Marco Carducci, Cavalry ‘Keeper, PFACan President and All-Around Good Guy, took some time out of his very busy schedule to talk with me about the game in Canada.
We dove right in with a couple tough questions, and Marco stepped up and answered them all. (Writer’s note – most of them the way I’d hoped, lol)
1-First off, thank you for all your work to remove the the stigma around talking about testicular cancer. What was is the most enduring lesson you take from that experience?
MC: Where to start? There have been so many lessons and they keep on coming! If I had to choose one – and it’s a big one – it’s about understanding and confronting the stigma around masculinity and vulnerability and how men deal with their physical and mental health. (Being an athlete adds another layer of complexity!) My experience with these questions is why I’ve become so passionate about advocating for men’s health.
2-How comfortable are you sitting down to do an interview with a hardcore, orange-and-grey bleeding, spring-and-fall taunting, Forge FC supporter?
MC: Supporters are why we play! So, as much as we are on different sides when it comes to the 90 minutes on the pitch, we have more in common than what appears on the surface. That goes for all fans across the CPL. (Writer’s Note – If Marco doesn’t get offered a role in the diplomatic corps of Canada at some point, there is no justice).
3-You had signed pro contracts in MLS (VWFC) and in the USL (Rio Grande ValleyFC Toros) so this isn’t your first rodeo (Little Calgary reference there, right?). But take me back to the start of the CPL. How did signing your first top-tier Canadian professional soccer contract feel? What were the circumstances around it? (Where were you? Did you know for a while beforehand that it was coming? Did it take long to come to terms?)
MC: Great reference, haha! It was such an exciting moment to sign for Cavalry FC at the start of the CPL. It felt surreal to realize I was about to play professionally for my hometown club. That’s something I genuinely felt would not be possible for me during my playing career. Beyond the pure excitement around being a part of the (re-)emergence of professional football in Canada, I was at a point in my career where I needed to reset and really find a place where I could play meaningful minutes and grow as a goalkeeper. The timing was perfect and I’m lucky that things lined up so well.
4-You are now the President of PFACan. You were previously the Vice-President. What was it that made you want to get involved with being part of a player’s union? (Did you have any previous union experience personally or in your family?)
MC: My time in the MLS was pivotal in why I wanted to get involved with PFACan. As a young professional just entering the pro game, I saw first-hand how important a strong, unified players’ association was for the growth of the game and for the protection of the players. Just look at the massive strides MLS has made since it’s inception and even over the last few years. MLSPA and the league — like other players’ unions across the globe (in soccer and other sports) — have worked together to grow the game and improve the on-and-off field conditions for players. I knew that we needed to do the same here in the CPL and I look forward to continuing that work.
5-You have been a top player in this league since its inception. What issues or barriers did you see in the early days that made you think a Player’s Association could help? (Was it injuries/rehab/insurance, having a voice in scheduling, money, safety, all the above or something more?)
MC: Above all else, the most important issue was representation. Players need a genuine voice when it comes to decision-making and that’s why I felt PFACan was necessary. All of the details – things like insurance, scheduling, salaries, likeness rights, etc. – are very important and are items we will work with the league to improve with time, but first step was to get a seat at the table and that’s why PFACan was established.
6-Speaking truth to power can be an intimidating act. Is that something you’ve always felt you could do, or is it something you’ve had to grow into? (How has being a soccer player helped/hindered the process)
MC: Definitely something I’ve developed with time. My experience as a soccer player certainly helped, but one of the coolest things about my time so far with PFACan has been the personal growth that has come with working in this space and learning from the people around me (like Dan Kruk, our ED; the other players that have been involved with PFACan – all with such a wide variety of knowledge, experiences, and skill; our legal counsel; etc.)
7-Can you speak to what concerns you have heard most commonly from players around the league?
MC: They vary pretty widely but I don’t think they wouldn’t surprise anyone. Again, it really all comes down to having a seat at the table when it comes to decision-making and guiding the direction of this league. Players want a voice.
