Vancouver FC unveils crest, colours; Afshin Ghotbi named first head coach
The identity of Vancouver FC is unveiled. Learn more
Vancouver Football Club.

The Canadian Premier League revealed on Wednesday that Vancouver FC will officially be the league’s newest club, to begin play next season in 2023.

The club’s name, logo and colours were launched at an in-person event at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, B.C on Wednesday night. Owner and former Canadian men’s national team forward Rob Friend also announced that industry veteran Afshin Ghotbi, 58, will lead the club as the first head coach in club history.

Vancouver FC, or VFC, will finally kick off next season after the CPL initially announced plans to expand to the Vancouver area in November 2021. The league revealed earlier in 2022 that the team will be based out of Willoughby Community Park in Langley, but Wednesday’s announcement marks the official launch of the club.

“We are delighted to officially announce Vancouver FC as part of the Canadian Premier League family,” said CPL commissioner Mark Noonan. “Expanding into new markets across Canada is critical to the growth of the CPL, but we do not take the responsibility of launching a new team lightly. A successful expansion requires a dedicated ownership group, the backing of the local communities and corporate sponsors, and top-class infrastructure. I am confident the foundation Rob Friend, Dean Shillington and their team at Vancouver FC is laying will lead to lasting success on and off the pitch.”

RELATED: ‘This market is ready for something different’: Vancouver FC owner Rob Friend on the vision behind the CPL’s newest club

The new club’s logo features a V-shape design, a silhouette traditional to many sports organizations on British Columbia’s South Coast. The design evokes a bald eagle, as the South Coast is home to the largest gathering spot for the animal in the world. The wings of the design emulate the cables that unite the Lower Mainland, as well as the precision of agricultural fields in the Fraser Valley, a symbol of the potential for growth here at home. A neutral palette of shades of grey and silver are complemented by pops of warm red throughout the club branding.

Vancouver Football Club.
Vancouver Football Club.

“Honouring our sporting past, celebrating our region and uniting the South Coast are among our key objectives as we introduce soccer fans on the Lower Mainland to Vancouver FC,” said Friend. “We look forward to sharing the region’s existing passion for the game with the rest of the Canadian Premier League through its support for our club and, together with our fans, building an even stronger soccer culture on and off the field that serves as a point of connection for all of our local communities.”

Leading Vancouver FC’s charge on the field will be Ghotbi. The native of Iran, who was raised in the United States, has held head and assistant coaching roles in the United Soccer League, Major League Soccer, the Persian Gulf Pro League, Thailand’s Thai League 1, Japan’s J1 League and the Chinese Super League over a career that has spanned nearly four decades. Ghotbi was part of coaching staffs at three FIFA World Cups: as an assistant with the United States at 1998 FIFA World Cup in France and as an assistant with South Korea at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups in Korea/Japan and Germany, respectively. He previously helmed the Iranian national team as head coach from 2009 to 2011 and most recently served as the manager of Cangzhou Mighty Lions in the Chinese Super League

“I want to thank Rob Friend, Dean Shillington and the team at Vancouver FC for trusting me with this exciting project,” said Ghotbi. “Now is an exciting moment for Canadian soccer, and the ever-growing passion for the game on the Lower Mainland and from coast to coast is evident. I look forward to building a club that will make our fans proud on and off the field.”

VFC will be the second expansion club to begin play in the CPL, following Atlético Ottawa who kicked off in 2020.

Afshin Ghotbi named head coach of Vancouver FC

Afshin Ghotbi (Photo: Beau Chevalier / Vancouver FC)
Afshin Ghotbi (Photo: Beau Chevalier / Vancouver FC)

As part of the club’s official unveiling, Vancouver FC announced on Wednesday evening that Afshin Ghotbi will be its first ever head coach.

The 58-year-old comes to the Lower Mainland with an incredible wealth of coaching experience, having worked in the game at all sorts of levels from youth football to the very pinnacle of the sport, including coaching at three FIFA World Cups.

Ghotbi was born in Iran but moved to the United States as a teenager, and he had a brief stint as a player at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He began coaching in the 1980s, beginning with the UCLA women’s team and going on to found his own academy — American Global Soccer School — in California.

He joined the U.S. Soccer organization in the late 1990s, working on the technical staff for the men’s national team in 1997 and 1998 during the side’s appearance at World Cup ’98 in France. Ghotbi went on to work as an assistant coach with the South Korean national team, helping that side at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups as well as appearances in the Confederations Cup, Asian Cup, and Gold Cup.

In 2009, Ghotbi was named head coach of the Iranian national team, helping lead them to the quarter-finals of the 2011 Asian Cup.

At the club level, Ghotbi has worked in a number of different countries around the world as both a head coach and assistant. He was an assistant under Steve Sampson with LA Galaxy in 2004-05 and helped them win MLS Cup, and he won the Iranian league title in 2008 as head coach of Persepolis FC, also being named the league’s coach of the year for that season. Ghotbi has also worked for top-flight clubs in South Korea (Samsung Bluewings) and Japan (Shimizu S-Pulse), and he most recently helmed Cangzhou Mighty Lions FC in China, helping them earn promotion to the Chinese Super League in 2019.

“I want to thank Rob Friend, Dean Shillington and the team at Vancouver FC for trusting me with this exciting project,” said Ghotbi. “Now is an exciting moment for Canadian soccer, and the ever-growing passion for the game on the Lower Mainland and from coast to coast is evident. I look forward to building a club that will make our fans proud on and off the field.”

VFC owner Rob Friend explained on Wednesday that Ghotbi was the leading candidate to lead the CPL’s newest expansion club after an extensive search process.

“Part of the process was giving Canadian coaches an opportunity to be interviewed,” Friend said. “As a proud Canadian, we went through the process. But ultimately, who was ready to take on this massive challenge? Afshin sort of landed in our lap, and this is a guy who has a huge international resumé. Been around the world, and understands the global game, the highs and lows of that. Been through it all, coached with a translator. A lot of challenges that he has had, and had a lot of success internationally.”

He added: “I think it reflects on the city. This is a multicultural city and I think one of the biggest multicultural cities, aside I think from Toronto. A guy like that, with that sort of international experience, Iranian-U.S. passport, understands the game from different angles. His resume speaks for itself, but most importantly we are proud of bringing in a guy with the character that Afshin has. He is a fantastic character.

“He is a warrior, he is a fighter, and that’s what we want to bring to this club. Bringing these types of international coaches to this country is only going to continue to grow the game. If we have some young Canadian assistant coaches learning, mentoring under a guy like Afshin, that’s growing the game in that as well, on the coaching side. It was really nice, obviously the timing worked out. To have a guy like that to grow the game, to speak about the game in this market, we are proud of that and I think he is going to do a great job.”