Charlie Trafford

CIMG_5982harlie Trafford is a midfielder who recently signed with Korona Kielce of Poland’s Ekstraklasa. After debuting in 2013, Trafford emerged as the most talked about Canadian playing in Finland’s top flight since Tosaint Ricketts. Over three seasons and stints with IFK Mariehamn, TPS and KuPS, scored 10 goals in 61 league games and won KuPS’ Golden Boot for the 2015 season. On October 13th, Trafford earned his first cap for Canada playing against Ghana. We spoke with Trafford over email about his move to Korona Kielce, the reputation of the Finland’s top flight, the MLS, NASL and his cousin Mason.

SSPC: Recently, you joined Korona Kielce of the Poland’s Ekstraklasa. What lead to the move?

CT: After 2 years in Finland I knew it was time for a move. Nothing but good things to say about Finland, and loved it there. But I knew it was time to make the move. I was ready for a new adventure, and for my football career ready for the next level. My agent, Ireneusz Hurwicz, presented me this option. I had options in a few countries but with family here in Poland and a polish passport this felt like the right move.trafford_charlie

SSPC: According to the most recent UEFA coefficient rankings, Poland’s league is 19th in Europe while Finland’s is only ranked 37th. Does that increase in league strength make you nervous?

CT: Nervous isn’t the right word. I would say excited for the challenge would be a better to describe the feeling. You have to believe in yourself and believe you can play at this level. But at the same time I know it’s a step up, and I need to keep my head down and work my socks off. Add the things to my game and fine tune the rest to make sure I can play at this level and continue to move forward.

SSPC: Korona Kielce are currently about halfway through their season and chasing a European spot. How to you think you’ll fit into the team this season?

CT: Again, have to believe in yourself. And Anywhere I go I want to make a positive impact on the club and want to play. I come to win and do whatever I can to do so. So that’s the goal. But I know it’s going to be a lot of work and just have to keep developing and try to enjoy this journey.

SSPC: As said earlier, the move from Finland to Poland will see you playing against stronger competition. Are you expecting to see an increase in Canadian men’s team call-ups?

CT: I definitely hope that puts me in a spot to be picked every camp with IMG_2497-1040x572the national team. But wouldn’t say I’m expecting it. Can’t expect anything in this world. Can’t assume just because I’m signed in a good league that I deserve to be at all the camps. I need to continue to prove myself and continue to develop. And like I said before, just want to make a positive impact every where I go and help my team win. So hopefully the national team gives me the opportunities to do that for them as well.

SSPC: Your national team debut came as a bit of a pleasant surprise to many Canadian supporters who were already excited by the line up for the Ghana game. Were you surprised by the call-up?

CT: Maybe not surprised but unbelievably excited. I knew I was getting close. But you never know how close. I guess I was pleasantly surprised. But was just working hard and trying to play my game and knew the opportunity would come.

SSPC: The Veikkausliiga has become the most popular European top flight for Canadians to play in yet has a mixed history when it comes to producing Canadian national team players. Do you feel Canada has wrongfully overlooked the league when it comes to talent for the national team?

trafford_charles_150529.jpg__1175x725_q85_box-0,107,1349,939_crop_detail_subsampling-2CT: There are definitely some very good players in Finland. It depends on a lot of things getting called up. So can’t say “unfairly overlooked”. Like I said early that doesn’t really matter what league you’re in. Need to continuously prove yourself.

However, Canada needs to have as big of a player pool as they can and players playing there should definitely be on Canada’s radar and followed. Couple players have gotten chances out of Finland, and can see that there definitely is some quality, easy example is Mason Trafford.

SSPC: Your cousin Mason played a key role in your move to Mariehamn. Had he not been there would you of pursued a career in Finland?

CT: Ya. He orchestrated the move. As far as going there without him, you never know where football can take you, but without him there I would say chances are very slim I would have headed towards Finland. Owe a lot to Mason for how the career as developed. Charlie_Trafford2

SSPC: Mason saw a lot of action last season with a very good Ottawa Fury team. Do you hope to get a chance to play along side him with the national team in the near future?

CT: Of course I hope for that. Would be incredible lining up with him. We talk a lot and like I said I owe quite a lot to him and how much he has helped me. We’re really close and celebrating each other’s successes and pushing and encouraging each other. So I hope the best for him and want to see him succeed all the time. And would love to line up along side him anywhere. But boy would it be special doing it for our country.

SSPC: Do you follow the MLS or NASL at all? If so what are your thoughts on them? Would you be interested in playing in one of them?

