Over the past two weeks, the Vancouver Whitecaps have traded two world class strikers, in Eric Hassli and Sebastien Le Toux; the decision to do this has some ‘Caps fans shaking their fists and scratching their head.
Fear not Whitecap faithful, the ‘Caps have an embarrassment of riches at striker, one of which hasn’t seen the field much this season, but when he does, you will notice.
Not only is Atiba Harris a world class talent up front for Vancouver, he is also a stand up guy off the pitch, and was more than willing to answer a few questions for our loyal nwsportsbeat.com readers, as well as myself.
AC: Atiba, how did it feel to be the first player from Saint Kitts and Nevis to sign with a Spanish club?
AH: It was a great honor to be the 1st player from St.Kitts and Nevis to sign with a Spanish club because growing up and playing with a lot of talented players on the island, we all had the same dream of one day playing in Europe and for me to make to Spain was definitely special not just for me but for all those guys who didn’t make it.
I’ll always remember Spain because that’s where I signed my 1st professional contract.
I’ll always remember Spain
AC: After a few seasons in Spain, you came to Salt Lake and became the first player from Saint Kitts and Nevis to play in the MLS, what made you make the move?
AH: In Spain, things didn’t quite work out so when I had the opportunity to move to MLS, I grabbed it.
Thanks to Rob Ross who was my agent at the time made the move happened with Salt Lake. It was an opportunity to play closer to family and friends and get regular playing time.
AC: Do you feel like a pioneer of sorts for other aspiring soccer players from Saint Kitts looking to play all over the world?
AH: For me, being able to help out other aspiring soccer players from St.Kitts and Nevis is a great honor.
I was once on the island dreaming of becoming a professional soccer player so I tried to encourage others to work hard, stay focus and be patient because in life, anything is possible.
My family and friends always tell me that my name is always mentioned over there but for me, something that would make me happy is being able to contribute to the youth development there and see lots of youths grow up to be successful.
AC: Last season your cousin Micah Richards and his Manchester City squad played a friendly against the Whitecaps, despite not seeing the field, how did you find that experience?
AH: Seeing Micah last year here in Vancouver was amazing not only because he’s a great talent but a fantastic human being plus he’s family.
We hadn’t seen each other in a few years so I guess it was destiny that brought us together in Vancouver. He’s doing pretty well with his club and just got called up to the Great Britain team for the Olympics.
I do hope he wins a medal because he fought so hard to get to where he’s at.
AC: What kind of impact did recently traded Eric Hassli have on the team, both on and off the pitch?
AH: With Eric being traded, it’s difficult to say what kind of impact it would have on the club. He’s a very talented player and one of the nicest guys around.
He’ll definitely be missed here in Vancouver but this is the business that we’re in.
The club has a plan so we all have to trust and respect the coaches and the decisions they make for this organization.
AC: How have you managed to stay positive through a couple injury filled seasons in Vancouver?
AH: My Canadian chapter of my career has been plagued with injuries but I found the strength to remain positive through faith. God never gives you more than you can handle.
I would be lying if I told you that it hasn’t been difficult but thanks to the support of everyone I was able to keep plugging away at rehab. Some days were far more difficult than others but with a wife like mine who kept a smile on my face all the time, she deserves lots of credit.
I’m sure at times, it was like taking care of 2 kids at home ( my 20 month old daughter and myself ) but she didn’t complain. Thank God for her.
“The best player that I’ve played against would have to be Thierry Henry.” – Atiba Harris
The fans were incredible during this period. It’s unreal with the positive feed backs and well wishes that I’ve been getting from the fans and I’m hoping to repay them with beautiful soccer and goals.
Special thanks to the medical staff for taking the time out to work with me. These guys are unsung heroes and I would like to thank the club for sticking by me during this time.
AC: Who is the funniest teammate of yours?
AH: The funniest teammate honor would have gone to Eric or Davide but since they’re no longer with the club, that honor would have to go to Greg Klazura. He seems to always do and say things that makes me laugh.
AC: Who is the best player you’ve ever played against?
AH: The best player that I’ve played against would have to be Thierry Henry. I think he’s so clever on and off the ball.
AC: You were playing for FC Dallas during their excellent 2010 season, how are you going to use the experience you gained during that playoff run to help the Whitecaps down the stretch?
AH: Having playoffs experience is great but we have a lot a guys that have been involved in big games so I can see us doing well but the playoffs are still a ways to go so we have to focus on finishing out the season strong.
AC: What changed the atmosphere amongst the players from last season to this season when Martin Rennie joined the club? (Fan question, asked by @TheTristanCorp)
AH: Martin is someone that has gone about things a little bit different than any other coach that I’ve been coached by. He stresses on the mental and physiological side of things more which is helping the team so I think that’s the big difference from last year.
AC: Were you always a striker growing up or did you play other positions while playing for Newcastle United and St Peters FC youth teams?
AH: I was always a versatile player. Growing up, I played pretty much every position except as a goalkeeper. I’ll play midfield with my own age group then as a striker with the older guys.
Sometimes I played a defender when needed to help the team fill a gap.
AC: That’s it, thank you very much for taking time to do this, and I’m sure all Whitecap fans join me in wishing you a healthy and succesful second half of the season!
AH: It’s been a pleasure answering your questions.
Talk soon. Take care