TORONTO — Marcus Haber didn’t need any convincing to join Pacific FC.
Players are sometimes wined and dined and presented with flashy hype videos showing off the intense fans, beautiful landscapes and entertainment options in a city as clubs attempt to persuade a signature out of their latest coveted talent. Other clubs point to the majesty of their history and promise glory to follow upon their hallowed grounds.
But, speaking candidly, Haber explained he was actively intent on joining Pacific FC before he was even approached by club president Josh Simpson and CEO Rob Friend.
“I’m from the west coast, I know what it’s all about,” Haber told CanPL.ca shortly after his signing was announced. “I know how beautiful it is to live here and what the people are like so I didn’t need to be sold on a vision. It was more like, let’s get this started and come to an agreement … and that’s exactly what we did.”
It was a move born of personal desire. Haber had another six months on his Dundee contract in Scotland. He admitted he had other options in Europe, too.
“But I saw the bigger picture,” Haber explained. “Coming back and being a part of Pacific FC was the top of my priority list.”
The Vancouver native, 30, joins the Canadian Premier League keen on embracing the responsibilities that come with being one of the more experienced players in his team’s roster: Namely, serving as mentor and teacher to the young talent that will populate parts of Pacific FC’s roster.
He’s got a lesson plan in mind, too. Haber hopes to share the sort of professionalism he has found a requirement to succeed abroad.
Chief among those lessons learned? How to pick yourself back up when facing adversity.
“I’ve had surgeries, time out, difficult rehabs; I’ve been in clubs where management has changed and that can really shift the whole mood of a club. I’ve been through a lot, highs and lows, and it’s definitely built my character and made me who I am today,” Haber said.
He added: “There’s a level of professionalism that’s needed at this level. But it’s not only that. You have to enjoy coming to work every day, play with confidence, and not get caught up in the moment. If you have a bad game or a few bad weeks, it can’t affect you on a personal level. It’s something I’m looking to pass down.”
There’s no better proving ground for adversity than the Scottish Premier League, a physical battleground filled with hardened, imposing defenders and some of the toughest away trips in Europe.
Haber called away trips to Celtic Park in particular “a real experience,” and said he’s looking forward to seeing similar atmospheres blossom across Canada as he and his teammates endure what could be the toughest away trips from the west coast eastward.
Some 4,476 km separate Michael Silberbauer’s Pacific FC to Halifax by flight, after all.
But it’s no problem for Haber, who affirmed that, with the right attitude, those six-hour cross-continental journeys aren’t quite as daunting as they first appear.
He’s crossed the Atlantic enough times when called up to the national team that it’s all become a part of the routine – one he hopes to re-establish with meaningful minutes in the CPL.
“It’s always an honour to represent my country,” said Haber, capped 27 times for Canada.
“I can give myself the best chance to return if I’m performing well, scoring goals, and winning games … and I think now that I’m back in Canada, it might be easier for me to be seen, too.”
Those individual goals – including the Golden Ball, which he admitted would be “amazing” to win – may be good and well, but for Haber, building Pacific FC into a club worthy of its community is the primary objective.
“First and foremost,” he says, is a focus on the “day-to-day responsibilities” that come with being a footballer – training hard, being a professional, and, in his case, serving as a face in the development of the club’s identity in these early years.
For Haber, it’s all a part of the allure of Pacific FC, and of his return home, to a province whose soccer culture has changed noticeably over the last decade.
“I’m coming full circle,” Haber said. “Ten years ago, I was just starting my career and going abroad, and at that period of time, you didn’t have the same options for a young player trying to make it. It is a bit surreal to look at it now. But it’s something that everybody can be proud of. We have our own Premier League now.”
And now, it’s his, too.