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VIDEO: VFC – There’s something in the air

Langley’s pro soccer team unveils 2 new jerseys, announces new players ahead of Sunday’s home opener
Vancouver FC, nicknamed the Eagles, unveiled the team’s new jerseys ahead of this weekend’s season opener, and one of the shirts pays tribute to the bald eagle. (Beau Chevalier, VFC/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Thousands of soccer fans from throughout the Lower Mainland are expected to converge on Langley, and specifically the Willoughby Stadium Sunday for Vancouver Football Club’s home opener.

Spring is here, and so too is the Langley-based pro soccer team, which launches its second season of play in the Canadian Premier League with a match up against Winnipeg’s Valour FC, on April 14 at 4 p.m.

Actually, the ever-evolving young team has actually been at the stadium for weeks preparing for the 2024 season, and head coach Afshin Ghotbi is excited heading into this weekend’s season opener at home.

“We are so thrilled to be kicking off our second season at Willoughby Park,” he shared.

“We have been working hard all off-season to build an exciting and winning team that will be entertaining for all of our fans to watch,” Ghotbi added.

There have been a number of player changes in the off-season, among the most recent being the addition of a 22-year-old midfielder Thomas Powell, who played with Trinity Western University, as well as forward Sebastian Dzikowski, also 22, hailing from the University of B.C.

Earlier this month, VFC also added veteran CPL goalkeeper Niko Giantsopoulos, who spent the past three years playing for the York United FC.

“We are thrilled to bring depth, quality and experience to VFC with Niko,” said Ghotbi.

“In the time that I’ve worked with him, he has demonstrated that he’s a class act and a calming presence, and he continues to improve in every training session. We believe that with both Callum and Niko manning our goal, we now have one of the strongest goalkeeping pairs in Canadian football,” noted the head coach.

The most recent addition came from close to home, with Surrey’s 19-year-old centre back Matteo Campagna signing a one-year contract.

In the final days leading up to the season opener, Ghotbi confirmed the team roster thus far.

Goalkeepers: Callum Irving and Niko Giantsopoulos

Defenders: Kadin Chung, Rocco Romeo, Tyler Crawford, Anthony White, James Cameron, Paris Gee, David Norman, Elage Bah, and Matteo Campagna

Midfielders: Elliot Simmons, Ben Fisk, Vasco Fry, Renan Garcia, Grady McDonnell, Kembo Kibato, Zach Verhoven, and Thomas Powell

Forwards: Alejandro ‘Wero’ Díaz, Gabriel Bitar, Taryck ‘TJ’ Tahid, Mikaël Cantave, José Navarro, Moses Dyer, and Sebastian Dzikowski

RECENT: Langley’s pro soccer team keeps growing

Other changes have also been afoot for VFC, including the creation of new jerseys and changes to some of the official branding for the team.

For instance, when the players hit the pitch this weekend, they will be donning one of two new jerseys, both which hold special meaning for the group.

They will debut their cherry blossom uniform (or kit) which has a dual purpose, explained VFC marketing VP Stephanie Wood.

“As a club that prides itself on putting the betterment of the community at the forefront of our mission, it was incredibly important to use our cherry blossom kit as an opportunity to give back,” said Wood. “Designing our own pink shirt, which was inspired by the natural beauty that surrounds the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, and contributing to the Pink Shirt Campaign was an obvious choice.”

RELATED: B.C. pro soccer squad blossoms with new pink kits

Similarly, the team (also nicknamed the Eagles) will also be wearing an alternate jersey – their primary uniform – this season featuring a bald eagle feather cape that drapes down the back of the shirts.

“It is a subtle but essential part of the jersey that reminds us to be grounded in our roots and the foundations of what we built this club around,” Wood said.

“This kit is powerful to us because it is the embodiment of our inspiration, the bald eagle, and the qualities of respect, honour, strength, courage, and wisdom that we have founded this club around,” she added.

Along with the feathered cape, Vancouver’s eagle kit includes the club’s motto, Something in the Air, inscribed on the back of the jersey, again paying homage to the founding principles of VFC.

“The eagle is a respected and honoured creator that was bestowed to our club by the Kwantlen First Nation with our mascot bearing the name gifted to it, Sp’óq’es,” said Wood. “We are representing our communities with the eagle kit this season and are committed to upholding the qualities of the bald eagle both on and off the field.”

Vancouver FC merchandise, including jerseys, will be available for sale during Sunday’s home opener at Willoughby Stadium, next to the Langley Events Centre.

Tickets and information are available online.

“We have appreciated all the amazing support from our communities and we cannot wait for Sunday to welcome everyone back once again,” concluded coach Ghotbi.

RELATED: VFC signs another homegrown talent


READ MORE: VFC – Langley sports story of the year

Maple Ridge’s own TJ Tahid jokingly said “the eagle has landed,” as the soccer athlete helped his Vancouver FC teammates unveil the team’s new jerseys ahead of the season. (Beau Chevalier, VFC/Special to Langley Advance Times)