CENTURY CLUB: Forge captain Bekker set for CPL history as 1st player to reach 100 games
TORONTO – Forge FC captain Kyle Bekker has all but held the pen in his own hand as the many "forever firsts" in the history of the Canadian Premier League were written into legacy.
Forever among the first signings in league history; forever the first to lift the league trophy in the inaugural season; forever the first to play in Concacaf competition, to battle in out at the Estadio Azteca, to secure back-to-back championship titles, and, on Wednesday night, forever the first CPL-er to make 100 appearances for his club in all competitions.
As the 31-year-old from Oakville, ON. gets set to open the doors of the CPL's "Century Club," he reflected on the last four years in Hamilton, as he and head coach Bobby Smyrniotis realize each day the dream set out on day one.
"When we started to have those early conversations, me and Bobby, there was a lot of factors," Bekker told OneSoccer, when asked to reflect on his reason for joining the upstart league in 2019.
"It was the idea of coming back home and being a part of something bigger than myself. Then there was the opportunity to work with Bobby and fully trusting what he's all about – his vision, and trying to learn from him, knowing that he could still take me to another level.
"It was about being on the ground floor of something so big for the Canadian soccer community. It was all very exciting and, obviously, I think even bigger than that is just the chance to come back close to home, be close to friends and family, have them have the opportunity to come out and watch me, support me, and get that stability back."
GOAL 🔨— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) October 20, 2021
Oh captain, my captain 😍@ForgeFCHamilton skipper Kyle Bekker opens the scoring vs. Santos de Guapiles in Leg 1 of this #SCL21 quarter-final clash#CanPL 🍁 | 📺 TELUS ch. 980 | 🔴 https://t.co/hishXepRT3 pic.twitter.com/E6rbGB2i5N
Stability. It's a novel luxury in this sport, where players are so often moved around like priced commodities.
For four years, Bekker has had a chance to not just thrive in Forge FC orange, but also help build something lasting, too.
Sure, he's had career highs in Hamilton, the many trophies and memorable team experiences abroad. "It's hard to pinpoint one," he offers, but then again, a soccer career is never just a single moment anyway.
So while these forever first moments, big and small, serve to "etch our name in history," as he explains, the more important part?
"It sets the standard for what this club is all about."
It's clear that legacy has begun to weigh heavy on Bekker's mind.
The hunger to prove himself four years ago seems to have been satiated by the end of the Island Games in 2020, when the league MVP went from being a potential (albeit likely) star to being, well... clearly undeniable.
One hundred games since first donning the mantle of Forge captain, Bekker hopes to trailblaze a path to the pros for those who come tomorrow.
"With each year, you've seen the quality of the CPL just continue to get better, both individually and as a whole as each team builds a competitive product," Bekker explained.
"Year over year, it's gotten better, and it's gotten harder for us, so we have to continue to adapt and keep pushing the envelope too, because obviously we want to be on that front foot; we want to be at the top of the table, and we want to be competing for trophies at the end of the day, so it's forced us to raise our own game, to do new things.
"Each team can go out and showcase themselves against anyone and compete and get a result. That just comes with opportunity.
"The fact that now that we're in our fourth season, we've added teams to the league, you see there are more opportunities, more doors open for these kids to come in and showcase their ability, and it's just something that we never had in this country before.
"We've had a wealth of talent, but guys have never really had that opportunity to go and test themselves to that next level. That's what this league brings.
"I think you're going to see guys continue to push the envelope, continue to go over and sign overseas, and just keep growing the game. That's fantastic.
"That's what this thing is all about."