Iain Hume

Iain Hume is a long time Canadian international player and current member of hume - CopyAtlético de Kolkata of the Indian Super League. A 16 year vetern at only 32, Hume spent six seasons in the English Championship, where he played for Leicester City, Barnsley and Preston North End, and another 10 between England’s League 1 and League 2. In 2014, Hume took a chance and joined the Kerala Blasters of the newly formed Indian Super League. After an MVP season in 2014, a national team call up and a short return to England, Hume is back in India for the ISL’s second season. We spoke with Mr. Hume via email about soccer in India, the generational change with the Canadian men’s team and things a possible Canadian league could take from from the ISL.

SSPC: What made you decide to join the Indian Super League back in 2014?

IH: To be honest, it was pretty much a spur of the moment decision. I was in between clubs in England and not sure where I would be playing my trade for the season! I got approached asking if I would be interested and wanted to hear them out. Next thing I knew, all things were agreed and my name was inserted to the list of foreign players for the upcoming draft. On top of it all, I was 30 yrs old and if I’m honest, I was ready for a new adventure after 15 years in England.

SSPC: The league has developed a kind of wild reputation with the marquee players, a short season, Bollywood ownership and large fanbase. How do you find atmosphere surrounding the league and the quality of play?

IH: Yeah it was kind of surreal. There was players in the league that I’d only ever dreamed of playing davidjamesandiainhumeagainst. Brushing shoulders with Del Piero, Nesta, Trezeguet, Pires, Capdevilla etc. was definitely worth entering the unknown for me. As for the atmosphere…. I landed on my feet last season at Kerala, an average attendance of about 50,000 people was unreal to be involved in. They are football mad out here, and a big reason in me coming back again this season.

SSPC: Were you worried about joining the league?

IH: I was worried, yeah! I had spent 15 years in England, it’s home. Leaving my wife & kids for 4 months and moving to a country that most had never heard about in the footballing world was extremely daunting at the time. But in all honesty, ecstatic that I took the chance!

SSPC: In regards to the season length there has been some criticism. Do you have any thoughts on that? Is it too little?

IH: The length of the season is always gonna be under scrutiny because it doesn’t allow players to truly settle in. Especially for those with a family and moving abroad and whatnot. The ISL has been started, to raise awareness to a football showcase, not solely to viewers abroad, but also around India itself to try Iain-Hume-Kerala-Blasters-FC1 - Copyand help improve the overall infrastructures, but also the enjoyment of the game. The long standing domestic league (Hero I-League) doesn’t get anywhere near the same media coverage (or financial backing for that matter) as the ISL does.

But the dilemma continues over here as to whether the 2 leagues will eventually combine to make 1 or 2 leagues with possibly the promotion/relegation aspect involved, or whether the ISL will completely take over? But I think for the short term, the ISL has helped to improve the approach to football on all fronts in India. I genuinely do think it will be very beneficial for the future of Indian football if the dreams/goals that were originally set by those involved are met or surpassed.

SSPC: You also caused a bit of fan outcry with your move from the Kerala to rivals Kolkata. What caused the move?

IH: Well that’s part of football unfortunately. Players change teams quite often throughout their careers. This was kind of a forced hand though to be fair. Negotiations were ongoing for some time with Kerala after the New Year, but after seemingly coming to an agreement, something changed and I was made available to speak to other ISL teams. After that was made public knowledge, within a day or two, ATK were on the phone asking my intentions for the next season and if I wanted to return to the ISL? It was an easy decision after that conversation I had with them, cause at the end of the day, when the team that had just won the trophy comes knocking, you take the interest very seriously. Truth be told, I was pretty much sold before I put the phone down.

SSPC: Since Floro took over the Canadian national team, we’ve seen a generational shift to the roster. What’s it like being part of the outgoing generation?

IH: It’s been a massive turn around since Benito’s taken over, the most positive thing for me is that he’s _73698549_pa-17960630had a say in all levels of the game in the Men’s program. This is very important for the younger guys coming through, that it’s not a big change from coaching styles and philosophies if/when they make the step in to the full side! As far as being a part of the outgoing generation, it’s still an aim of mine to be involved. Even though it’s not been very often of late, I’m still making sure I’m fit and ready to go if/when I’m called upon. It’s a massive honour to pull on the red shirt, and I’ve been fortunate over the years to play with the best players the country has ever produced. Hopefully, that chapter isn’t closed just yet!

SSPC: There’s been much speculation about a possible Canadian professional soccer league starting up in 2017. What lessons do you feel a Canada Soccer Association could take from the ISL in regards to launching a league?