CT: Ya I follow them quite closely. More the MLS but of course have followed Ottawa’s run all year. Had a few long nights staying up to watch those games.

I think MLS is a very hard league to play in. Very fast with some incredible athletes and some very technical players. The tactics are very different to European teams. But the league is growing fast and is very exciting. I’m loving living in Europe at the moment and have few more plans over here before I head back towards North America. But I like the MLS and what it is doing, so the thought is definitely in my head.

mensoccer_yfileSSPC: Recently, CSA president Victor Montagliani has revealed that the CSA is working towards creating a professional soccer league to operate solely in Canada. Would you be interested in such a league? Much of the speculation about said league included rumours of a CIS draft. As a former CIS player, do you think there is enough talent in the CIS to fuel a strong professional league?

CT: Football in Canada is growing very fast. And it needs to give kids more opportunities there. When kids growing up have to chose between football and hockey, there are clearly so many more opportunities on the hockey side. So the odds of becoming professional athlete are higher that way, so many kids take that route to make the dream come true. So a professional league would definitely be a step in the right direction. Will help develop the whole culture in the country. It is something that will take a lot of time. But it needs to be done and done properly to help the game in Canada. Some amateur clubs, like Foothills, are creating that professional environment. But now more needs to be done to develop the game and give kids all the opportunities.

SSPC: Where do you hope to find yourself in the future?

CT: Have lots of dreams and goals. I’m a down to earth kid, don’t want to look to far ahead. For now I just need to do everything I can to perform at my best for my club. Hopefully in return that lets me represent my country.

And then the obvious one, hopefully one day see me playing at Old Trafford.

But for now I’m just enjoying the journey. It’s a crazy one. My head down and grinding. Lots of work to be done. Want to finish my university degree, that’s very important to me. Be a good person. And hopefully continue to develop and go as far as I can in football. But just need to make sure I don’t stop enjoying it. That’s most important part.

You can follow Charlie on twitter at @ctrafford10 and instagram at @ctrafford10.

Randy Edwini-Bonsu

Randy Edwini-Bonsu is a 25 year old striker currently playing VfR Aalen in Germany’s 1760433.Liga. Born in Ghana, Edwini-Bonsu and his family immigrated to Edmonton in 2002 and he has since played for Canada at various levels and has earned 10 caps for the senior team, scoring his first goal this year against Puerto Rico. At the club level, he’s also played with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Oulu, Eintracht Braunschweig and Stuttgarter Kickers. We spoke with him over email about his development, playing in Europe rather than North America and Canada’s new found scoring depth.

SSPC: Coming up in Alberta, what resources did you find the most useful in helping your development and are you excited by the increased presence of Alberta trained players in the Canadian national program?

REB: I guess discipline. I had a really good youth coach who helped me a lot in that aspect and is nice to see lots of players coming out of Edmonton to represent the national program. And I hope it stays that way and more youth uses that as a motivation.

SSPC: What lead you to pursue playing in Europe back in 2011 rather than joining an MLS or NASL club?

REB: Like every child, playing in Europe for some of the biggest clubs is a dream. And I had the talent and drive for it and after developing in Canada I came to Europe after I thought I was ready for the challenges that comes along

SSPC: Looking back, do you feel your move from the Finnish Second Divsion to Bundesliga 2 happened too quickly?

REB: Not at all. Sometimes changing the environment is always a good thing and I deserved all of it. I was very under estimated in Vancouver and they didn’t see my worth so I had no option but move on. I went to Finland with a good attitude to work and use that as a stepping stone and it payed off. Learned a lot in Braunschweig and I am forever grateful for that opportunity.

SSPC: With the increase of skill Canada is finding itself with in the forward positions, what do you feel is needed to stand out from the rest of the pack?

REB: We have a lot of young goal scorers who are dangerous in front of goal and can almost score at any time. I can say the future is bring but the only thing missing is consistency in front of the goal. If we can improve that I believe we can compete with almost anyone. We certainly have the players for it.Randy+Edwini+Bonsu+2012+CONCACAF+Men+Olympic+3_mLz_HLrUll

SSPC: What do you feel could be done to improve the Canadian program for future generations?

REB: The program has already made a huge step and I honestly think it should stay the way it is now. For the first time we actually have a system in place and its not an overnight thing but we players and the staff just have to keep working together and I believe the fans will see good results soon.

