It was an experience from some 18 years ago now, and so much of what Masta Kacher can recall about his family’s move to Canada from Algeria is simply collection of blurry memories.
But this one, this particular scene, is absolutely crystal clear.
“I was six and it was March when we first got to Montreal,” began the Valour FC attacker in a chat with valourfootball.club. “We had heard it was going to be cold in Montreal, but not like what we experienced. March in Algeria is nice. It’s sunny. But there was snow on the ground when we arrived.
“The crazy story about us arriving is my mom was pregnant with my little brother and she was very close to giving birth. What I remember is when we arrived when people saw her with my older brother, who was nine, and myself, and they saw her belly, they just came to us with coats.
“It wasn’t a welcoming group or anything, it was just people from the airport. Purely random people. They were saying, ‘Just keep it. Keep it. Welcome to our country. Good luck.’
“It was just so positive,” Kacher continued. “I can remember that moment clearly. There are a lot of moments from around then that I don’t remember, but I remember that one.
“It’s something that is always in my head. It was shocking… in a good way.”
This seems a good place to start for our Beyond The Pitch Profile, for any conversation with Kacher always comes with tones of gratitude and optimism. And it could be said the basis of that outlook comes from memories like his first arrival in Montreal.
“It comes the values my family have taught,” said Kacher, who turned 25 earlier this month. “But, also, it’s just about seeing the hard times people can have in this world. I mean, everyone has their struggles, but when you have happy moments that you can share or just being in a place that you like… I’m grateful. That’s the word that sticks with me – grateful.
“I always try to remember that. I always try to be grateful for what I have, enjoy it and share it with people.”
Born in Azazga, Algeria, Kacher recalls playing with his cousins and friends and trips to the beach on holidays. He can also remember watching his father Mouloud playing semi-pro soccer with Azazga.
Yet, his parents wanted more, and they chose Canada – Montreal, specifically – to begin their new lives.
“The decision wasn’t about fear or not living good or the thought that we were missing something,” said Kacher. “My parents have told me this before… they were teaching, they were happy, but they just wanted to take our lives to the next level. They wanted to give us the best life we could get. They were not wrong.
“Montreal is such a beautiful city. What I love about it is you see people from around the world everywhere. People in Canada get along with everyone. I really feel fortunate and blessed for all of this, all that this country can give you. It’s amazing. It’s a lot.
“It’s why we are so happy. I think they made the best decision ever.”
As the Kachers began settling into Montreal, Masta quickly assimilated to his new surroundings because he could already speak French. His father – who runs the Anjou Academy and is the technical director at FC Anjou – coached him in his early ages.
When the MLS arrived in Montreal with the Impact, Kacher was one of the first players to join the Impact Academy. It was then that Kacher began dreaming of playing the game professionally. He spent two years with FC Montreal – the Impact’s reserve club in the USL before it ceased operations in 2016 – and then spent the next three years bouncing between the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Real Monarchs and Saint Louis FC.
Valour FC had reached out to Kacher in 2019, but he was still under contract in the USL. Still, that’s when he began to do his homework on the Canadian Premier League, watching games on-line and peppering a long-time friend from Montreal, Louis Beland-Goyette – then of Valour, now with HFX Wanderers – about the Winnipeg-based club.
His decision to sign here was validated from the moment he landed in Winnipeg for training in late June and then cemented during the club’s Island Games experience in Prince Edward Island.
“I didn’t know Winnipeg before. I had never been there,” he said. “Then when I got there at the end of June and I met people from the club, the coaches, the players… and I made friends that are not part of the organization. I like the city. It’s perfect for my type of life. It’s calm. There’s lot of places to eat and stuff to do.
“I like to work with the coaches – Rob (Gale), Damian (Rocke) and Pat (DiStefani)… I just want more, more of the city, more of playing with my team and being around my teammates. I want to give more, also. I believe I can believe more to this club and to this city.
“I’ll say it again: I’m fortunate.”