IH: I think it could be a positive thing for Canadian Soccer if this comes about, but it has to be organised and and backed from all angles. The infrastructure has to be arranged and implemented from the get go ie. Training facilities, grassroots training etc. Also, dependent on what sort of level they want the league to reach, there is gonna have to be major financial backing to attract the required quality of players & coaches.

The one thing about the ISL and the way they’ve approached the league, is although they want instant success/awareness of the league, they’ve also invested a lot of time & money into the future of the sport out here. Fingers crossed, the vision of those looking at starting a Canadian league, have the future of it in mind and not just to be a flash in the pan league!

You can follow Iain on twitter @Humey_7 and catch him play withAtlético de Kolkataand all Indian Super League action on ATN Cricket Plus

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Adrian Bečić

unnamedAdrian Bečić is a Toronto-born Croatian goalkeeper currently playing for NK Imotski in Druga HNL. A pro since age 18, Bečić has also played for Dugopolje and Mosor, winning the second division with the former in 2012. We spoke with about his connections to Canada and ambitions.

SSPC: Toronto to Imotski, can you tell us about that journey and your development?

AB: I was born in Toronto 27th January 1989. My parents came to Canada from Croatia around 1985 in search for a better life. Our family returned to Croatia (Split) around 1995 after the war ended and a new country was born. At first, I didn’t play soccer immediately. First swimming, basketball and then soccer. I started to play at youth system of HNK Mosor Zrnovnica around 2001-2002. I played for their youth system until 2007. I made debut for senior team at 16 years old in Croatian second division. 2007. I got offer to go to another club HNK Trogir also member of second division. There I stayed for two years and won domestic cup 2008. The club went bankrupcy so I changed club and 2009 transferred to HNK Dugopolje. There I won Croatian Third Division South 2010 and champion of Second Division 2012. The lack of ambition of the board was the reason why the team didn’t get promoted to First Division. I stayed at this club until 2014, when I transferred to NK Imotski where I am now. The first season the club achieved high 5th position, considering they were nominated for relegation battle. I played more than 130 matches in Croatian second division as goalkeeper and achieved some great trophies.

SSPC: What’s your connection to Canada like today?

AB: My father, mother, brother and sister are currently in Canada. My father and brother work as electricians, sister is studying music and mom is a housemaid. While in Croatia are also sister and brother living.

SSPC: You’ve seen regular action in Croatia’s Second Division since 2007, are you interested in pursuing first division action, even outside of Croatia?

AB: Sure, I would like to achieve something at a higher level, abroad or in Croatia but the circumstances didn’t allow to achieve that yet. It’s hard to become first goalkeeper in first division because of the big competition of goalkeepers in Croatia. I wouldn’t want to go somewhere where I would sit on the bench. It’s better to be on the pitch in second division then be on the bench in first. In the future I would like to get an opportunity in a higher division if the circumstances allowed…One other reason for not trying at higher level is because I continued my study and graduated 5-year study and became Master of Kinesiology. Second division clubs are closer to my university and are semi-professional clubs so it allowed me to play football actively and finish study

SSPC: The Canadian national team depth in the keeper position isn’t the best, two of the best keepers we have are near retirement, several are under 23 and playing on reserve teams and many of the rest are struggling for playing time even in second divisions. That said there is an established starter for the unnamed2Canadian team. As an established starting keeper at the club level, would you be interested in playing for the Canadian national team, even if it was in a depth role?

AB: Of course I would be interested in playing for the Canadian national team if there were opportunity. I would be interested also playing for a club in Canada or USA at higher level if the situation allows to do that.

SSPC: One of the things I’m curious about is how players who’ve grown up outside of Canada feel about the idea of playing for the Canadian national team rather than the nation they grew up in. How do you feel about it?

AB: I have great respect for the country where I was born besides the sport. I’m connected to Canada through my family so it wouldn’t be a problem to move to another club in Canada or USA. It’s hard to believe that I would ever get the opportunity to play for Croatia so I would proudly accept the Canadian squad if the federation ever contacts me in the future.

SSPC: Do you follow the MLS or NASL? What are your impressions of them?

AB: A little bit. We have on Eurosport MLS matches and sometimes I watch them. I think that the MLS is a growing competition with full stadiums that shows that people follow the sport and its getting more popular. There are lot of famous footballers now playing in the MLS and they bring a dimension more to this sport and attract more fans and sponsors.

You can follow Adrian on Instagram at @abecic2701

Adam Straith

100135 Adam Straith is a 25 year old defender currently playing for Fredrikstad of the Norwegian First Division. Formerly a member of the Whitecaps Residency, Straith spent 6 years playing in Germany, mostly within Energie Cottbus’ system. A Canadian international player, he’s become a staple of Benito Floro’s roster having earned 29 caps. We spoke to him about everything from Benito Floro’s faith in him, the Gold Cup (both hosting and qualifying), MLS rumours and Norway.

