When you look through the roster for WFC2
, you’ll find a number of bright young Canadian talents, as well as a few promising American players and selections from the MLS SuperDraft.
However on that roster you will also find one international player, 20-year-old winger Victor Blasco
. Asking him to think about the first time he fell in love with soccer is a difficult suggestion.
“Almost everyone in Spain likes soccer. I'm just one more.”
That may be true, but his story is anything but the norm.
The first big opportunity
For many, the FC Barcelona Academy – La Masia – is regarded as the best soccer school in the world. And with household names like Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Gerard Piqué, and Jordi Alba among its alumni, it's easy to see why.
Blasco grew up in Mallorca, an island beside Barcelona. Both of his parents played soccer in Spain, with his father coming close to a professional career.
You may recognize this former FC Barcelona Academy player
When he was nine-years-old he received the opportunity of a lifetime – an invitation into the famed Barcelona Academy.
“They saw me playing and they called me, which was really really exciting,” remembers the Spaniard. “I just went there to try out, and they signed me.”
He developed with the club up until the age of 13. Throughout his time he was surrounded by great players, looking up to the older players and sharing a locker room with other promising youngsters like himself.
Among his teammates was fellow winger Gerard Deulofeu
, a star in the making who's currently plying his trade on loan at Sevilla FC. Like WFC2 for Whitecaps FC, Barcelona have a second team known as Barcelona B. It is there where Deulofeu earned his stripes, making 68 appearances over three seasons and scoring 27 goals.
Blasco will look for a similar rise through the ranks here with Whitecaps FC – an opportunity that would not have been possible were it not for Alan Koch
The first meeting with coach Koch
Blasco playing for his hometown, Real Club Deportivo Mallorca
Following his time at Barcelona, Blasco moved to top youth club Cornellà. Following that, he returned to his hometown to play for Real Club Deportivo Mallorca.
“I played for the second team and they offered me a contract,” tells Blasco. “But the economic situation in Spain is in a bit of a crisis.”
In 2012, Spain had to apply for €100 billion rescue package due to the country’s debt. At that time, Spain’s unemployment rate was 24.4%, with that number jumping to 50% for those under 25. For Victor and his family, an uncertain economy meant that thinking beyond just soccer was an important factor for the future.
As head coach at SFU, the South African was always looking for talented new players. In 2013, through a friend of a friend, he was introduced to Victor’s granddad. From there, he made a scouting trip to Europe.
“I saw him play with Mallorca and saw how good he was,” said Koch of Blasco. “Tiki-taka type of player, loves to be on the ball, very skillful. Loves to go at players. Very technically sound and very passionate. He has a lot of the intangibles that a lot of the Spanish players have.”
“I try not to be shy on the field.” - Blasco
After watching him play, Alan sat down with Victor to discuss the possibility of him coming to SFU.
“We had a chat for about two hours,” remembers Blasco. “He convinced me that it was a good idea to come here. Not just because of the soccer, but because of the school opportunity.”
The first time living abroad
Before Victor could register at SFU, there was a bump in the road.
“I didn’t have the English level,” tells Blasco.
To get past the language barrier, Koch connected with Bill Merriman, head coach of the men’s soccer team at Vancouver Island University. At VIU, Blasco was able to learn English as a second language while also continuing to play at the college level.
A blue-haired Blasco led with his play on the field at VIU
His year on the island is a time that he looks back on fondly. Blasco calls Merriman “a father” for him here in Canada, with the long-time VIU head coach welcoming him into his home. He refers to that VIU team as a family who bonded together to achieve more than what was expected.
“We didn’t even think about provincials or nationals,” says Blasco.
Yet there they were, in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national championship final at the end of the season. Blasco scored two goals in the final, but the Mariners ultimately fell 5-4 in penalty kicks to the host Sheridan Bruins.
Throughout the season, it was Blasco leading the way. The attacking talent was named PACWEST Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year, and a CCAA All-Canadian after scoring 12 goals in 13 appearances.
All the while, Koch kept close tabs on his international recruit. But his plan to bring him to SFU changed before he even made it to Burnaby Mountain.
First step to his new goal
When Koch took on the role of WFC2 head coach in January, naturally Blasco was a player who came to mind. A strong preseason with the team saw him added to the inaugural roster.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Koch of Blasco’s new path. “We have at least two good players at every position. So for him, he’ll need to continue to work hard and be consistent.”
And that’s a welcome challenge for his young midfielder.
“When I came here, apart from my studies I had an objective in my mind to play for an MLS team,” notes Blasco, already much improved at speaking English. “I didn’t think that this opportunity to be at an MLS club would come as early as it came, but I’m excited and happy."
"It’s time to work.”
2016 WFC2 Season Tickets are on sale now. 'Caps Club Season Ticket Members can add WFC2 to their MLS season ticket package for only $7 per month! For more information on WFC2 tickets, call 604-484-7862 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.