Charlie 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.
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 the 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?
CT: 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.
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.
SSPC: 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.