Everything We Know About Atletico Ottawa So Far
Recent Update: The club has revealed its inaugural home kit via a Facebook Livestream event.
When the Canadian Premier League announced Ottawa as the club’s first-ever expansion location, fans both in and out of the nation’s capital were understandably excited to see the league grow to eight teams ahead of its second season. While things have progressed at a rapid pace in the last few weeks, there’s still plenty of unknowns left for the club to declare ahead of the 2020 Canadian Premier League season.
To that end, here’s a quick list of everything we know about Atletico Ottawa so far:
Yes, The Name Is Atletico Ottawa
Jeff Hunt confirmed as such following the announcement of the expansion side itself, stating that it was an obvious choice to retain the foreign investor’s branding in order to lend a recognizable name to the venture. After all, Atletico Madrid is a heavyweight in the soccer world currently aiming to build up its global brand recognition, and what better way to do that than continue with the Atletico moniker?
For me, it was a no-brainer from the get-go that the team be Atletico Ottawa. Again, that’s part of their strategy here is to build that worldwide brand. For me, it’s a no-brainer. I can confirm that it will be Atletico Ottawa.Jeff Hunt
The La Liga giant is in the midst of a global investment push, with the ownership group investing in Mexico, India, Israel, China, and now Canada. With the significant financial power that comes through majority owner Miguel Angel Gil Marin along with Idan Ofer and current Atletico Madrid President Enrique Cerezo, the Canadian Premier League’s first expansion club has some serious firepower behind it.
We are delighted to be part of such an exciting project in an amazing country. We would like to bring our expertise to a very strong and structured league and will work together with the CPL and the rest of the clubs to contribute to the growth of Canadian soccer. We want Ottawa soccer fans to be able to feel proud of belonging to the Atletico de Madrid family so we can start sharing our values with them.Miguel Angel Gil Marin
The Home Kit Has Been Revealed
The club revealed its first-ever home kit during a Facebook livestream in May. The sharp-looking kits feature a familiar red-and-white stripe look in homage to parent club Atletico Madrid, with a ‘Rideau Blue’ trim and half-collar inspired by the famous canal of Ottawa.
It was very important that the home jersey represented Atletico’s identity, and the Ottawa and Gatineau region. That’s why we decided to insert neat details and graphic symbols that perfectly reflected the 117 years of Atletico’s know-how with the domestic soccer landscape and the future of the community.Atletico Ottawa CEO Fernando Lopez
The back of the kit features a red block with a deeper red Maple Leaf, following the league’s 2020 tradition of a single symbol on the back. The club also broke away from the rest of the league by accompanying the home kit with blue shorts, whereas every other CPL side had gone with white.
The club will play in the 2020 Canadian Premier League season.
Initial rumors suggested that Atletico Ottawa would only participate in the fall season, but that’s not the case: the expansion soon confirmed that it was all-in for the entirety of the 2020 Canadian Premier League season. The club began preseason in Madrid, but this was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Atletico Ottawa has since resumed training, and will participate in a modified 2020 Canadian Premier League season expected that is expected to be hosted by a single province.
Atletico Ottawa were in consideration to play in the Canadian Championship prior to the pandemic.
While it originally seemed like Atletico Ottawa would miss out on the 2020 Canadian Championship, Clanachan has revealed that talks were in progress to see if Atletico Ottawa could be added to the tournament for 2020.
The CSA had already crafted the cup ties to build on existing rivalries and minimize travel time, but this year’s edition of the tournament is currently only poised to see twelve teams compete for the Voyageurs Cup, which grants access to the CONCACAF Champions League.
Unfortunately, it’s not my decision. Everybody’s asking about it. It’s one of those things, it’s a great opportunity. It’s Canada Soccer’s decision. I know the schedule is out and everything else, but discussions are being had. I think if you polled Canadians, they’d say ‘why not another team?’ All it does is that it creates a global awareness around the Canadian Championship.David Clanachan
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has paused the domestic cup competition entirely, fans will need to wait to see if the CSA-run competition will return in any form for 2020.
The official club colours are red, white, and blue, like Atletico Madrid.
This is a no-brainer for Atletico Madrid: when expanding one’s brand, it only makes sense to keep the colour schemes and styles the same. That’s why the club’s Mexico-based sporting venture, Atletico San Luis, dons the familiar red-and-white striped kit as well. On February 11, the club confirmed that the expansion side’s colour scheme will be ‘Federal Red, Rideau Blue, and Blanc d’Ottawa.’
Atletico Madrid has a club crest.
