Many players from many different backgrounds have had the honour of wearing the Blue and White kit of Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Every one of them plays the beautiful game for the fans, the badge, the city, the community, their families, and their background.
This is exactly what former ‘Caps midfielder Gordon Chin did every time he stepped onto the pitch for Whitecaps FC.
The Burnaby, BC native from Asian descent, who had two separate spells with the ‘Caps in 2003 and 2009, recalls going to ‘Caps games at Swangard Stadium from a very young age.
“Growing up in Burnaby, I’d always go to see the ‘Caps when I was young with my dad,” said Chin. “He took my brother, my sister and my mom to the games to watch the 86ers. Swangard always had a great atmosphere.”
Once he walked out of the Swangard tunnel for the first time as a player, Chin knew his dream had come true.
“You always feel a bit of nerves,” said Chin. “But honestly it was so cool being able to walk out as a player, being a local boy.”
Chin’s most memorable moment with the ‘Caps came on September 19, 2009 when he scored his first goal for the club in front of his family, leading the ‘Caps to a 2-1 victory over Austin Aztex and earning a place in the USL-1 Team of the Week for his performance.
“My first goal that I scored at Swangard was really special, I had family in the stands there, just randomly my cousin’s family was in the stands, they were at the match so we got together and hung out after so that was a really cool experience. To be able to share the moment with friends and family was refreshing as well,” said Chin.
Being a local boy playing for his hometown team in front of his family always had a significant meaning for Chin, but perhaps his main takeaway from his career was playing for his Chinese ethnicity and background.
“For me, having Chin on the back [of my jersey], I was really proud, I was always proud of my Asian heritage,” said Chin.
During his career, Chin was able to connect his passion for football with his pride for his roots by helping out in the Asian community and being an inspirational figure to the community itself.
“It was really cool, having the last name Chin, there was always a bit of a following. Being in touch with the Asian soccer community, it’s something I’m very proud of,” said Chin. “I remember I was named Chinese athlete of the year by a local Chinese radio station. It was humbling to be a part of that. There was always appreciation from the community.”
Even from a young age, Chin was always involved in the Asian footballing community in Vancouver.
“I think when I was around 13 or 14, there was a team called the Vancouver Explorers. It was a local team but it was made up of local Chinese players,” recalled Chin. “My dad was always very proud of me for playing with them and the experience of playing with other Asian players was really cool, then to go on and play for the ‘Caps was very special.”
Chin isn’t the only ‘Caps player from Asian descent to step foot on the pitch.
Former players such as Takashi Hirano, Young-Pyo Lee, and Inbeom Hwang also had a close connection to the Asian community in Vancouver, much like Chin.
“I learned a lot from Taka when I played with him. I got to kick the ball around with YP at some alumni matches. They were all quality players. I think anytime you see any players from any countries, particularly Asian countries in Vancouver, you can see the support that they get and it’s awesome. It’s great for the community, it’s great for the game, it’s great for the club. Hopefully we get to see more of that in the future,” said Chin.
In addition, the ‘Caps have five more players from Asian descent on their current roster in midfielders Michael Baldisimo and Patrick Metcalfe, wingers Kameron Habibullah and Ryan Raposo, and defender Ali Adnan, something that makes Chin proud once he sees them take the field.
“It’s amazing. It’s awesome to see any local players come through the ranks, especially if they are of Asian descent,” said Chin. “You look at Michael Baldisimo, he’s been fantastic. I’ve been following his career. To see a player like that come through I think it’s inspiring to watch as a crowd and also he’s going to be a role model for younger Asian players and younger players in general. It’s extra special for the Asian communities so for sure it’s something to be proud of.”
Especially in times like the ones we’re living in now, the former midfielder believes it’s important to celebrate everyone’s values and beliefs, no matter their skin colour or ethnicity.
“I think it’s huge. Celebrating Asian culture with family when I was growing up was always big. Being with family celebrating Lunar New Year and attending other banquets, it’s super important,” said Chin. “Off the pitch, it’s the most important part, to be with loved ones and celebrate your culture.”