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York United FC’s Assistant Manager Paul Stalteri Uses European Soccer Career To Grow Canadian Soccer

Paul Stalteri | Assistant Manager | York United FC

The most eye opening experience was the commitment to every single training session. The battle amongst teammates every single day was very intense. I was able to watch and learn from some of the best players in the world and what always struck me was that they trained hard every single day.

Paul Stalteri

Assistant Manager

York United FC

× The interview with Paul Stalteri was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

You began your pro career for the Toronto Lynx of the USL-PDL back in 1997, in place of returning to NCAA soccer. What helped you make this decision to turn pro after one year of college and how did this season help you advance your playing career?

My dream and ambition was to become a professional footballer.  After spending one year at Clemson University, I realized that if I was to spend three more years at school then becoming a professional footballer would be very difficult.

At that time, the Toronto Lynx was a new franchise in the A-League (2nd Tier to MLS) and they offered me a contract as well as the opportunity to continue my studies in Toronto. Signing with Toronto Lynx allowed me to play for the club and also transfer my credits from Clemson and continue my studies at York University.  

I made the decision to leave Clemson at the end of my first academic year. The 1997 season definitely helped my development as I was able to train every day with senior professional players and also play every week against established players and clubs.

It was the type of experience that I needed to continue my development and allowed me to take steps closer to my dream of playing in Europe.

You were the first of two Canadian soccer players to break barriers in Germany, alongside your national teammate Kevin McKenna. You were the first two Canadians to play in the Bundesliga, which is Germany’s top division. What was your experience like playing for Weder Bremen, and what did it mean to do something so groundbreaking for Canadian soccer players at the time?

It was an honour to be one of the first two Canadians to have played in the Bundesliga. Kevin and I played against each other that Saturday afternoon back in August 2000, and it was a day I will never forget.

Every once in a while I jokingly remind him of the result…It probably means more to me now than it did over 20 years ago! As you get older, you understand the significance of what we achieved.

When you are young, you just want to play and all of your focus and concentration is on trying to get in the lineup every week and keep playing.

When you look back after it is all said and done you begin to understand and realize what an accomplishment it was not to just be the first couple of Canadian players to play in the Bundesliga, but also how difficult it was to consistently play at that level for so many years and make a career as a professional athlete. 

What was the most challenging thing about your time playing with Werder Bremen? What was the most rewarding thing?

The most challenging part was putting forward my best effort in all training sessions to ensure that I had a good chance of being selected to play every week. I always felt that I needed to continue to prove myself because I knew I had to put in a top performance every time I was selected to play.

I knew I had to battle in every training session and be the hardest working player on the team. The team had so much quality and apart from a handful of players, no player had a guaranteed place in the team.

Playing for Canada also increased the challenge because we sometimes had long trips prior to big matches and I had to always work hard to show that the travel had not really affected me.

The most rewarding thing was quite simple, being selected to play at the end of the week and helping the team win. 

After playing for Bremen, you played for Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham in the English Premier League over 4 years, before returning to the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach for 2 years. Of all the experience you had playing in some of the best leagues in the world, what was the most eye opening thing/experience you had related to playing? How did that impact you when you were on international duty and around your Canadian teammates?

The most eye opening experience was the commitment to every single training session. The battle amongst teammates every single day was very intense.

I was able to watch and learn from some of the best players in the world and what always struck me was that they trained hard every single day. They just did not show up at the end of the week at a match and put in a top performance.

They prepared, monitored their bodies, their diet, had adequate rest and implemented healthy recovery routines. There was a lot that was needed to prepare the body to put in a top effort every week.

I think the preparation through diet, rest and recovery was something that I tried to communicate to many of the players while playing for Canada. Letting them know what other top players did every single day in order to play at the very highest level. 

You were the only Canadian player ever to have won the Bundesliga (Werder Bremen- 2003/04) until recently, when Alphonso Davies won it with Bayern Munich. What does it mean to see how far Canadian soccer talent has come since your time playing?

It is something that has been a privilege to see. I coached and worked with Alphonso when he was just 14 as we called him into our National Youth U15 camp with Canada.

He was a top talent then and you could see that he had the potential to do great things. As with any young player with talent, the difference in making a successful career comes down to dedication and hard work. It is truly great to see that he is maximizing his talent with hard work and dedication.

Young aspiring footballers can relate to him and realize that playing at a top club in the world is not an unrealistic goal. 

With Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David becoming international club football stars in Europe, the CPL growing and Canada being one of the host nations for the World Cup in 2026, where does Canadian soccer go from here? How can the country establish/maintain its presence on the world stage both internationally and club wise?

In order for Canada to establish a true presence in the world of football, we must be able to consistently perform against the best. That ultimately means qualifying for World Cups consistently.

Of course, this is easy to say but we have not been able to qualify since 1986 so we all know how difficult of a task it is.

Ideally, a goal to set would be to first qualify for 2022, hopefully, take part in 2026 as a host nation and then continue to qualify for tournaments beyond that. 

You were appointed recently to be the First Assistant Coach with York United FC in the Canadian Premier League. What are your main goals with the club in terms of player development and team success?

We are a developing league. The league is only entering its 3rd season in 2021 and 2020 was an abbreviated season.

Given all that has transpired in 2020, we are hopeful that 2021 will be a full season.

Our goals for York United are to win. We are constantly instilling that winning mentality, hard work and dedication into our players. We want to play attractive football and of course, try and develop young Canadian footballers that will one day play for our country. 

What are some of the main pointers you implement in your coaching with York United from your playing experience across Europe?

I try to instill a simple message.

Every training means hard work, commitment and dedication.

Matias Bueno Matias's Final Thoughts

I have followed soccer closely since I was a kid, and being able to speak with Paul about his playing career and how he has translated what he learned to his coaching career was fantastic. Having been one of the first two Canadian players to play professional soccer in Germany’s top flight is no same feat. His experience playing across other top leagues in Europe has given him a wealth of knowledge to come back to share with Canadian players domestically and internationally. With how fast soccer is starting to grow in Canada and how much success its players are having on the international stage, Paul’s work with York United FC will bring about continued strong development for Canadian players. 

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