That’s how Valour FC head coach Rob Gale says he reacts when he takes pause to reflect on the emergence of soccer in Winnipeg. The excitement and the anticipation is obvious in his voice even for the little details, as he motions toward the roof covering the 33,000 seats at Investors Group Field, or points out the concourse all around the stands.
“You can see it’s almost built like a European football stadium,” Gale told CanPL.ca, as Day 2 of the #GotGame Open Trials continued in Winnipeg.
“We can host as good a soccer crowd as you’ll see anywhere in Canada.”
Gale speaks of his team’s digs like a proud father, and it’s a sentiment echoed throughout the stadium as volunteers and the CPL’s collection of head coaches – as well as trials lead coach Alex Bunbury – take in 11-v-11 soccer at the traditional home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL.
“I think this trial game might be the first men’s soccer game, 11-v-11, that’s ever been played at this stadium,” Gale mused. “I’ll have to double check that, but I can’t recall another one without the women’s international games.”
It’s just the latest sign of the growth – the tremendous growth – that the beautiful game has enjoyed in Canada over the last 15 years. For Gale, each passing day brings he and his staff closer to bringing professional soccer back to Manitoba for the first time in 26 years. It’s a sentiment that Gale admits does get him “choked up,” though he added that he’ll “have to make sure to keep that in check as the excitement builds.”
But the order of business on this day is taking in the remaining 64 trialists and trying to spot some hidden talent in a market Gale says he’s familiar with.
“Like the other trials, it’s a collective effort, so what I’ve tried to do is stay impartial,” Gale said, when asked if he recognized a few of the players on the field. “I know the players in the local market quite well, but there’s such a good, positive turnout and there’s still a lot of players that we’re looking at (for the first time) today so it’s got to be about who shows well on the day, who impresses, who shows that they might have that quality to make that next step and come into a possible training camp without me giving up their previous history or a biased opinion.”
Just as in the previous four stops of the seven-city tryout tour, Gale and his peers have been impressed with the quality on display at the Open Trials, with the Valour FC boss stating that four or five players have turned heads, perhaps enough to earn invites to the CPL’s inaugural preseason camp.
The participants will have to wait a little while longer to find out who among them will earn that chance. The Open Trials continue in Calgary next week, before heading to Vancouver Island in the first week of November.
But, for Gale, the Winnipeg stop left him, as always, with goosebumps.
“Something exciting is happening here,” Gale concluded, flashing his trademark smile. “We can’t wait to get started.”
In the video above, CanPL.ca managing editor Kurt Larson speaks with CPL Commissioner David Clanachan about the #GotGame Open Trials, and the resounding success that this identification process has produced for the new league.