*SSPC: You’re 25 and you’ve earned 29 caps for Canada, more than double what most guys near your age have and almost as many as some guys 5 years older than you and you’re just reaching your prime. Do you see yourself becoming the first Canadian male to join the 100 caps club?

AS: To be honest I haven’t thought that far ahead in the future. It’s something that I’m very proud of already to have 29 caps, but you never really know how the next years are going to go. Getting to 100 would put me ahead of some of Canada’s best ever players, guys that I have looked up to since I was a kid, and I don’t belong in that kind of company as of now. It’s the biggest honour in my opinion to put on the Canadian jersey, and if I can continue to do it for the rest of my career, I’ll be more than satisfied.

SSPC: Since Benito Floro’s arrival you’ve become a staple of the Canadian men’s team, after largely being a bench player for Stephen Hart and Colin Miller. What kind of impact has his confidence in you had on the way you view your ability as a player?

AS: It definitely helps me as a player knowing that I have confidence from the coach. I felt that I have grown as a player in the time since Benito has been around, and have taken on a bigger role in the team in comparison to the past. It’s something that I have really enjoyed but know that I can’t take for granted, and need to have good performances to stay in the team. A coach plays a very significant role in a players career, so I hope I can return the favour by helping make this team win.

SSPC: You had a good run at Wehen Wiesbaden but eventually lost your spot due to a combination of players returning from injury and a coaching change. Can you take me through what you were going through at that time?

adam-straith-in-matchAS: That was probably the most frustrating part of my career. As I said before how important a coach can be for a players career, I was unfortunately on the wrong side of that equation in Wiesbaden. The coach that brought me in only lasted for a couple of games and I found myself out of favour right away when the new coach came in. But that is also part of the game and it’s something most every player goes through at a point, you always want to be playing regardless of where you are. I found myself playing reserve games for the second half of the year to keep in game shape, so I was still able to come into a couple of national team camps. But it’s definitely a situation I hope not to be in again in the future.

SSPC: Between your time at Wehen Wiesbaden and Fredrikstad, there were rumours of you joining all three Canadian MLS clubs, Toronto and Vancouver especially. Was there any substance to the rumours? If so what lead you to not sign with one of the three?

AS: It’s true that I was training at both clubs to also keep fit and see if there were any opportunities to get in with the teams. It was in the middle of their season though so both teams decided not to pursue anything further. I would have loved to and still would love to play for a Canadian team one day, but at that time it was just the simple answer of none of the clubs being interested enough for a contract. They were both good enough to let me come in and train with them when I was without a club for a period of time, and I am still grateful to them for that.

*SSPC: Do you see yourself playing in the MLS in the future?

AS: Yes. It’s something that I would like to do one day. I keep a pretty close eye on the league and have seen how much it has grown recently and would love to be a part of it. But it’s a matter of timing and seeing when the best opportunity comes up. There is obviously a good number of Canadian players in the league, and I hope we get more and more of us playing in the MLS. I think it would not only be beneficial to the players but also to the national team having a bigger number of its players playing regularly in the domestic league here.

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SSPC: You jumped over to Energie Cottbus when you were 18 and stayed in Germany until you were 24. What made you decide to test your luck in another market?

AS: After my time at Wiesbaden, I felt like I needed a fresh start in a new country, and wanted to see what was available for me. So after going on trial in a few countries I had the Chance to sign in Norway. I think it was something I was in need of, I got to a point in Germany where I was not happy and thought that if I changed my surroundings then it would lead to me playing better overall. I’m glad I made the decision, although I do miss playing in Germany and would be open to a move back someday if the opportunity came up.

*SSPC: So far this season you’ve scored three goals in 17 games. What’s lead to such a strong offensive performance?

AS: I wish I had a reason for it! I played a couple of games in the midfield and scored 2 goals there so maybe being a bit higher up the pitch had something to do with it. It’s a part of my game that I have wanted to improve on in the past, getting a couple goals here and there. I’m still waiting on my first goal for Canada though, so I’m hoping that it comes sometime soon!

SSPC: What do you think needs to be done to make Canada a stronger soccer nation in terms of both player development and knowledge of the game?

AS: First and foremost I think Canada having its own national league would do wonders for not only player development but it would also give more youth coaches more opportunities to teach kids at a higher level. It’s something that nearly every country in the world has and it’s something that we are unfortunately too far behind in. If you had a league of 10 or so teams in it, along with all of the youth programs of those teams, I would create a football culture which we have never really had. Coaches 9871269would have an end product right in front of them to coach towards, and not just playing in certain tournaments and having to travel down to the states to get good competition. This is obviously not something that can be done overnight, and it’s easier said then done to get going, but I think if so many countries in the world have made it work in the past and many of them not as strong economically as us, why couldn’t we as a nation put forward a competitive domestic football league? Hopefully this is something that will come sooner rather than later so that kids in Canada growing up have the desire to play for a Canadian league, and not feel like they have to move out of the country to play professional or semi professional soccer.

