Repatriating young Canadian soccer players from Europe, by giving them a Canadian pro option, is one of the goals of the new Canadian Premier League.
Alessandro Hojabrpour could be the poster child.
Hojabrpour’s dream is to play pro soccer. The quest took him to Bulgaria, and now to the Island, among a trio of young B.C. signees announced Tuesday by Pacific FC of the CPL.
“Going to Europe was always my goal,” said the 19-year-old Burnaby native, who played for the Canadian U-17 team before signing with Premiership side Lokomotiv Plovdiv’s U-19 squad in 2017.
“That’s why the start of the CPL is so key and exciting,” Hojabrpour said.
“It’s good for young Canadian players to have this option. For me, it’s awesome to be playing so close to home.”
Not that the attacking midfielder regrets his time in Plovdiv. Far from it.
“The experience was fantastic,” he said.
“There was a language barrier and being away from home was tough at first. But you get used to it and the people were fantastic. I got to train with the men on the Premiership team and learned a lot. The talent [at U-19] is the same between Canada and Bulgaria, in my opinion. The difference is in opportunities. They will move you up to the first team as you develop and you will play. That’s why the CPL starting up in Canada is so important.”
Also signed by Pacific FC are Matthew Baldisimo and Terran Campbell, also from Burnaby. They are both coming from Fresno FC of the United Soccer League.
“We are fortunate to be in a position to be bringing young players like this back to B.C. where they can become the future stars of the game on Canadian soil,” said Pacific FC CEO and former Bundesliga pro and Canadian international Rob Friend.
Baldisimo is a 20-year-old midfielder who captained Canada at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 championship in Honduras. Campbell is a 20-year-old striker who has played internationally for Canada in the 2013 Copa Mexico de Naciones.
“These three are solid young players in their age group and we are glad to have them join us to continue their careers back in Canada,” said Danish international and Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer.
All three of the signees are out of the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency program, in which Pacific FC assistant coach James Merriman coached for seven years
“We are familiar with each other’s play and know each other pretty well,” said Hojabrpour.
That brings to five players Pacific FC now has under contract.
The first signee in Pacific FC franchise history in November was 20-year-old Kadin Chung of Port Coquitlam, who is returning to Canada after playing this season in Bundesliga 2 with FC Kaiserslautern Reserves. The team announced the signing of 27-time Canada capped striker Marcus Haber last week from Falkirk, where the 30-year-old veteran was playing on loan from Dundee FC of the Scottish Premiership.
Haber will be expected to mentor this young group.
“Marcus already texted me and said he is excited to meet me,” said Hojabrpour.