Well it’s in the books. My first press conference with Forge FC as a writer for 13thManSports. And it was great.
Nico Correa of Forge made both Coach Bobby Smyrniotis and Alex Achinioti-Jonsson available for today’s event. And as I rubbed shoulders with some of the heavy hitters in Canadian Premier League coverage, I started to feel alive. The CanPL’s own Charlie O’Connor-Clarke and James Grossi, David Parkes of the Northern Tribune, and even Canucks Abroad, were represented. Yeah, that Canucks Abroad! And ok, so I didn’t actually rub shoulders with them since it was a Zoom presser, but still, sharing the screen with them still brought it all home.
So, as I waited my turn to ask questions I felt the enormity of the moment. But I wasn’t going to waste my opportunity. So as Nico connected me first to Alex, I knew I had to ask what everyone in the Hammer was on the edge of their seats about…will Bobby give Alex a chance to play forward this year?
AAJ has already proven he is a top-shelf Defensive-Mid. And last year’s CanPL Defender of the Year award proves his defensive credentials as a Centre-Back. And for the diehards out there, Alex pointed out something you already knew, he’s also donned the gloves for Forge FC before too. In the 2019 Canadian Championships he stepped in for Quillian Roberts, after Q was shown a controversial red in injury time. Finger tips to the ball on the penalty too. So it is pretty obvious that he is just waiting for a shot up top as well. He sounded confident it is coming.
He also spoke about the importance of the partnerships Forge has created with 8 local partner clubs, as well as the recent connection to Hamilton United after their rebranding, and finally the well-known link to Sigma. Alex pointed out that not only is this great for fans and young players dreaming of soccer careers (wow, that really is a thing now!), but also for the team, as more and more soccer families build connections to Forge and come on board as fans. Some really solid points. He really seems to have a great understanding for the game on the pitch as well as the importance of it in the community too.
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Then it was time to question the gaffer. And while the real pros had tactical questions, and larger picture puzzle-piece queries, yours truly had a more basic question. I voiced it with as little panic as possible:
“With recent news of Costa moving to the league office, Forge Fans existential crisis has started earlier than ever this season. Do you have plans in the works regarding moving on from Forge in the immediate future, or can Forge FC followers keep breathing easy for another few seasons?” And then I waited with bated breath.
The response was unequivocal. “I am sitting in this seat.” Bobby isn’t going anywhere. And he explained why. With all the great things about this league, the city of Hamilton, the fans and the opportunities, for him it was all about one thing.
“It’s the players.”
Bobby spoke to how the league has been constantly referenced to as a development league for young players. But he wanted to not just shine a light on them, but also on men who had put nearly five years of sweat and perseverance into this project. That is something I have been at pains to discuss in articles and podcasts (and bitter Tweets). I was intrigued to hear it reiterated by someone with the gravitas of Smyrniotis. This is a league for them too. Watching players give so much to both the community and the team, whether they be seasoned veterans with more ball behind them then in front – like Kyle Bekker and Ashtone Morgan – or players just hitting their primes like Big Game David Choiniere and the aforementioned Defender of the Year – Alex Achinioti-Jonsson or any of the others that make the team go, this is more than a young kids’ game.
But of course Bobby did also mention the importance of youth too, in the signing of Kadim Kane shows that’s still a part of doing all this.
Anyway my first press conference was amazing. Coach Bobby and Alex Achinioti-Jonsson looked dialed in and committed to, as Coach Bobby put it, “…breaking a trend…” in reference to Forge’s history of slow starts. Well then, I guess it is time to see if Bobby’s boys are up to making some new history.
Check it out for yourself in-person at Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton on Saturday, April 15th at 4pm. Or get on OneSoccer/FuboTV, or Telus if you can’t be there. It should be an intense start.
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