Vancouver FC sign attacking midfielder Kembo Kibato

On Thursday, Vancouver FC announced the signing of Canadian midfielder Kembo Kibato on a two-year contract ahead of the 2024 Canadian Premier League season.

“I am really excited for the opportunity to play professionally in Canada,” said Kibato. “I am thankful for the teams I’ve been able to play with so far in my career, but it is particularly special for me to represent a Canadian team on Canadian soil.”

Kibato, 23, will play for a Canadian club for the first time in his professional career after spending the last four years abroad in the United Soccer League (USL), where he made his professional debut in 2020 with the now-defunct Rio Grande Valley FC. Kibato joins the Eagles as a free agent after most recently representing Hartford Athletic, where he made 19 appearances and registered one assist in 2023. 

Prior to that, Kibato spent two seasons with FC Tulsa, first on loan from Rio Grande Valley FC (RGV FC) in 2021 before joining the Oklahoma-based team as a free agent in 2022. The native of North York, Ont., made 60 appearances, scored two goals and registered one assist for Tulsa over his two seasons with the club. He appeared in the 2021 USL Eastern Conference quarter-final as well as in both of the club’s US Open Cup matches in 2022. He was honoured with Tulsa’s Newcomer of the Year award following the 2022 season.

“We are excited to add one of the most complete Canadian midfielders available to our greatly improved VFC squad,” said Afshin Ghotbi, Head Coach, Vancouver FC. “Kembo embodies a modern midfielder with the physical and technical range to play box-to-box on both sides of the game. He is a hard working ball winner who can also play an important role in creating and scoring goals. Kembo will play a key role in VFC’s 2024 season.”

Kibato is a product of Toronto FC’s academy system and spent nearly six months overseas in 2019 training with FC Helsingør in the Danish Second Division before returning stateside at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“VFC is an exciting project with so much potential and I am looking forward to playing my first professional games in Canada with this club,” said Kibato.

Kibato is Vancouver’s third roster addition this month following the signings of Canadian defender Elage Bah on Tuesday, Feb. 20 and international striker José Navarro on Friday, Feb. 16. 

Further Vancouver roster announcements will be made next month.

Vancouver FC current roster as of Feb. 29, 2024:

Goalkeepers: Callum Irving

Defenders: Kadin Chung, Rocco Romeo, Tyler Crawford, Anthony White, James Cameron, Paris Gee, David Norman, Elage Bah

Midfielders: Elliot Simmons, Ben Fisk, Vasco Fry, Renan Garcia, Grady McDonnell, Kembo Kibato

Forwards: Alejandro ‘Wero’ Díaz, Mouhamadou ‘Mamadou’ Kane, Gabriel Bitar, Taryck ‘TJ’ Tahid, Mikaël Cantave, José Navarro