Kenny Stamatopoulos

Stamatopoulos_Kenny2012wwwKenny Stamatopoulos is currently one of the Canadian national team’s top two goalkeepers. Currently under contract with AIK in Sweden’s Allsvenskan, Stamatopoulos has also played in Superleague Greece, Tippeligaen and Major League Soccer (where he played with Toronto FC). We spoke to him about the national team’s activity in Canada, the Canadian club game and the Road to Russia.

SSPC: Since the arrival of Floro, there’s been a youth movement within the Canadian national team picture but you’ve emerged as one of the few 30+ players to regularly crack the starting 11, arguably as joint #1 keeper with Milan Borjan, and have seen you caps more than double in the last two years when compared to your career prior. What kind of boast has this had on you at an age when most players are looking to hang up the boots?

KS: Benito has shown over and over again that he likes me as a keeper and believes in me. And to me, when a coach believes in me as Benito does, I feel like I play at my very best. There is nothing better for me to feel the confidence of my coach and my teammates behind me. I think it gets the best out of me. I believe now in my playing career I’m at the stage where I’m 657one of the leaders and role models for the young and up and coming national team stars. Which I believe Benito see the leadership role in me to help the youth.

SSPC: You’re about to start the last stage of qualification for 2018 prior to the hex. Canada’s most recent performances against the three teams it’s grouped with has resulted in a 0-1-2 record with 10 goals against compared to 2 goals for. What’s the mind set of the team going into this group?

KS: Going into this group I believe strongly that we could finish in the 2 top spots. In previous performances against these teams he didn’t have the coach nor the players that we have now. We have a good mix of older and experience players with young raw talent. And over the past two years now we’ve had quite a bit of games together to mold into a team that fights for each other.

SSPC: Recent results against these teams aside, many believe this is the strongest the Canadian team has ever been. Do you believe Canada will make it to the hex?

KS: I also agree this could be one of the best teams I’ve been part of with the CMNT. If I didn’t believe that we would make it to the hex, I wouldn’t be here and waste my time away from my wife and kids.

SSPC: The first game of this stage is being played in Vancouver, rather than Toronto, and I believe around 15,000 tickets have been sold for the game. Do you think the men’s team would benefit if more games were played outside of Toronto?

KS: There are advantages and disadvantages playing in different city rather than Toronto. Right now kstamatopoulos_1playing in Vancouver seems great. Like you said, they have sold a lot of tickets already and hopeful before the game starts everything will be sold out. We haven’t played in Vancouver since 11 years ago ( if I’m not mistaken), so I hope the city of Vancouver is excited as much as I am.

SSPC: At the Gold Cup this year, Canada hosted its first ever game. What was it like to play in it and would you like to see Canada have a chance to be the sole host of the tournament in the near future?

KS: It was a great experience to play in the gold cup on home soil. It gives you that upper advantage and motivation to play in front of your fans, family and friends. I really hope to see Canada to host the Gold Cup one day. It’s just about having big enough stadiums. I believe we are steps away from it.

SSPC:Your first professional games were played with Kalamata, the city of your birth. You later played with Toronto FC. Did those two experiences stand out more than others or you look back on them as no dikeny_stamatopoulos720-1040x572fferent than?

KS: Being a Canadian/Greek living in Canada I was so proud of being Greek and all I wanted at the time was to play in Greece. But now that I’m older and I think about it, playing in Toronto stands out. Playing at home In front of so many fans. In front of family and friends. Getting phone calls from old classmates and getting recognized on the street. All this and more meant more to my then any place I’ve played.

SSPC: Do you see yourself returning to Canada at the club level?

KS: I would love to come and play in Canada for one last time. I loved my time in Toronto and I hope that can happen.

SSPC: This season marked (correct me if I’m wrong) your UEFA competition debut when AIK took on Shirak, was that kind of bucket list moment?

KS: Yes you are correct. It was my first UEFA debut. I’ve always been around but never got the chance to play in a UEFA cup game. It was nice to finally cross that off the list.

SSPC: There’s been a lot of talk recently about a Canadian league launching as early as 2017. Do you feel 2014-05-05 AIK - Helsingborga Canada only league is the right step for Canada and do you think Canada could support its own league?

KS: Most definitely I think it’s a great step for a Canadian soccer league. If it’s something that they are looking to do for a long term and plan it right. I think it’ll be very beneficial for Canadian players and for the national team. Every country around the world has there own league why shouldn’t Canada have one? I’m very surprised it hasn’t happened yet.

You can follow Kenny on twitter at @Kennystam69 and don’t forget Kenny and the rest of the CanMNT take on El Salvador on November 17th live on BeIN Sports on their road to Russia.