Canada U-17 group photo
Photo Credit: Riley Radiuk / Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Across the globe: Diverse family roots make for uniquely Canadian contingent at FIFA U-17 World Cup

Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, and Uzbekistan.
What do they all have in common?
Each country has been part of a diverse set of pathways among the ‘Caps contingent from the Whitecaps FC BMO Academy System who will represent Canada at the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil (coverage starting on TSN2 this Saturday, October 26 at 12:30 p.m. PT).
For Emiliano, life in Canada started just over three years ago. His father Luis was born in Mexico, while his mother Paola was born in Vancouver. During his youth he grew up in Puerto Vallarta, where he began playing soccer at six-years-old with local club Nacional. When he was 13-years-old he and his family moved to Coquitlam.
“I’m proud to be Canadian because of the way we live,” tells Brienza, who speaks both English and Spanish. “Growing up in Mexico, we didn’t have a lot of the things that we have now. I don’t take it for granted at all. My family and I came here looking for a better life, and we found it.”
Most of Habibullah’s memories have come in Vancouver, but he too started life in another part of the world.
“I was born in Uzbekistan and when I was two my family decided to move. Canada welcomed us in and Vancouver was the spot for us. Ever since then I have grown up here and this country became home for me.”
Habibullah’s mother Gavkhar is from Shaxrisabz, Uzbekistan, while his father Muhib was born in Maymana, Afghanistan before he moved to Tashkent, Uzbekistan when he was 16. Both Kam and brother Massud – also in the Whitecaps FC Academy – were born in Tashkent before coming to Canada in 2005. The boys speak English, Farsi, and Uzbek.
Demian grew up in a family of seven kids in Langley, BC. His parents are both of Egyptian descent, with his mother Ruth born in Winnipeg and his father David born in Cairo. They met in Egypt and got married before moving to the Lower Mainland to raise their family.
“Coming back to Canada to raise a family of seven kids in such a great nation was a huge privilege for them. Allowing us to grow up in Langley has really shaped me and all of my brothers and sisters into the people we are today.”
Vellios was born in Burnaby, BC, but each of his grandparents immigrated. His father’s parents, George and Fila, moved from Macedonia. His mother’s parents, Naranjian and Sato Barrio, came from India.
“For me, being Canadian, I’m extremely proud of it,” says the Burnaby resident. “I remember growing up and watching the Olympics, supporting Team Canada the whole way. Now knowing that I will get to represent the badge is a tremendous experience and I’m excited for it.”
Pecile was born in Burnaby, and his parents were born in Vancouver and Hafford, Saskatchewan respectively. However his nonno Mario and nonna Livia were both born in Italy before moving to Canadian shores. Damiano himself speaks Italian and stays close to his roots, but he makes clear which country stays closest to his heart.
“It means everything to me to represent Canada. Growing up as a little boy in Burnaby, BC, and getting to now go and represent myself and represent my country in front of the world, I can’t wait to do it.”
Facchineri is also a second generation born Canadian who comes from an Italian background. His parents were both born in his hometown of Windsor, Ontario. His grandparents, Franco and Pia, moved over from Amantea, Italy.
Having now lived on either side of the country has given him an especially strong appreciation for his home and native land.
“I’m very proud to be Canadian. I was born in Windsor, Ontario, and I’ve lived in Vancouver for the past two years. Living in different cities and seeing the entire country, I’m very proud of where I come from and I’ll be very proud to represent my team at the World Cup.”
Six players with six different family journeys, a diversity fitting of the maple leaf.