Already a two-time CPL Champion, Kyle Bekker can now add one more impressive accolade to his resume: MVP.
Forge FC’s captain was officially named the Canadian Premier League’s Player of the Year during a special awards ceremony on Thursday night, capping off an incredible 2020 season that saw the midfielder play a starring role in guiding the Hamilton-based club to a second consecutive league championship.
Bekker, a 30-year-old native of Oakville, Ont., took home the CPL’s top individual honour by beating out fellow nominees Marco Bustos of Pacific FC and HFX Wanderers FC’s Akeem Garcia, who won the Golden Boot award as the league’s top scorer.
The Player of the Year award takes into account the nominees’ performances for the full 2020 CPL season that took place at this summer’s Island Games in PEI. The award is voted on by a judging panel comprised of media writers and reporters from across Canada.
“It’s an honour. I’m definitely happy about it. But for those who know me, they know it’s not my big concern. Winning the championship was my priority. I’m in this for that, not necessarily individual awards. I want to be successful as part of a team,” Bekker told CanPL.ca.
“Winning the award is something that I’m obviously proud of, but I think it’s more of a testament to the group of guys around me.”
If that unassuming response surprises you, it shouldn’t. Bekker’s team-first mentality is one of the many reasons why Forge has been so successful through the CPL’s first two seasons. As captain he’s helped to foster a winning culture at Forge that emphasizes that no single player is bigger than the team and that every player has a role to play.
More than anything else, that’s why Forge hoisted the North Star Shield at the conclusion of The Island Games, according to Bekker.
“Guys stepped up. We have a guy like David Edgar; it’s unbelievable what he brings to the table. We have so many guys on the team who continue to buy into the program. Everybody pulls their weight, and it’s a group that came together beautifully in PEI. It was awesome to be part of, and something I will truly never forget,” Bekker said.
However, one can’t overlook the impact that Bekker had on the pitch for Forge in 2020.
He scored a team-high three goals (tied with Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson) and tallied one assist at The Island Games. Beyond that, the veteran midfielder was a workhorse in PEI, appearing in all of Forge’s 11 games and logging 880 minutes of playing time (third-most on the team), and he was dominant on both sides of the ball as he played a pivotal role in helping Forge repeat as CPL Champions.
That commitment and solid work ethic has served Bekker well during his time in the CPL.
“Being a captain, it’s not something I’ve never been before in my professional career, and I can’t be asking these guys to do anything I wouldn’t do,” Bekker said.
Bekker was a finalist for the 2019 MVP award when he ended up losing out to former Forge teammate Tristan Borges. But he maintains that wasn’t a motivating factor for him coming into the 2020 campaign.
“I come into every season with the intent of being as competitive as possible, and push the envelope to set the bar for what we want to do every day at Forge. I want to compete as hard as I can, but winning awards in not something I think about every day,” Bekker said.
Still, Forge’s Triston Henry, who won the Golden Glove award as the league’s top goalkeeper on Thursday, believes this award was long overdue for his teammate.
“I think he’s more than deserving of it. He deserved it last year, as well. He’s been an amazing captain and one of the best leaders on our team, someone I’ve worked closely with day in and day out the last two seasons. He’s always there for us, he works hard and he sets an example as to how a professional footballer should act,” Henry told CanPL.ca.
Other awards handed out on Thursday were Coach of the Year (won by HFX’s Stephen Hart), Golden Glove (Henry), and Best Canadian U-21 Player (Mo Farsi of Cavalry).