Gianfranco Facchineri’s soccer journey began in his hometown of Windsor, ON and has always been very closely tied to his family.
“A lot of people helped me through the years while playing but first it was my family. My mom and dad got me into soccer, and my dad was a soccer player before me,” says Facchineri. “My family is my biggest supporters but also my biggest critics. They’ll let me know every time I’ve done something well but they’ll also tell me when I’ve made a mistake. It’s not in a way to bring me down, but it’s a type of criticism that’s allowed me to grow as a person and as a player. A lot of my success has come from my upbringing and the kind of support that I’ve had.”
Facchineri’s entire family has helped him along the way but there is a specific member of his family who he looks up to more than anyone else.
“With my younger sister it’s kind of my job to be someone that she looks up to and it’s interesting how a lot of the time it's the other way around in that I look up to her,” says Facchineri. “She’s the toughest person I’ve ever met in my life, and her willpower and drive are something I've always tried to emulate in my life. She’s a special type of person with mental strength that a lot of people don’t have. She’s always been someone I look up to in that sense.”
Moving across the country
When Facchineri moved from Ontario to BC to join the ‘Caps it was tough to leave his family, but it was an important step in his growth and maturity as a soccer player and as a person.
“The biggest thing I learned is that there’s so much more to one day than just training. My days used to revolve around training, and it still does revolve around training, but you also have much more time when you’re at home doing nothing,” says Facchineri. “I’ve lived away from my family for two years. I’ve got to find a balance between football and everything that goes on off the pitch. There’s 24 hours in a day and if you’re only at the training facility for five there’s a lot of other hours in a day that you’ve got to fill and you need to be doing productive things.”
For Facchineri, those “productive things” include being a self-taught guitarist and focusing on school.
“My mother’s a principal so getting good grades was always necessary if I was living at home or away in Vancouver. So I had to find a balance between all aspects of life - social, football, school, and everything else.”
Making most out of opportunities
While there are definitely aspects of life in Windsor that Facchineri misses - including his mother’s and grandmother’s Italian home cooking - he understands that to fulfill his soccer goals he had to move to Vancouver and join Whitecaps FC.
“Being a part of the Whitecaps organization and getting to play football for my job,” says Facchineri in regard to what he loves about being in Vancouver. “Just the opportunities it’s given me. The opportunity I have now in professional football trying to live out my dream and have a professional career. I wouldn’t have that, unfortunately, if I were living at home.”
For Facchineri moving to Vancouver was just the first step on his path to becoming a professional.
“My goal was never to just become a professional soccer player, a lot of people have a goal to become a professional soccer player but have no game plan after they do so. For me it was always to have a full career in professional football so that at the end of the day, I’d never have to work a day in my life because football is not work, it’s what I love to do more than anything.”
Facchineri says that when he gets into a new situation, he immediately seeks out the people that already know what they’re doing. So when he joined the ‘Caps first team, he sought the advice of the established centre backs.
“I kind of follow what Andy (Rose) is doing, or what Doneil (Henry) was doing at the time, or what Derek (Cornelius) is doing now. In every situation in life, you kind of look for the people that are in the position that you want to be. I’ll try and do everything I can to match the success that they’ve had or have more by learning from them.”
But Facchineri’s desire to learn and advance himself doesn’t stop there. Everyday in training, he has questions for the other VWFC centre backs or the coaching staff and soaks up every bit of knowledge.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to ‘play simple, the game’s not as hard as you may think it is’. A lot of times you can overcomplicate things because you want to impress or look good in front of everybody else but at the end of the day the best thing to do is to play the simple pass, keep the ball and just do the little things right.”
Facchineri describes the former Italian centre back, World Cup-winning captain and Ballon d’Or winner Fabio Cannavaro as his favourite player of all time.
“He was just 5’8” but he would win everything and was so dominant in the air for someone as small as him. He was fast, tough and good on the ball, and when they won the World Cup in 2006 he was the one that captained the side so he’s kind of been my footballing hero.”
Facchineri says he doesn’t model his game off of Cannavaro but if his short and long term goals are anything to go off, maybe in the future, Facchineri could be someone the 'Caps could rely on as well.
“My long term goal is to be one of the first names on the team sheet, the guy that the Whitecaps need every game. I’d love to in the future captain the team and win a trophy with the Whitecaps,” says Facchineri. “My short term goal is to get some minutes with the first team if possible. My short term goal is honestly to just improve and get better everyday,”