Michele Paolucci was the first Italian to play and score in Canadian Premier League. The striker was hired in July 2019 by Valour FC, club that represents the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. We talked to him about his adventure in Canada, his career and his future goals.
How did you get the chance to play in Canadian Premier League?
I had this opportunity through a players’ agent, a Japanese friend of mine who offered me the chance to play in this league. The idea initially intrigued me, then I was interested and in the end, after a project presented to me by Valour FC, an eighteen-month contract finally convinced me.
You played the Fall Season with Valour FC. How do you view this experience both individually and as a team?
Surely it was a very intense experience because we played practically every three days. During the first few days I had to adapt because I arrived practically without athletic training, and a week after my arrival in Canada I played my first game. it was all very intense. Surely the team has improved because we were last and we finished fifth but at two games from the end we were third, there was a clear improvement for the team. I think the new members of the roster have improved the situation of the club. In July I arrived, a striker, and the Spanish midfielder Galan, I believe we have transmitted more quality to the team, not only on the field, but also outside. Personally I could have scored a little more but I managed to score a few goals, I made several assists and in the games we won I was always decisive. I am happy with my score because I have not kicked penalties that always make the difference for a striker.
What do you think about the Canadian Premier League?
Canadian Premier League is a growing championship where there are good players, where the tactical level, being a new league, cannot be extreme yet. But there are good players, good individuals. For example the strongest teams like Forge and Cavalry have been playing together for a long time, especially these clubs have a different mentality, they aim to win, from this point of view they are very similar to European teams.
What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the League?
Certainly the Canadian Premier League can enjoy the advantage that soccer, at a professional level, is something new, it is an evolving sport so it has the possibility to start from scratch. What I’ve noticed is that in Canada, like in the United States, a sporting event is a show and this is very beautiful. Also in terms of communication and organization, Canadian Premier League is at the forefront. On the other hand I realize that for clubs it is a bit oppressive to have to report every single thing to the League that wants to have control over everything. This thing, it seems to me, can be problematic for clubs.
Do you think soccer can grow in Canada, also because the nation will host the 2026 World Cup with USA and Mexico?
Canada can grow because soccer is a sport yet to be explored. There are many young athletes with so many qualities. What I have also recommended to young Canadian footballers is that this reality really needs a change of mentality because I realize that at this moment we are a million light years away from Europe in terms of professionalism and mentality, which are those things that make the difference because talent can be born anywhere, but creating clubs where front office, staff and players have only one goal, that have football as the only reason for living, is still difficult to find in Canada. I believe that the League must work on this goal, encouraging European players who have already accumulated experience to come to this league to help grow young local athletes.
Are there any players that you think could play in Europe?
There are players that I liked, obviously those who play in the big teams as they can be Cavalry or Forge have an advantage because they have structures that allow them to express themselves at their best. I really like Bekker, the Forge midfielder number ten, I think he is a total player. He attacks, defends, Kyle has personality. I’ve played against him several times, he has something more than the others.
Many young players and technical coaches contact us to find out how to present themselves to Can PL and minor leagues teams. What advice can you offer him?
Give him my number! Seriously, I believe it is normal that many people want to work in Canada because there is so much to do and we can grow so much, so I hope that more and more qualified and competent people from Europe, especially coaches, can help our movement.
What city is Winnipeg?
Winnipeg is undoubtedly a city where I found myself well, both my wife and I found ourselves well, we were very well received by the Italian community. We made real friendships, especially with a family, the Garcea, who really loved us. This family will visit us in Italy because the beauty of soccer is to create friendships in the places where you go.
I fell in love with hockey, I went to see the games several times. I have been to see the Winnipeg Jets in their stadium and this sport, that I knew little, has become a great passion for me.
In a post via social network you wrote that Canada is unique in terms of multiculturalism, ability to make communities and natural beauty. Tell us something about it.
Canada is a multicultural country and integration is the foundation of society. This is a beautiful thing and the latest events related to racism in Italy do not take place in Canada. In the same city you can find Chinese, black or Italian kids, and you can see them in restaurants or on the streets and you really feel that they feel part of something that is a great country and it doesn’t matter where they come from. Winnipeg is a welcoming city, just like all of Canada, racism does not exist.
As for nature, I saw the northern lights, the snow in October, even the deer on the road while I was driving with the car. Nature here is dominant. In Winnipeg I lived in downtown but a five-minute walk through the skyscrapers was a beautiful park, often my wife and I went to see the squirrels.
Future still in Canada, in the United States, anyway in North America?
As I have already said, I still have a contract year until December 2020 with Valour FC, so my intention is to stay, also because I consider my growth path and that of the team still not complete and so my desire is to continue to Canada and respect my contract. Canada is a place where you can still dream, it is a fertile country from many points of view, it is on the other side of the world, but there are many Italians who make you feel at home. I hope to continue my career in Canada and I hope to have so many successes with Valor. When I left to return after the end of the championship in Italy, I received so many messages of affection from the fans and professionals in Canada. It means that I have worked well and I am very pleased but I hope to improve again next season.