CALGARY – Forge FC: Champions of the Canadian Premier League.
Has a nice ring to it, no?
It certainly does for Kyle Bekker and Tristan Borges.
The league’s most infamous dynamic duo, known affectionately as “the Bekker and Borges show” by some – and the Killer B’s by others (paging Kurt Larson, OneSoccer) – were among the loudest voices on the pitch at ATCO Field when the final whistle blew on Saturday, bringing a close to the inaugural CPL campaign … and crowning the two, alongside their Forge FC teammates, as champions. No ifs, ands, or buts about it, as Borges made very clear with his profanity-laden post-game roars.
You’ve got to forgive the young man for letting that sort of pure, unbridled passion permeate throughout his heart and soul; for 90 minutes at Spruce Meadows, he was persona non grata to the 5,000+ fans not clad in orange, after all.
But, with boos ringing down with every touch, it’s Borges the redeemed, Borges the returning, who gets the last laugh.
“It’s unbelievable,” Borges told reporters pitch-side, after the match, clutching his gold medal close to his chest. “I’ll keep saying it until my voice goes out; with a team like this, with the ups and downs we had, there was a lot of pressure on us at the beginning of the season and we didn’t exactly start as well as wanted to in both halves of the season. This team really gathered together, everyone played their part, and now we have a championship.”
To give the credit solely to Borges would be doing a great disservice to Bobby Smyrniotis’ side, of course. That’s not what we’ll be doing here, either, and not what Borges offered when asked about his series-winning goal, the first of two in this 2-0 aggregate win.
“For me, it’s a team effort,” Borges said. “You can even see in the goal, it was a great play by Chris Nanco. I’ll say it all the time, we’re champions because of the whole team.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, come on? The team that we have? You could see, throughout the whole year, we rotated the whole squad, and we showed what we were capable of doing. The results speak for themselves.
Still, one player in particular earned Borges’ gratitude.
“A big mentor for me was Kyle Bekker,” he said. “It meant a lot, playing this year with him, and he’s a big influence in my life. For the rest of my life, I’ll think about this year.”
Captain Kyle Bekker. The man who lifted the North Star Shield for the very first time. The first player signed for Forge in the Canadian Premier League. He’ll be Forever First, now.
When this writer first met Bekker, he was a teenager, coming through the ranks at Toronto FC.
Almost a decade later, Bekker sits at the top of the Canadian soccer throne.
“We always believed that this was gonna be our championship,” he offers, coolly. It’s his brand, after all – soft-spoken, humble, but with a smirk that seems to suggest, always, that there’s more behind his eyes than he’s willing to reveal.
But, in this moment? Bekker is finally vindicated.
“When you come back and you join something like this, which is by all means a project so to say, you don’t know how it’s gonna go,” he explains. “But from top to bottom in this organization and throughout the league, everyone’s bought in and rolled up their sleeves, and said we’re gonna truly make something great.”
Tell the locals any of this, and they’ll likely reply with the flip-side of an expletive-laden war cry. But, Bekker doesn’t mind.
“Our whole mentality was going to be to spoil the party,” he teased. “We knew they wanted it, and they’d be in everyone’s ears, buzzing. But, you use their energy as a positive, and that’s what we did. We never cracked, bent, anything. We absorbed all the pressure, and were fantastic defensively. In the end of the day … our fans are better, and they’re going to be cheering louder.”
Bekker concluded: “We have a fantastic group of guys, and even across the league, people were surprised with the talent we have in this country. It’s more of a surprise to the fans than the players themselves, because we’ve always known that we have fantastic players. Now, all of a sudden, you have the likes of Tristan Borges, who’s now on everyone’s radar, when 10 months ago, he was no one. But he has so much quality. To be a champion at the end of this is great, and we want to enjoy it with the squad we have. We can’t wait to get back to Hamilton with our fans and celebrate this together.”