SSPC: There has been some criticism recently directed at Floro over some of his tactics and player selections. Not expecting you to name names but has anyone on the team expressed such criticism of him or is he pretty well trusted by the team?

AS: I don’t think there is one professional coach on this planet that does not get criticism at some point or another from people who follow his or her team. This is part of the game and something I’m sure Benito has experienced in the past. My job as a player is to play, and not to get caught up in what people who are not directly involved in our team are saying. We as players have trust in Benito because we have been with him for a few years now and we all have a common goal which is to get to the World Cup. That won’t be possible if we as players don’t buy in to what he wants us to do and put our trust in him.

Straith,_Adam_CB_09-10_WPSSPC: This past Gold Cup saw Canada host a game for the first time in the history of the tournament. Despite the disallowed goal and the game ending in a draw and Canada’s elimination, did the experience leave you hoping the CSA will make an attempt to host the tournament solely in Canada or maybe even host the World Cup in the future?

AS: I think the game itself can definitely be looked at as a success from a logistical point of view. There was a good turnout on a night with pretty horrible weather, so this shows that there is a lot of interest there. I think continuing having future Gold Cups in both Canada and the US is the right way to go forward. Speaking to some of the Costa Rican players after the game they said they really enjoyed coming up to Canada to play, so I think it’s smart for all sides to try and continue having a dual-hosted Gold Cup. You saw with the women’s World Cup this past summer how much interest there is and how the whole country really bought in to what was going on, and I can even imagine what would happen here if the country was able to host a Men’s World Cup.

SSPC: Speaking of the Gold Cup, some fans have begun complaining that Canada’s automatic qualification spot is actually hurting the men’s team and preventing it from gaining valuable points that could result in an easier route to the World Cup. Would you be in favor of Canada giving up its spot and qualifying another way, maybe with a play-off or even by taking part in the Copa Centroamericana?

AS: I’m not sure why we would want to give up a direct qualification into the Gold Cup. It is a very good tournament to be in every 2 years and something we all look forward too. In terms of gaining more points, I would rather focus on winning every other game we play (ex. Friendlies, qualifications) rather than have to think about what would happen if we wouldn’t directly qualify for the Gold Cup, that’s the best way to gain points.

SSPC: What lead you to sign with Fredrikstad and what do you think of the Norwegian First Division?

AS: I had heard of interest from the club and had asked some players who has played in the country before and people I knew who were linked to Norwegian football how it was, and they all had very good things to say about the club. I had a chat with the coach at that time and he was a very young, exciting coach who I felt was exactly the kind of coach I would want to play for. Unfortunately he only lasted for a couple of games early this year, but I am still happy that I signed where I did and have played consistently this year. Which for me is the most important thing. It is a very different league from what I was used to in Germany. You meet a big variety of teams who play different styles of football, where as in Germany it seemed like the majority of the teams played the same general way. But like I said before I have enjoyed my time up until now, and look forward to playing the last few games of the season.

*SSPC: Is there any form of camaraderie or socializing between you and the Canadians you’ve played against in Norway or Germany?

AS: Yeah I think there is. I’m lucky enough to live only an hour away from Lars Hirschfeld who has been my roommate with the national team for a number of years now, so it’s nice to have someone who I’m good friends with so close. But there is also a number of Canadians who have passed through Norway in their careers and those are the kind of guys I spoke to when deciding to play in Norway. The football community in the end is not a very big one, so after a few years of playing you make contacts with old teammates and form a sort of camaraderie especially with those guys who have shared the same experiences as you.

*SSPC: With Junior Hoilett, Tesho Akindele and Fraser Aird selecting to play for Canada and Lucas Cavallini returning to the Canadian program, there’s been a lot of hype surrounding the so-called ‘Canadian fence sitters’. Is there any such player that you would like to play alongside in the near future?

AS: First of all, I think it’s great that these players decided to play for Canada, and it’s something thaadam-straith_vfyphwfqdcvs192mwle9y037at Canadian fans will rightfully be excited about once they see them suit up for us. But I try not to focus on who may or may not join us in the future. I’m more interested in the boys we have now, and the guys that have decided that they want to play for us. There is no better feeling than playing for your country, especially with a group of players that really want to be a part of it.

You can follow Adam on twitter at @JAStraith and instagram at @jastraith

This is an extended version of the interview from Red Nation Online.

*Some Soccer Playing Canadians exclusive