The Halifax Wanderers Football Club has signed Canadian/Salvadoran left-back Gabriel Escobar and Canadian centre-back Nassim Nouajaa.
Escobar, 22, signs on a contract through the rest of the 2022 season with club options for 2023 and 2024. He joins after a title-winning season with TSS FC Rovers in League1 BC, winning the league’s inaugural championship earlier this month. He was named to the league’s Team of the Week five times, including a run of four selections in a row.
“Gabe comes into the group sharp from a strong season and with valuable youth national team experience under his belt,” sporting director Matt Fegan said. “He is tenacious with an excellent mentality that will be important as we compete for the playoffs the rest of this season. He also enjoys getting forward, an attribute we like in our full-backs.”
A product of the Vancouver Whitecaps Academy, Escobar was selected for various Canadian national team camps from U-15 to U-17. He was a runner-up for Canadian U-17 Player of the Year in 2016, finishing third in voting behind Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David. He would later be selected by the El Salvador U-20 national team for the 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
Meanwhile, the Wanderers continue to invest in young Canadian talent by adding centre-back Nassim Nouajaa.
Nouajaa, 18, joins initially on a development contract with the option to extend to a standard CPL player contract. Originally from Quebec City, Nouajaa played in the CF Montreal academy before pursuing new opportunities in Tunisia earlier in 2022 — where he holds dual citizenship — ahead of selection for the national team’s squad for 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations qualifying.
“We’re happy to welcome a player of Nassim’s potential to our club,” Fegan said. “He is still only 18 but is composed on the ball and has strong leadership qualities we admire as well as a versatility to play at the back or in a holding midfield position. We expect him to compete immediately for first-team opportunities.”
Nouajaa is the second player to sign with the Wanderers on a development contract in 2022, joining defender/midfielder Nicolas Gagan.
“Nassim has shown ambition at a young age to test himself away from home, and now he sees the value of making the next steps in his career with us in Halifax, which is what the Canadian Premier League is all about.”
Under a development contract, Nouajaa can be named to the match-day roster an unlimited number of times and able to play in up to three games in the 2022 season before consideration for a renewal. CPL clubs can register four total development contracts per season, which does not count towards the cap or 23-man roster spots. Within the limit of four development contracts per season, clubs can opt to renew an individual player once, should they wish to extend his availability to six games before deciding to offer a full professional contract and dedicating a roster position.
“CPL development contracts offer a unique opportunity to invest in young Canadian talent and introduce them to a professional environment while giving clubs the flexibility to work with expanded squads within the cap and roster rules,” Fegan said. “It’s important we always have the right balance of quality in the first team and an eye on the future.”
“Along with the pathway we’ve created with the launch of our U23 squad, we have welcomed some U18 local talent to first team training this summer. We have shown a willingness to invest in players our technical staff feel have an immediate opportunity to challenge for first-team minutes.”
Both players arrived in Halifax last week and were introduced to the squad ahead of the Wanderers’ Aug. 17 match against Atlético Ottawa.
Full Name: Gabriel Ricardo Escobar Flores
Position: Left back
Birth Date: April 4, 2000
Birthplace: Santa Ana, El Salvador
Last Club: TSS FC Rovers (League1 BC)
Pronunciation: GAE-bree-ell ess-koe-BAR
Jersey number: 52
Full Name: Nassim Nouajaa
Position: Centre-back/defensive midfielder
Birth Date: May 7, 2004
Birthplace: Quebec City, QC
Last Club: CF Montreal U23
Pronunciation: Nah-seem Noo-ah-jah
Jersey number: 33