Rob Gale’s life changed when he was assigned by Fulham FC to oversee a one-month soccer camp in Winnipeg back in 2000.
The Zambian-born English native came to Manitoba where he met future wife Erin, a university student whose summer job with the Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association was to help the English coaches at the camp.
Romance ensued and Gale eventually settled in Winnipeg and married Erin, serving as technical director of the Manitoba Soccer Association from 2006 to 2014 before a successful stint as a national age-group coach with Canada’s U-16, U-18 and U-20 teams.
On Tuesday, Gale was entrusted with Winnipeg’s new Canadian Premier League entry when the 40-year-old was named head coach and general manager of Valour FC.
“I’m really thrilled,” Gale said in an interview. “It’s such a unique and once-in-a lifetime opportunity.”
“To be offered an opportunity to start a brand new franchise in a brand new league, to professionalize the sport in your province and in your hometown, it’s a dream come true really,” he added.
The name Valour FC is an homage to three Winnipeg men — Frederick William Hall, Leo Clarke and Robert Shankland — who lived on the same street and were each awarded the Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth’s premier military decoration for gallantry, in the First World War.
Their street, Pine Street, was later renamed Valour Road.
Valour FC will join Halifax’s HFX Wanderers FC, suburban Toronto’s York 9 FC, Calgary’s Cavalry FC, FC Edmonton and other founding clubs including Hamilton and Victoria when the men’s pro soccer league debuts in the spring of 2019.
The CPL is expected to have 10 members by the end of the year with eight taking part in the 2019 season. Ottawa is widely expected to be among those joining the lineup.
Gale likes what he sees from the new league already.
“There’s such a clear vision about what we need to do for the game in Canada. And that bodes well with everything we’ve been doing at the national team level and everything that (national team coach) John (Herdman) and the staff, we’ve been contributing to. I just love the fact that the vision is by Canadians for Canadians.
“There’ll be colleagues and friends who I’ve worked with in various capacities all over the years here, working in the league and working with the other franchises. So it’s exciting times for Canadian soccer.”
Gale was born in Zambia, where father Mick was coaching, but grew up in England. He joined Fulham FC as a teenager before moving to Wycombe Wanderers. While playing, he completed a degree in media production at the University of Luton.