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SOCCER: Newest BC football club hits pitch Sunday for home opener

VFC head coach Afshin Ghotbi excited about the new face of the club heading into its second season
Head coach Afshin Ghotbi leads the Vancouver Football Club (VFC) into its second season of professional soccer out of their home pitch in Langley. The home opener is happening Sunday, April 14 at 4 p.m. at Willoughby Stadium. (Beau Chevalier,Vancouver FC/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Afshin Ghotbi is literally counting down the hours until his team runs onto the field for its first game of the season at Willoughby Stadium.

He’s head coach of the Vancouver Football Club (FC) and in front of what he hopes will be a sold-out crowd, Ghotbi wants to show off the new team and all it’s new attributes for its fans.

This year, the team gets to begin its season with a home opener at Willoughby Stadium in Langley Sunday afternoon.

After what he called a successful off-season and a productive pre-season, the professional soccer players - new and old – are anxious, as is he, to begin the club’s second season with a new look and many new players.

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“I feel the group is very charged, energized, very inspired, very united, and we’re very happy to be able to start at home… and show the new face of this team,” he shared a few days ahead of the game.

With the addition of many new players this season, some seasoned pros mixed with fresh young talent, Ghotbi believes the blend could spell some great successes this year.

“I think it allows us to play the kind of football I want to play, the football I feel can be entertaining, and the kind of football that can kinda dominate, control games. And, I believe with the qualities that we have, we will not waiver from that.”

Last year, with what he called a challenging inaugural year and a brand new team, they simply struggled to stay competitive and stay in the game. And while they did reasonably well, and improved tremendously as the season progress – winning four of their last six games – it was all new for many of them, Ghotbi admitted.

But with the changes in players that have been made since, with a new depth of experience added, and with a lot of hard work done pre-season, he said “as you’ll see from the first kick, we’re going to go after victory.”

The first game of the season is this Sunday, April 14, starting at 4 p.m. at Willoughby Stadium (next to the Langley Events Centre) on 200th Street in Langley, when VFC takes on Winnipeg’s Valour FC.

“Obviously last year, Valour had a tough season. They had a lot of injuries, they finished last in the table. But they were very competitive in almost every game, so if you look at them throughout the season, they were one of the most difficult opponents to face,” Ghotbi said, acknowledging that both VFC games against Valour at home ended in scoreless draws.

Still expecting the tenacity demonstrated in past by Valour, the head coach said he never anticipates any game in the Canadian Premier League to be “easy,” and especially not this weekend’s match up against Valour.

Single game tickets and season passes are available online.

Asked what he’s looking forward to most in the second season for VFC, Ghotbi said he is anxious to see the fan base grow, and consequently the love and appreciation of the game intensify in B.C.

He pointed, for instance, to the inclusion of several players from B.C. in this year’s roster – some returning for a second season and some new to the team – as a means to that goal. He described them as individuals who – like himself – want to foster a passion for the sport in this province.

VFC has been busy in the off-season bringing B.C.-born players home to Vancouver to play in front of their friends and family. VFC now has a total of 13 B.C.-born players, including the likes of Ben Fisk, Paris Gee, David Norman, and Zach Verhoven who will all be making their hometown debuts this season.

Having witnessed this team at practice and playing in a number of “friendly” pre-season games, Ghotbi is confident they’ll have a great season ahead.

“It’s a very exciting event, and I’m hoping that inspires more and more fans to come out and join us and celebrate this beautiful game,” he concluded.

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Roxanne Hooper

About the Author: Roxanne Hooper

I began in the news industry at age 15, but honestly, I knew I wanted to be a community journalist even before that.
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