VANCOUVER — In the moments after the Canadian Premier League’s #GotGame Trials wrapped Tuesday night on Vancouver Island, Lead Coach Alex Bunbury suggested the CPL hasn’t seen the last of him.
“I’m a little emotional right now,” Bunbury told CanPL.ca outside the locker rooms at the University of Victoria. “I didn’t expect to be emotional.”
From Halifax to Montreal, Toronto and Hamilton, Bunbury — side-by-side with the CPL’s head coaches — traversed more than 20,000 kilometres en route to stops 5, 6 and 7 in Winnipeg, Calgary and, most recently, Vancouver Island in an effort to provide unearthed footballers a stage to showcase their talent.
“When I first embarked on this journey I was a bit apprehensive because I’d just purchased a club in Portugal, which came with big responsibilities,” Bunbury said.
But a call from John “Gibby” Gibson, the CPL’s Director of Interprovincial Affairs, convinced the Canadian soccer legend to put things on hold and, as he did so many times while forging a career both at home and abroad, answer a call from his country.
“Gibby has a way of putting things together,” Bunbury said of a mentor who coached him during his time with the Hamilton Steelers.
“He said, ‘Hey, having you with us will make a big difference.’ I think and I hope it has. I hope the person I am resonated.”
While Bunbury had the difficult task of cutting roughly 1,300 players from coast-to-coast during this two-month talent search, he also connected with the 200 or so trialists who survived and earned the right to compete in front of CPL coaches in the featured final game in each city.
“You get to see these players come in and give everything they have. You get attached to them. You’re rooting for them,” Bunbury told CanPL.ca.
“Of course, not every single one of these trialists is going to make it to a club our a tryout or a contract, but when you see them put forth so much energy and they give us an exhibition, it’s so inspiring.”
Asked to recall one trialist who stood out above all others, Bunbury didn’t hesitate: “The Beast,” he responded.
“It was how he came out and dominated,” Bunbury added. “That was a player who blew my mind.”
Halifax trialist Kouame Ouattara looked the part over two days in Nova Scotia. The 27-year-old former Moncton University defender, you’ll recall, was unstoppable when the #GotGame Trials opened in the Maritimes.
We’ll learn more about the Ivorian’s potential CPL future in the coming weeks as CanPL.ca releases its #GotGame Watch List, featuring players coaches identified as potential targets to earn preseason calls.
“The players who have participated in this from Halifax to here on Vancouver Island have been inspirational,” Bunbury added. “I’m overwhelmed with joy and excited for the future of the game.”
It’s a future, Bunbury offered, he hopes to be a part of as the Canadian Premier League launches in 2019 and seeks immediate growth.
“I’m working on bringing a team to Montreal. That’s how much I believe in this league,” Bunbury reiterated.
“I’m willing to do whatever I need to do to bring a (CPL) club to a city that gave me so much.”
They’re encouraging aspirations from the face of an event that unfolded as it did due to the outpouring of support from players chasing their dreams.
“I hope the staff and people working behind the scenes saw I want this to happen and I want this to work,” Bunbury said.
“I thought about the importance of being involved in a league that we need for Canadians. It has been nothing but spectacular.”
— Kurt Larson (@KurtLarsonCPL) November 6, 2018