The eighth expansion side revealed its club crest during a special ceremony on February 11, revealing a shield which features the iconic red-and-white stripes of Atletico Madrid, along with the blue outline of Parliament Hill. At the bottom, a Maple Leaf further signifies the Canadian aspect of the branding.
Former Toronto FC and Atletico Madrid player Mista is the club’s head coach.
On February 11, the club announced that former Spain international Miguel Angel Ferrer Martinez – better known as Mista – will take the reigns as the club’s first-ever head coach. He becomes the second former TFC player to coach at the CPL level behind York9 FC gaffer Jim Brennan.
For me, it’s a very important opportunity because it’s a big step for my career to be [coaching] in the first division. I know this country, from previously being here, and I loved the way people treated me. I’m extremely happy to be here and to help, somehow, in being a part of this football team with Atletico.Mista
The 41-year-old former Atletico Madrid and Toronto FC striker has spent the last few years in assistant coaching roles with Valencia and Rayo Vallecano, but has never donned a head coaching role before. It’ll be interesting to see how the Caravaca de la Cruz-born veteran handles the pressure.
Jeff Hunt is a strategic partner.
Veteran Ottawa sports businessman Jeff Hunt, who was a key figure behind the expansion deal, will remain with the Canadian Premier League side as a strategic partner. The former OSEG President will be banking on his experience with the Ottawa Red Blacks and Ottawa 67’s – for whom he purchased and tripled their attendance – to help make Atletico Ottawa a success from a business standpoint:
I’m going to be a partner, obviously that’s the biggest part of it. I’m going to be the President, and oversee the business operations primarily. I don’t need to help these guys out with soccer, in fact I’ve got a lot to learn from them. From a business perspective, it’s really, you know, getting comfortable with the market.Jeff Hunt
The OSEG minority partner had distanced himself from the Ottawa Fury a year before the club ceased operations, and he’s more than ready to dive in head first and help keep professional soccer in the nation’s capital just a few short months after the city had lost it.
The Fury was John Pugh’s project. I’ll take it from here. I haven’t lost my passion for the sport.Jeff Hunt
At the moment, it’s unclear if any members of the Ottawa Fury staff will join the new Canadian Premier League venture. There has been speculation that former Fury GM and Canadian international Julian de Guzman could be involved, but so far the only confirmed staff member involved in day-to-day club operations is Jeff Hunt. On February 4, Thomas Nef has reported that Julian de Guzman has opted not to be involved with the project.
Hunt has since parted ways with OSEG entirely, with the local entrepreneur confirming that Atletico Ottawa is his only project at the present time.
The club will play from TD Place.
Atletico Ottawa is poised to play from TD Place, the 24,000-capacity stadium that the Ottawa Fury had also called in home. That means that OSEG will be the landlord for the new Canadian Premier League venture, but that’s where the group’s involvement will end: the club itself is owned and operated by Atletico Madrid’s ownership group, which has partnered with Jeff Hunt to establish itself in the local community.
The club has filled more than half of its roster.
Atletico Ottawa went through a flurry of signings ahead of the original season deadline, first bringing in former Pacific FC fan-favourite Ben Fisk. Several domestic signings followed, including CPL veterans Malyk Hamilton and Ajay Khabra. Other domestic signings so far include youngster Antoine Coupland, Brandon John, Michel Djaozandry, Kunle Dada-Luke, and Ricky Gomes.
The club has also used six of seven available international roster spots, bringing in goalkeeper Nacho Zabal, full-back Vashon Neufville, and midfielders Victor Martinez, Osah Bernadinho, Francisco Acuna, Tevin Shaw.
The Canadian Premier League has been forging this deal for some time.
While the deal only went on the fast-track in the last two weeks, Atletico Madrid has actually been in discussions with the Canadian Premier League for about eight months now after an introduction that was actually made by MediaPro executives. Back then, Atletico Madrid was open to a variety of locations, but it was the demise of the Ottawa Fury that really brought a focus to the nation’s capital as a prospective expansion location. After all, it’s a location that league commissioner David Clanachan has always stated the CPL needs to be in.
From there, it was Canadian Premier League CEO Scott Mitchell – who spent years working to launch the league itself – who brought Atletico Madrid and Jeff Hunt together to make things happen.
