The last club championship that Forge FC’s Kyle Bekker won prior to hoisting the North Star Shieldleft a somewhat sour taste in his month.
In 2017, Bekker suited up for first-year franchise San Francisco Deltas in the North American Soccer League. The Canadian midfielder was joined by a stable of Canadian teammates on a brand-new team that won the Soccer Bowl, only for the club to fold days later.
It was a whirlwind eight months for the Deltas, who played their only season as the NASL ceased operations after the campaign was completed.
“We were an afterthought just as we started,” Bekker told CanPL.ca. “Then the league folded and that was it.
“We knew it was already done before the final. Our mentality was ‘Screw you, we’re gonna win and make it very awkward that you’re folding a championship team in its first season.'”
Tommy Heinemann’s penalty put the Delta up 1-0 against the Cosmos before a second goal came at the death. A 95th-minute marker, which Bekker set up, served as the last kick of the match, and of the NASL.
It was a start-stop-start celebration for the Deltas, just as Bekker experienced this Fall with Forge, before the rush of capturing a bittersweet championship washed over him.
“The fans rushed the field, it was chaos, but it was fantastic,” Bekker recalled. “We had this funny little supporters group that was behind us all season. They were fantastic. We got to celebrate with them – they’d been with us every match.
“Looking back, it was easy for us to galvanize behind that idea of ‘alright, if we’re going down, we’re gonna make this very awkward.'”
Knowing the club was days away from ceasing operations, celebrations were sparse. Bekker himself left the morning after winning the Soccer Bowl on a particularly rough flight.
Others, such as Canadian teammates Nana Attakora and Karl Ouimette, and current Vancouver Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos, stayed behind for a few days.
“We all wanted to celebrate it. No one wanted to leave. We were all really happy about what we achieved,” Bekker said.
Bekker returned to San Francisco in late 2018, after joining Forge as one of the league’s inaugural signings, as a reunion was held in honour of their NASL Championship.
A year later, he lifted the North Star Shield with his new club Forge FC in the Canadian Premier League.
This celebration has been quite a bit sweeter – and quite a bit longer – for the 29-year-old.
“There’s no comparison,” Bekker said of his win with Forge. “To have family and friends there and to bring it back to Hamilton … the way these fans have been behind us since day one.
“I love Hamilton. I don’t think I’d want to win in any other city.”