three months after the season, or sooner if things worsen. Julio Rafael has one more chemo treatment to go before more testing.
"He's fighting," says Sebrango, whose own kids, young Gaby and Donovan, were the reason for leaving Vancouver. He wanted to be closer to their mom's home in Kingston, Ont. — Sebrango is divorced — as well as his own place in Ottawa, where he coaches.
"It's fantastic, I'm so glad that I'm here and spending lots of time with them," he says. "On our trip to play Toronto, we were on the bus and the whole team was able to stop at my kids' school and do an appearance.
"It's been great for me and our relationship and I couldn't ask for more."
Sebrango surprised some — including Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson — when he spoke out after the release of veterans Steve Kindel, Jeff Clarke and Alfredo Valente at the end of last season, saying they weren't the only ones who had issues with the coach.
He wasn't keen to rehash the past but did say he stood by those comments. He expanded on the vagaries of "philosophical differences," only to say that concerns were over communication and the way practices were run and "stuff like that."
It wasn't the reason he left, he reiterated, and he hoped the club took the suggestions to heart.
Thordarson and Sebrango did not shake hands after last week's game in Montreal, but it's hard to imagine Whitecaps fans offering up anything less than a rousing ovation for the ninth-leading scorer in club history, whose work rate has always been unimpeachable.
If the fans don't make the first move, Sebrango will.
"I sure miss Vancouver a lot, I love it there," he says, noting his girlfriend still lives here but is moving to Montreal in the summer. "I'm going to make sure I go and say thank you to the fans, especially the Southsiders.
"It's an important game as well, so I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a fun night for sure."
And an emotional one.
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