Atlético Ottawa hosted its first-ever open try-outs giving soccer players from far and wide the chance to impress in front of Atlético Ottawa’s coaching staff.
Over the course of two days, Sooners Megadome hosted 50 soccer players – dwindled down from over 500 eager applicants – and provided a platform for them to showcase their talent in front of Atlético’s professional coaching staff as the club had one main goal in mind: to make Atleti accessible and open to all.
“We are looking to do more of these throughout the year,” said Team Manager Drew Beckie. “As a Canadian club, we need a bigger and wider pool of players, not just for the Canadian Premier League but for the future of soccer in our country. You have players here that may not be part of a youth club setup, or maybe they have just immigrated here, and they can feel lost a bit so opening up a combine to the multicultural community of Ottawa, you never know who you are going to find.”
Beckie recently transitioned from his role as Atlético Ottawa’s club captain during the 2022 title-winning season to a role in the front office and was instrumental in getting the inaugural open try-out off the ground, as well as hosting an invitational combine earlier in the month. Finding players that could slot into Ottawa’s 2023 roster was always a long shot, but that isn’t the only avenue into professional soccer.
As the level of play in the Canadian Premier League continues to increase, more professional players are finding themselves attracted to what the league and its clubs can offer. Player of the Year finalist in 2022, Ballou Tabla, joined Ottawa after stints with CF Montréal and Barcelona B and the electric Canadian forward’s performances quickly earned him admirers from North America as well as Europe. According to Beckie, the increased levels of competition means that new pathways into Canada’s primary national soccer league need to be developed.
“Playing for Atlético Ottawa is achievable, but the Canadian Premier League hosts a very high level of play and one that takes intense training and years of experience of playing professionally, so to jump right in would be very difficult,” explained the 32-year-old. “But we never say no and we are never going to say never because you don’t know who you’re going to find on a day-to-day basis.
Atleti Open Tryout Photo Gallery: Photos courtesy of Freestyle Photography
“We are going to develop programs throughout the year, to create paths to the first team, and these players could be a part of. We are eager to look at all avenues to bring in anybody that should be given the opportunity. The first step is accessibility and making sure the club is open, and that’s what we are doing.”
One of the stand-out players from the Open Try-Out was 19-year-old Alaaeddine Fathi who immigrated to Canada from Casablanca, Morrocco in 2021. Alaaeddine, like millions of kids around the world, grew up playing soccer. He started at the age of five and was part of a boarding soccer academy between seven and 13 years old before joining an international recruitment agency. Since arriving in Canada, however, opportunities have been harder to come by with financial barriers playing their part.
“It’s great to see Atlético Ottawa open themselves up in this way,” said Alaaeddine who now plays for a futsal side based in Gatineau. “At the start, I thought Canada was like a country in Europe, with plenty of opportunities but, especially at 18, there aren’t many. This is a great initiative to see with so many players from the region coming out.”
The Open Try-Out is but another step on Atlético’s Ottawa’s path to giving as much back to the local community as it can, with many lessons learned at Sooner’s Medgadome and, despite the scale of the task, Beckie hasn’t been deterred.
“Seeing their ambition to be out here motivates me,” he said. “We are working to use that pool of players now to tap into over the coming years, to try and find talent that could be incorporated into the first team in a couple of years’ time and I’m excited to help the club identify that.”