8-You spent time with the CanMNT. In light of all the not-so-positive press coming out of the Canada Soccer/National Teams negotiations what do you hope for them, and more importantly how would you like to see it play out differently with the CPL?
MC: Simply put, our goal is to work collaboratively with the CPL. I truly believe that we aren’t adversaries; rather, we are both stakeholders in this game and our objective is the same: to grow the professional game in our country. And we are on the right path; receiving voluntary recognition from the league shows that we are ready to work together to push the game forward. (Writer’s Note – again what an answer, no doubt sincere and earnest. This man needs to be ambassador to somewhere at some point)
9-What would you say to a new player who may have just signed his first pro contract as to why it is important to have a union?
MC: This is our livelihood, and the nature of sport is that it doesn’t last very long. Professional athletes must put a lot on the line to do their jobs – which is no surprise to anyone. We know the inherent risks and realities of being an athlete, but having a union is a crucial part of protecting ourselves and maximizing our on-and-off field conditions.
10-No more softballs. You are staring across the table at Commissioner Noonan, you take a sip of water, peer at him with your steely-stare, slam your fist on the table and demand…what?
MC: I love the set-up (LOL), but the answer is nothing. It’s crucial that the message here is clear. We aren’t going in to kick-down doors, make demands, or cause fights. What I want to do is make it abundantly clear to the league that we want to work together to improve our position as players while ensuring the league can grow and thrive. Are we ready to hold our own and ensure we are protected and that our conditions improve? Of course. That’s my job and the mission of PFACan. But, we do this by working together, not against each other. (Writer’s note – Chef’s kiss!).
11-Have you had a chance to talk to any union reps from other leagues or sports in Canada? If so what kind of insights did they share?
MC: Yes – we’ve had tremendous support and guidance from unions and their people around the world. Just look at the recent display of support during the PFACan representation vote. To name just a few, FIFPRO’s ongoing support has been immeasurable; we’ve learned and worked directly with unions such as the MLSPA and the USLPA who we can take so much from (given the proximity and similarities we share); and we’ve been so fortunate to receive support from other North American sports unions (NFLPA, NBAPA, MLBPA, etc.) and from footballing nations around the world (Spain, Italy, France, England…) The insight and support they’ve all given us have been incredibly generous.
12-What are your hopes, dreams and goals for PFACan this year, in 5 years, and for after you are gone? (Retired, not to that great big pitch in the sky).
MC: This year: receive voluntary recognition (done!) and begin negotiating our first CBA.
5 years: be firmly established in the world of players associations, be providing a variety of beneficial supports and programs for CPL players, and continuing to improve the careers of professional footballers in Canada.
When I’m old and retired: just keep moving things forward. Why can’t we be like the MLSPA? Why can’t we be like the PFA (England)? The sky is the limit and I’m excited to see where footy in this country is in the future.
13-What do you think the league will look like 10 years from now?
MC: I genuinely hope that we can follow in the footsteps of a league like MLS (in terms of growth, attendance, the level of play/players, etc.) but keep it Canadian! The game is growing exponentially and I’m so excited to see where this league is 10 years from now (and how we as PFACan play our role in that.)
14-What makes Triston Henry just slightly better than you? (haha, you know I had to try and sneak one of these in)
MC: Haha. Nice one. Next question 😉 (Writer’s note – he didn’t say Triston wasn’t. Sorry Marco, the benefit of final edit! lol).
15-The Soccer Supporter/fan culture in Canada is growing and changing. What is your favourite part of that? What would you like to see less of?
MC: The way soccer culture is growing in this country is amazing. With the successes of our national teams and the growth of professional soccer in the country, it’s so exciting seeing how the game and culture is growing. It’s not just hardcore fans watching their teams in Europe, now we have local pro teams, excellent player development pathways, and national teams doing amazing things on the world stage.