Scott Mitchell, the CEO of the CPL who is a good friend of mine, he was one of the key guys that got us involved in the CFL. He reached out to me a number of years ago, and the first reach out actually didn’t work, but the second one obviously did. So, Scott said ‘hey, I know just the guy’ and we were introduced. I just got back from a five day trip in Madrid. A big part of that was just to get to know eachother, and make sure that we felt like we were a good fit. Frankly, I had a great experience with those guys. They’re a first-class organization.Jeff Hunt
With new rumours that both Olympique Lyonnais and AS Roma are eyeing similar ventures, there’s no telling how quickly other expansion clubs may pop up, or how many discussions with foreign investors are currently in the works. Of course, there are plenty of local groups in the midst as well, like Joe Belan’s Saskatoon project or Alex Bunbury’s Montreal venture.
Like Bob Young, Hunt believes that natural rivalries are necessary to sustain the league.
When Forge FC co-founder Bob Young helped launch the Canadian Premier League itself, he was adament that natural rivalries needed to exist if enough butts would go into seats to sustain a professional league. In fact, that’s a foundation that the Canadian Premier League itself was based off of – and it’s one that Hunt agrees with, when he looks at where Atletico Ottawa can really differentiate itself from the Ottawa Fury:
I also think the fact that we’re playing against Hamilton, we’re playing against Edmonton, we’re playing against Winnipeg, you know, these are rivals that we’re used to playing, whether it’s hockey or whether it’s football. In Ottawa, we’re used to not liking teams from Edmonton, for example. Those are much more natural rivalries to fans in Ottawa than maybe some team from North Carolina.Jeff Hunt
Hunt also went on to say that having a domestic league rather than one that saw a Canadian team operate in a US-based league made the choice to invest easier, too: Canadian dollars are easier to work with and the (as-yet-undeclared) salary cap is no stress for Atletico Madrid. The investors were also impressed by the 200 million dollar deal already in place between the Canadian Premier League and Spanish production giant MediaPro, too.
Atletico Madrid helped to scout potential signings for Atletico Ottawa.
Putting a full 23-man roster together in a short amount of time is no easy task, and Hunt freely admits that if he was by himself on the venture he’d stand no chance. While the league has a partnership with 21st Club to give equal scouting assistance to all eight of its teams, clubs are free to independently scout for their own signings, like when York9 FC held an international scouting combine. In this case, Atletico Madrid lent some of its significant scouting power to its new Canadian club, and that’s no small amount of manpower:
This is where the resources of Atletico are so vast. I saw their scouting department, it was like a wing, a scouting wing in their building. I think it was 80 or 90, if I’m not mistaken, in their scouting department. They have literally a file on every single soccer player in the world that’s of a caliber that could play professionally. They’ve already begun to do a lot of work. They’ve got a list. They’ve got infrastructure with coaches as well.Jeff Hunt
There are some obvious links to see CPL side, too: plenty of former Ottawa Fury players remain free agents, like Maxim Tissot, who had specifically stated he would like to remain in Ottawa. There are also plenty of talented free agents who performed well in the league’s inaugural season like Emile Legault and Daniel Gogarty, all of whom the club is surely aware of.
At the moment, we still don’t know [what the team will look like]. We’re still building the team and getting to know the players who will make the team, or not. But, we have to field a very competitive team to make Atletico Ottawa sit in the highest position in the league.Mista
Atletico Ottawa was quick to fill up six of its seven international roster spots, bringing in some Spanish flair with the likes of midfielders Victor Martinez and Francisco Acuna. While Atletico San Luis and India-based partner club Jamshedpur FC both had Atletico Madrid players arrive on loan, the pandemic means that it’s unlikely the club’s final interantional roster spot will see one of Atletico Madrid’s younger prospects – B team or not – arrive on loan.
Deposits for season tickets are open.
When the Canadian Premier League announced Ottawa as the league’s first expansion city, the league immediately opened up a page for fans to place season ticket deposits. With every season ticket, fans will get an Atletico Ottawa home kit, for which the design is expected to be unveiled in the near future.
The club’s preseason was meant to take place in Madrid.
Ottawa-based reporter AJ Jakubec first broke that the club’s preseason would include a ten day stay in Madrid, utilizing the top-tier facilities of Atletico Madrid itself. This was eventually confirmed, with the club only having been a few days into its first-ever preseason when the players were recalled to Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s plenty yet to come.
It’s an exciting time in Canadian football, and the recent announcement of Atletico Ottawa provides a big boon to that feeling: that’s still several roster spots for Canadian players to fight for, one more team to a growing league, and evidence that significant foreign investors are interested in the Canadian Premier League.
There’s plenty of more news yet to come, and we’ll keep this page updated as Atletico Ottawa builds itself up ahead of the 2020 Canadian Premier League Season.