TORONTO — History will be made in Hamilton on April 27 as Forge FC welcomes York9 FC to Tim Hortons Field for the very first match in Canadian Premier League history.
The Canadian Premier League announced its first match on Tuesday, bringing the ‘905 Derby’ to life in what Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis called a “monumental day” in Canadian soccer.
For Smyrniotis, the occasion is fit for the ambitions of his club – and for himself.
Smyrniotis and the rest of the league’s head coaches have been hard at work assembling inaugural rosters and putting in the sweat equity needed to build a new league that has been “For Canadians, By Canadians” since Day 1.
Beyond the mantra, it’s a truth that will be evident when the league finally kicks off, in a day Smyrniotis says he “can’t wait” to experience.
“It’s going to be a great event for Forge FC and for the Canadian Premier League,” Smyrniotis told CanPL.ca. “It will be a great day for our league and one of the most monumental days in Canadian soccer history.
“We’re looking forward to a full house. The fans and supporters and the general public in Hamilton are going to get behind this thing because they are very passionate about things that happen in our city.
“From a personal aspect, it is going to be a great day from the first roll of the ball onward.”
Smyrniotis is no stranger to the sidelines, having served as head coach of the fabled Sigma FC before taking the mantle at Forge. He has quietly assembled a small but growing core of former pupils, which will be supplemented with further talent as rosters take shape ahead of kick off.
Each new acquisition is made acutely aware of their role in Canadian soccer history: Smyrniotis hopes to offer his players focus and clear objectives, starting from day one.
“From a coaching perspective, you have formulated your idea of your lineup and your players and it’s the first time you get to see it in a real situation and a good pressure situation at that,” Smyrniotis offered, when asked how he balances coaching with the weight of history.
“Every day we’re making history. On that day, a lot of history will come down. It’s something I’ve told players I have already signed: There is going to be a lot of history written, including on that opening day.
“But once we kick off, we’re just playing the game. That’s the way I try to look at it.”
It’s that level of attention to detail, and a natural ability to prioritize, that makes Smyrniotis one of the coaches to watch in the CPL. But his opposite on the touchline on the day will look only to play spoiler to what would otherwise serve as a festive opportunity for the city of Hamilton.
Adding another layer to the mix is the fact that Jimmy Brennan’s York9 FC will be the visitors on the day, and the natural rivalry between the Ontario-based clubs will likely spark under the pressure of the occasion.
It’s a contest Smyrniotis welcomes.
“The best thing is we have a natural, geographic rival,” Smyrniotis said. “That’s an important thing for us and for this league. It creates atmosphere. And, everyone is looking at each other’s squad and how they are building. I think York9 is doing a great job so far of putting together a squad in their vision.”
Ultimately, Smyrniotis offered that he is humbled that the hard-working and passionate people of Hamilton will serve as hosts to the inaugural festivities. Having learned about the city and its culture during his short time already, Smyrniotis believes there’s no better opening venue than Tim Hortons Field.
“The sporting culture in the city is fantastic. The support that goes behind things in this city, whether it be sports or culture, is something special,” Smyrniotis said. “Then you look into the sporting facility of Tim Hortons Field … and there is a rich soccer history here.
“It’s the perfect location for what we’re trying to do with this league.”