Professional soccer came to Halifax in 2019, and the HFX Wanderers’ success has come, in part, on the shoulders of some prominent international players.
Midfielder Andre Rampersad is one of them.
The 27-year-old from Trinidad and Tobago has been with the Canadian Premier League team since their first game on April 28, 2019.
He said the choice to leave his former team in his home country for an opportunity to play professionally in Canada, was an easy decision.
“You want to compete every day at a certain level, so you have to take care of your body, you have to rest well, you have to eat well,” said Rampersad, speaking about what’s needed to compete at a high level in soccer.
“So, for these things back home, you don’t get paid well, so you have to look for a job on the side, and sometimes maybe you’re tired from work, you don’t train well, you don’t eat well during the day.”
Rampersad has continued to receive praise throughout the league for his ability to dominate the midfield and create goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates. He was named the team captain for the Wanderers in 2020.
‘The place where I want to be’
Alex Marshall is another player who travelled quite some distance to play in Halifax.
The 24-year-old from Kingston, Jamaica said he hadn’t heard of the newly launched Canadian league until he was approached with the opportunity to play up north.
He said it didn’t take long for him to realize that Halifax would be the right choice.
“I was like, ‘This is the place where I want to be,'” he said, speaking on his decision to sign with the HFX Wanderers. “It seems like a club that believes in family and togetherness.”
Marshall said he hopes to help other talented Jamaican players get an opportunity to compete professionally in Canada as the league continues to grow.
Aside from challenging defenders with his speed while representing the Wanderers, Marshall has also represented his home country in international fixtures.
He recently was a second-half substitute for Jamaica in a historical match against Canada at BMO Field in Toronto, which ended 4-0 in favour of the Canadian squad, securing their first FIFA World Cup qualification in over 35 years.
The match was played in front of a sold-out crowd of 29,122.
“It meant a lot to me, my teammates were there supporting their country but they’re also supporting me, and the environment was unbelievable,” Marshall said when speaking about what it was like to play in that atmosphere.
“Words couldn’t explain how I felt at that moment, and it was truly something, a highlight of my career so far.”
The Wanderers’ recent victory over Guelph United FC in the Canadian Championship, an all-Canadian tournament consisting of teams from three separate leagues, has lined them up to host Major League Soccer side Toronto FC in Halifax on May 24.
Rampersad said the 2017 Major League Soccer champions are a big opposition on paper, but at the end of the day, it comes down to what happens on the field that day.
“I know the guys are going to bring it and everyone in the team is buzzing because they’re eager to show themselves on that day. So, hopefully, come that day everyone is fully focused, and we can make something happen,” he said.
Following an ACL injury sidelining Halifax’s top scorer and 2021 CPL player of the year, Joao Morelli, international players like Rampersad and Marshall are stepping up to ensure the team continues to find the back of the net.
But with their next four matches being at Wanderers Grounds in downtown Halifax, they’re sure to have an advantage thanks to their passionate supporters who continue to fill out the 6,200-seat sporting complex.
“My favourite part is the fan base,” said Marshall.
“I wish I could play at the Wanderers Grounds every week and every game, and I’m sure other teams look at us and say the same.”
The HFX Wanderers take on third-place Calvary at Wanderers Grounds on Sunday at 3 p.m.