The new pro soccer team based in Langley has signed its latest two players for the upcoming season.
Vancouver Football Club (VFC), a Canadian Premier League (CPL) tier 1 domestic men’s soccer team, was formed in 2022 and will play its first season out of Willoughby Community Park (next to Langley Events Centre).
This week, the team announced signing of latest two draft picks, namely centre-back Anthony White and striker Ameer Kinani.
Vancouver received the top two picks in the annual draft, which was held last December, as the latest expansion side to join the CPL, explained said club president Rob Friend.
VFC selected White with the first overall pick out of the University of Toronto (U of T), followed by Kinani with the second overall pick out of Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU).
White and Kinani were invited to Vancouver’s pre-season training, where they competed for a roster spot ahead of the 2023 CPL season.
“The CPL-U SPORTS draft plays a key role in Canada’s player development pathway, allowing university level athletes to gain visibility from the professional clubs within our league,” said Friend.
“We’ve already seen success stories through this pathway, including Joel Waterman and Victor Loturi of Canada’s men’s national team, as well as our own Gabriel Bitar. We believe both Anthony and Ameer will further showcase how critical this draft is in terms of identifying and developing more professional talent in this country.”
White, 19, joins Vancouver through the 2024 season, with a club option to extend his stay through 2026.
The native of Port Moody, who grew up representing Coquitlam Metro Ford Soccer Club, returns to the West Coast after making 11 starts for the University of Toronto in 2022, which was tied for the team lead in his sophomore season with the Varsity Blues. Outside of the U SPORTS structure, he most recently helped TSS Rovers win the 2022 League1 BC championship last summer.
White is the youngest first overall pick in the history of the CPL-U SPORTS draft.
“I am proud of all of the hard work it took to get to this moment and grateful to Vancouver for making this investment in me,” said White.
“As a young player, it is a luxury to know where I will be playing for the foreseeable future, and I look forward to living up to the faith Afshin and everyone at VFC has placed in me.”
The left-footed central defender, who stands at 6 ft. 1 in., has previously trained in top professional environments, such as with Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb and NK Sibenik, as well as FC Nurnberg in Germany.
He has also trialed with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
And in 2019, White was one of 16 Generation Adidas players selected to train in Spain with Real Madrid and at the training centre of the Spanish national team.
Head coach Afshin Ghotbi describes White as a composed and calm addition to Vancouver’s defence. He can play out of the back with precision, be it through a short- or long-range pass, and his ability to make, and execute, good decisions in any situation ensured he stood out as a U SPORTS player.
“Anthony has impressed since his first kick at the first training,” Ghotbi added.
“Mature beyond his age, Anthony possesses all the qualities, potential and ambition to become a top footballer. We look forward to his development and performances in the upcoming season and beyond.”
‘Born scorer’ joins club
Kinani, 21, signed a 2023 CPL-U SPORTS contract with Vancouver. In signing such a contract, Kinani will gain the opportunity to earn professional experience with VFC, while maintaining his eligibility to return to U SPORTS competition.
“Ameer is a born goal scorer, who combines the bravery, intelligence and coolness of an international striker,” said Ghotbi.
“He has an eye and nose for the goal, making him an exciting addition to our squad. VFC fans are in for a treat, watching the evolution of a true goal scorer.”
The Iraqi-Canadian striker joins the club following an impressive first season with TMU, where he scored seven goals in 13 matches. Kinani’s performance helped lead the Bold to the Ontario University athletics final last November.
U SPORTS wasn’t the only level where Kinani turned heads in 2022.
He scored 17 goals for ProStars FC of League1 Ontario, the fourth-highest tally in the league and an impetus for a transfer from George Brown College to TMU.
Internationally, Kinani has represented Iraq, where he was born and lived until a move to Canada at the age of seven, at the youth level.
He earned a call-up to Iraq’s squad for the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship, after the Iraq Football Association saw a highlight reel of Kinani posted on social media. The exposure at the youth international level led to an opportunity with FC Cartagena in Spain’s Segunda división B for Kinani, where he remained for a year and a half before making his return to Canada.
“With hard work, focus, commitment, and discipline, I believe Vancouver can do real damage in the CPL,” said Kinani.
“I am a team-first player, and I will do everything I can to help this organization prove we deserve to be here, and to win.”
White and Kinani join strikers Mamadou Kane, Nathanial St. Louis, and Shaan Hundal; midfielders Gael Sandoval, Elliot Simmons, Gabriel Bitar, Mael Henry, Nicky Gyimah, Min-jae Kwak, Cristian Mares, and Nima Moazeni Zadeh; defenders Kadin Chung, Ibrahim Bakare, Pele Martinez, Rocco Romeo, Marcus Simmons, Kahlil John-Wentworth, and Tyler Crawford; and goalkeepers Callum Irving and Jeremy Zielinski on Vancouver’s roster.
Vancouver will play its inaugural match on Saturday, April 15 in a battle of British Columbia against West Coast rival Pacific FC in Langford.
The squad is scheduled to kick off its home schedule in Willoughby on Sunday, May 7 against Cavalry FC.
Fans eager to secure tickets for Vancouver’s inaugural season can do so by clicking here.