100 Club: Bekker Set To Add Another ‘Forever First’ For Forge
Forge FC Captain Kyle Bekker will be making his one-hundredth club appearance for the hammers should he play tonight, making league history in the process.
The 31-year-old has been an anchor in a Forge FC midfield that won back-to-back championships in its first two years before going toe-to-toe with Cruz Azul in Champions League action and reaching a Canadian Championship Final, too.
Bekker has played a big part in the Hamilton, Ontario side’s success, with the former MLS midfielder arriving alongside Chris Nanco as the club’s first signing in 2018. Quickly painted as a leader and talisman for the club, he’s certainly lived up to the label.
“It’s a little surreal to think about,” he told CHCH TV’s Louie Butko regarding tonight’s history-making appearance, before doing what captain’s do and shifting focus to the club as whole. “I think we’ve achieved a lot in our shot existence as a club, and it’s been a great ride.”
That ride has seen Bekker contribute fourteen goals and nine assists along the way, though the intangible benefits of his leadership in midfield are ever-present. The ambitious city has held their own against MLS sides like Toronto FC and CF Montreal while regularly surpassing expectations in continental action, too.
Beyond his impact on both the club and the players within it, the Oakville-born athlete has been able to have a front row view of growing the sport right in a place he calls home.
“It’s unbelievable, man,” he reflects. “The community is fantastic, there’s tons of little hidden gems within the city. With the support the fans show us week-in and week-out, it’s such a passionate group. They’re just salt of the earth people who come out and support their team. They’re passionate and the want to see a good product on the field, and they have our backs.”
Tim Hortons Field has proven to be a real fortress for Bekker and the hammers, where ten of the club originals remain present from the league’s inaugural season. Since then, Bekker has only missed six matches in his four years at the side – a fact that gets even more surreal when you realize that Forge’s seasons have typically run either started early or run long due to commitments to continental competition.
Interestingly, the club has another top appearance leader on the roster, too: former Pacific forward Terran Campbell has made more appearances for his former side than any other player, tallying 69 appearances for the Tridents over the prior three seasons.
Left-back Ashtone Morgan, still known as ‘Mr. Toronto’ to many, had been the first player to reach 100 appearances for Toronto FC – though it remains to be seen if any similar ‘Mr. Hamilton’ type of nickname will arrive for Bekker.
Here’s what the appearance leaders for athletes still rostered with their club looks like should Bekker play tonight:
It seems fitting that Bekker’s history-making appearance will likely come in front of a home crowd at Tim Hortons Field tonight, where the club will take on a Valour FC side that recently dispatched their 905 rivals 3-1 a few days prior.
“We love playing at home,” adds Bekker, “we love this field, we love the fans, and we love the confidence that we get from being there. That comes with going and having success and having those moments that you can look back on and build for future games.”
Bekker’s belief in the club has only grown from the start, and so has his form – in fact, last year saw rumours spread that the 31-year-old was even attracting MLS interest. He’s also been nominated for the CPL’s Player of the Year award through all three of the league’s completed seasons, picking up the award in 2020.
“He’s the face of this league since we started in 2019,” said Bobby Smyrniotis in a recent interview. “He’s been a constant presence ever since. His performances on the field are excellent, whether that’s what he provides the team in attack, in balance, and what his engine provides and just being all over the pitch. Off the pitch he’s been an absolute great leader in our locker room and a great ambassador for the club.”
With the length or options to his current contract unknown, how long he’s currently set to remain with the hammers remains to be seen – though it’s hard to imagine a player more valuable to Forge FC than its captain and all-time appearance leader. Now on the precipice of earning a ‘forever first’ of his own, his impact on the league will surely go down in history.
This season will likely see a few other hammers join the 100 club, too: Alexander Achinioti-Jonsson stands at 95 appearances, with Dominic Samuel, Triston Henry, and David Choiniere at 90, 88, and 84 respectively.