In sports, that can mean one of two things. In many realms around the world it can lead to a strong dislike. But in some cases, it can create a common bond.
The latter is the case in Tuesday’s announcement that Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Alberta Soccer Association (ASA) have entered into an official partnership, which will include an academy centre in Calgary.
Already Whitecaps FC are home to young Albertan talents like Alphonso Davies, and Sam Adekugbe who is currently making strides on loan at English Championship club Brighton Hove and Albion. Other young players at the club are emerging too, like Calgary's Andres Charles-Barrera (pictured above), currently on the U-18 team.
Now, both sides are looking to enhance that relationship, providing the best possible pathway for young players from grassroots, to professional soccer, and on to represent Canada at the national team level.
“Obviously soccer is a huge sport worldwide and it is important that we continue to grow the game here in Alberta so that we can keep pace with the ever evolving soccer landscape,” noted ASA technical director and former Whitecaps FC player Shaun Lowther. “The Whitecaps FC brand brings tremendous respect to all involved in the game. Now, more than ever, it is essential that organizations such as Whitecaps FC and the Alberta Soccer Association work together for the betterment of the game.”
And that, ultimately is the goal.
Canadians are clearly passionate about soccer, and there’s no doubt that there is talent across the country. But without partnerships, it hasn’t always been easy to unite for the common cause.
“One of the ongoing challenges for our country is its size,” explained Whitecaps FC Residency recruitment officer Frank Ciaccia. “As it relates to soccer, its vastness has our programs geographically spread across enormous distances. It’s important then to find ways to reduce these distances through strategic partnerships. And the professional clubs should serve as catalysts and geographical centres for these partnerships. This type of investment is critical to the development of our players and the production of more professional and more national team players.”
Lowther (pictured right) knows the challenge that young players face, having played for the 'Caps from 1980-84 and on Canada's men's national team,
"I have a special appreciation of the work that it takes to become a professional footballer. By now having a clearly defined pathway, it will enable more talented and dedicated players in Alberta to realize their dreams."
That’s not to say that there hasn’t already been success between these neighbours, whose proximity makes it natural to work together. There are currently 19 players from Alberta with Whitecaps FC, including six professional players and now two girls players.
“The youth clubs in Alberta and the provincial association are doing a great job of preparing many of their players for advanced levels of play,” added Ciaccia. “With their Regional Performance Centre programs working with the most promising players, they’re offering a type of environment that goes a long way to refining a player’s readiness as a potential candidate for our full-time professional programs.”
That ability has been noticed on both the male and female sides. Calgary's Mya Jones scored for Canada's U-15 national team on Tuesday in a CONCACAF tournament win over Venezuela.
“There is a lot of talent coming through the system in Alberta,” tells Whitecaps FC girls program director Emma Humphries. “We’ve had some tremendously competitive games over the past year between the Alberta Regional Performance Centre and our Girls Elite REX program in partnership with BC Soccer. To bring together the best of both these groups, and play best with best more often, is only going to push players from both sides to hit another level and increase competition amongst them to be the best they can be.”
Now, our neighbourhood is that much closer together.
For more information on Whitecaps FC Academy Centres, visit whitecapsfc.com/academy.
- Sam Adekugbe (Calgary) - Calgary Foothills FC
- Marco Carducci (Calgary) – Calgary Villains SC
- Alphonso Davies (Edmonton) – Edmonton Internationals, Edmonton Strikers
- Jackson Farmer (Edmonton) – Edmonton Xtreme FC
- Mitch Piraux (Calgary) – Calgary Foothills
- Chris Serban (Calgary) – Calgary Chinooks, Calgary Villains
Two on U-18
- Gloire Amanda (Edmonton) - Edmonton Xtreme FC, Edmonton Internationals, FC Edmonton
- Andres Charles-Barrera (Calgary) – Calgary NSD Soccer Club, Calgary Southwest United
Eight on U-16
- Jefferson Alade (Sherwood Park) - FC Edmonton, Edmonton Xtreme FC
- Jacob Aulin (Airdrie) – Calgary Blizzard, Calgary Southwest United, Calgary Foothills FC
- Keisean Brooks (Calgary) - Calgary Villains
- Anthony Caceres (Leduc) - Edmonton Juventus, FC Edmonton
- T-Boy Faiya (Edmonton) – Edmonton Strikers, Sherwood Park
- Jose Hernandez (Edmonton)- Edmonton Juventus, FC Edmonton
- Daniel Kaiser (Calgary) – Willowridge, Calgary Foothills FC
- Darlington Murasiranwa (Edmonton) - Edmonton Victoria, FC Edmonton
One on U-15
- Carlos Rodrigo Tiscareno (Calgary) - MUSC, Calgary Foothills FC
- Mya Jones (Calgary) – Calgary Southwest United, Calgary Foothills FC
- Nikki Panas (Edmonton) – Scottish Angels