VICTORIA – The time was right for Marcus Haber to return home.
After a nine-year spell abroad, the Vancouver-born striker has made the move from Scotland back to the West Coast and Pacific Football Club. Haber, 29, has been tracking the Canadian Premier League (CPL) and its development since the rumours of a professional Canadian domestic league began.
In the prime of his playing career, the towering attacker will ply his trade with Vancouver Island’s professional soccer team, located just a 30-minute flight west of where his participation in a number of sports—including soccer—began. Coached by his father until the age of 14, Haber began playing for Dunbar-Southlands’ youth program, before moving into Vancouver Selects, where he played until he was 17.
“My club team was pretty good at the time,” recalled Haber. “We had a few other players who turned professional from my club, which was pretty rare at the time. Provincially I played for B.C., and was with the team when we won the National Championship. Around that time, I broke through with the Canadian national team at the U-17 level.”
The realization of a potential career in the sport began to take shape for Haber shortly thereafter.
“I went to Holland, I was 16 or 17 and that’s when I really started to take soccer serious,” Haber added. “It was a culture shock, but there were a number of players from my one club team that came and signed as well. I was there with two of my close friends, so that made the transition much easier to be honest.
“The Dutch soccer development system is up there with the best in the world,” he added. “I was shown some great coaching, great competition, I played against a lot of great players who are now in the English Premier League, national team.”
Haber would spend the next two years overseas developing his craft, before returning to Vancouver to sign his first professional contract at age 20. After featuring for the ‘Caps, he returned to Europe to continue his professional career. As a Canadian player, he faced an uphill battle by association against European players battling for roster spots.
“Being a Canadian abroad is a handicap for the most part, because as a footballing nation, we haven’t always been taken as seriously as we have been recently. In the UK, you’re fighting to play against players from England, from Scotland, and from other parts of Europe. You have to work extra hard to gain respect as a Canadian, because it doesn’t come naturally.”
Despite the challenges, Haber carved out a near decade-long tenure in the UK, representing clubs such as West Bromwich Albion, St. Johnstone, Stevenage, Crewe Alexandra and Dundee, while continuing to represent Canada at the senior level. His soccer pedigree makes him one of the most experienced players entering the CPL.
“We are happy we can attract players such as Marcus to the league,” stated Pacific FC head coach Michael Silberbauer. “This is an example of the league’s growth already; players with experience who are playing abroad being interested in coming back to Canada. This will help the league’s overall development.”
Haber’s combination of experience and age could spell big things for his new club when the league’s inaugural season kicks off this Spring.
“He has had a lot of experience in Europe and is still at a good age,” added Silberbauer. “We hope we are going to get a player that is still in his best years. He is a good-sized striker and he is dangerous in the box, that is what we’re looking for…we want him to lead by example.”
For Haber, who will enter his 30s on January 11, the decision to return home to Canada is all about timing.
“I still feel like I’ve got some good years in me,” said Haber. “I feel like I’m in shape and the Canadian Premier League starting was something that always appealed to me. It’s an opportunity to be a part of history, be a part of something special and part of something in the country I grew up in and close to the community where I grew up.
“Canada is very much a part of me. The West Coast mentality, the beauty and the overall vibrance of the country is great. I figured that now is the best time to come back and I’m excited to contribute and just really hit the ground running. If I could start tomorrow, I would.”