Michael Silberbauer, capped 25 times for Denmark including at Euro 2012, sees Canada as a land of untapped potential for soccer.
He will begin tapping it as the first head coach of Pacific FC, the Island-based charter franchise in the new pro Canadian Premier League.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said the 37-year-old Dane.
He was referring to the chance to start a new franchise in a new league in the only developed country without a national professional soccer league.
“I see a nation with so much unfulfilled football talent and so much potential,” said Silberbauer, who was announced Monday at Westhills Stadium in Langford.
“I’m beyond excited. This is unique. I want to become the coach to fulfill the dreams of those young Canadian players.”
The CPL’s stated aim is to develop pro Canadian soccer talent.
“In terms of raw numbers, there are three times the number of Canadian players as Danish players. We believe we can develop that talent to where Canada not only qualifies for the World Cup but can compete in the World Cup,” Silberbauer said.
Silberbauer lived out his pro ambitions as a central midfielder in the top leagues of Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland with FC Copenhagen, FC Utrecht and BSC Young Boys and has played Champions League and UEFA Cup matches. His highest market value was $3.3 million Cdn. with FC Utrecht in 2010.
The native of Stovring made his senior international debut for Denmark in 2002 against Scotland. He was a controversial omission from the 2010 Danish World Cup team but was named to the team for the 2012 Euros.
Pacific FC president and Victoria-raised Josh Simpson, capped 43 times for Canada, met Silberbauer when the two played together in Switzerland on BSC Young Boys.
“Michael Silberbauer’s knowledge is just going to pour out,” said Simpson.
“He is getting his UEFA pro license, which is like the PhD of coaching.”
Simpson said he didn’t think he could land Silberbauer: “We’ve had literally hundreds of resumes come in, nationally and internationally, but I didn’t think Michael was attainable. So I just put the offer out there to him.”
Silberbauer is currently top assistant coach at FC Lucerne in the top Swiss league and is contracted there through the calendar year. The Dane takes over the Pacific FC helm on Jan. 1 and will be moving to the Island with his girlfriend Anne Sofie and their two-year-old daughter Molly. Terms of the two-year contracted were not disclosed.
“I am not here for a holiday. I am here to work,” said Silberbauer, who is fluent in Danish, English, Dutch and German.
He said he doesn’t pattern his coaching after any particular famous coach or any of the mentors he had as a player.
“Just be yourself,” Silberbauer said.
“Honesty and authenticity are key factors in coaching. You are always learning in sports. That’s a lifetime thing.”
Silberbauer said Pacific FC will play “dynamic and fast” soccer but did not spend a lot of time discussing tactics during his whirlwind weekend in Victoria.
“It’s about building relationships with the players and about getting those personal values right,” he said.
Silberbauer is the first non-Canadian CPL head coach announced so far among a group that includes former national team head coach Stephan Hart of HFX Wanderers of Halifax, former Canadian U-20 coach Rob Gale of Winnipeg’s Valour FC, Tommy Wheeldon Jr. of Calgary’s Cavalry FC and Canadian Soccer Hall of Famer Jimmy Brennan of York 9 from the Greater Toronto Area.
“[Silverbauer] brings a different flavour and checks all the boxes anybody would want as we look to develop Canadian talent,” said Pacific FC executive-director Rob Friend, who had 32 caps for Canada, and a pro career in Germany in the Bundesliga.
Pacific FC also announced Monday that James Merriman of Nanaimo will serve as Silberbauer’s assistant coach. Merriman oversaw the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps’ U-15 residency team and has a good handle on upcoming B.C. talent. As a player, Merriman played NCAA Div. 1 soccer for the University of Denver and later for the reserves of the MLS Colorado Rapids and in the Premier Development League for the Victoria Highlanders.
“B.C. and the Island has tons of potential that we are looking to develop,” said Merriman.
The inaugural CPL season will begin next spring.