16-With two hats on you must be busy. As a player and also as a Union President, who do you look to for inspiration? (First as a keeper, then as a player rep/leader and if possible as both?)
MC: Well I am so lucky to have plenty of support around me. In terms of inspirational figures, as a keeper there are so many… lots of GKs I’ve played with and learned from, and plenty of elite keepers from around the world that I admire and learn from too. As a player leader with PFACan, I’ve had role models and mentors from my younger days back in MLS and most recently with guys like Marcel De Jong and Tomi Ameobi who have been so influential for PFACan.
17-What differences do you see in the player landscape in Canada since the birth of the CPL? (Some will be obvious, sure, but there must also be some that might not be plain to those of us outside the locker rooms)
MC: Three things stand out. One, look at the young players who are using the CPL as a launching pad to establish themselves in the pro game and ultimately push to higher levels. That’s been amazing to see.
The next is that this league is providing a legitimate opportunity for Canadian footballers to ply their trade right here at home — I’m experiencing that myself and it’s such an amazing thing to be able to do.
Lastly, we’ve started to see top talent come into the league which goes to show the quality and level of the CPL.
18-What has the rivalry between Forge and your Cavs been like from a player point of view?
MC: The fact that it was so organic is really cool. Honestly, I think since the start it’s always been about two very competitive teams pushing each other to the limit each and every game. (Writer’s note – Only one game in The Rivalry has been decided by more than a single goal).
19-The Cavs/Forge rivalry was born in battle on the field and fury in the stands. But there is also that incident. Black players on Cavalry alleged that a (now former) coach on Forge used racially charged language during a fracas in Hamilton. Without putting you into a re-hashing of the incident, what would you as a union president try to put in place to protect players from potential abuse of this kind? How would a union have helped back then, in your opinion (What would you like to implement regarding prevention of/protection from homophobia and racism?)
MC: I won’t make any comments on the incident. But protecting players from any form of abuse is a major part our mandate. Sport needs to be a safe place, and we will work to ensure any form of discrimination or abuse is handled with the utmost care and hopefully one day driven out of sport entirely. This is a part of our job in protecting our players.
20-Thanks for answering these important and sometimes difficult questions. To wrap it up, how much would it mean to bring a title back to Calgary next year? What are the chances you will?
MC: Thank you. Great questions all around. Oh man… it would mean everything. So far it’s been elusive, but the goal remains the same. Like always, the title is the target and I think Cavalry will always be in the hunt. But it’s a long year and what counts is playoffs… so I’ll try not to get too far ahead of myself just yet. One step at a time!
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* Bonus rapid fire:
1-Better sideline look: Tommy or Bobby?
MC: Tommy, of course!
2-Who are the loudest fans?
3-Best stadium to play at?
MC: Other than at home, Wanderers Grounds.
4-Toughest place to play?
MC: Forge. Always a tough game, and it’s a wind tunnel at Tim Hortons Field. (LOL)
5-What was your best ever stop?
MC: Hmm… 2019 Final Leg 1 PK save. (Writer’s note, this answer hurts still!)
6-If you weren’t a goalkeeper, what would you be doing?
That’s a tough one. Maybe another sport. But I really find finance and law interesting, so maybe working in that world. Or the business of sport. Maybe that’s what I’ll do when I hang up the boots and gloves… we will see. PS. Sorry that’s not a “rapid fire” answer.
7-Best thing about being a pro?
MC: I get to play the game I love as my job. Pretty dang cool.
And Marco Carducci is pretty dang cool. As a Forge fan, never thought I’d be writing that. But he has proven himself on the pitch and in the community. He is shaping the game in the boardrooms of Canadian Soccer. And he is talking to fans and reporters alike in a way that is accessible and open. You really can’t beat that.
It is going to be just a little bit harder to celebrate his misfortune on the pitch this season. I will find a way, but it won’t be easy. Thank you Marco!
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