“It was tough at the beginning. But we’re grinders.”

It’s been the ultimate of tests for Valour FC, akin to a Canadian Premier League version of ‘Survivor’ with the goal of simply treading water for weeks – months – before potentially finding some traction in their season with the backing of their home supporters.

Valour FC will step on the new turf at Princess Auto Stadium for the first time Sunday in their home opener against Vancouver FC, ending a long stretch that has seen them play seven consecutive road matches since the curtain lifted on the season on April 14th.

The club has traditionally started the season on the road to avoid potential spring-time weather conflicts in Winnipeg and that, coupled with the new playing surface being installed, means they are the last CPL team to play in front of their fans.

“It’s crazy how long it’s been,” said defender Abdou Samake. “Including preseason (which featured a trip to Portugal) it feels like we’ve been away for so long. That’s what is so exciting now.

“It’s so challenging to be on the road for all sorts of different reasons. We’ve been all around the league, from coast to coast. Now we get to be here, and we’ve got some momentum with our two last results. Now we can build on that, use the energy from the fans in our first game and if we get a third result in a row it’s even more momentum.”

Let’s put this long stretch away from home into a bit more context.

Valour’s last home match came October 6th of last season, a stretch that will reach 241 days by Sunday’s home opener. Just to hammer home the point, every CPL team has played at least four home matches over that span – and including last year – their seven rivals have combined to play 34 home matches to Valour’s… zero.

Further to Samake’s point above: Valour opened their 2024 campaign in Vancouver and since then has played in Victoria, Hamilton, Ottawa (twice, including a Canadian Championship match), Toronto, Halifax and Calgary.


Juan Pablo Sanchez

Valour home records since franchise inception (Won-Draw-Loss)

2019: 4-2-8

2020: Island Games – all matches played in PEI

2021: 7-3-4

2022: 7-4-3

2023: 3-4-7

Overall: 21-13-22

That impacts so many things, not just the weary travel schedule, but the ability to train consistently and effectively.

Still, seldom has been heard a discouraging word from those in the Valour camp.

“It was very difficult not to be at home for so long. But that’s football, too,” said midfielder Juan Pablo Sanchez. “As a professional footballer you have to adapt.

“It was tough at the beginning. But we’re grinders. We saw each other every day and we built a brotherhood. We learned how to fight and to deal with things and the mood is positive right now. The morale is at the highest it’s been, and I think it’s only going to get better and better now that we’re back home.”

Valour started the season with five consecutive losses in league play but has since managed a 2-1 win over HFX Wanderers in Nova Scotia – earning the franchise’s first-ever victory on the east coast – and a 1-1 draw with Cavalry FC last weekend.

Critical now is to build on that, especially with 14 of Valour’s 21 matches to be held at home.

“Your home is where you should feel your most comfortable,” said Samake. “You get a chance to be in your locker room, to sleep in your bed the day before a game, to have all the things around you that make you feel most comfortable and all that before you get on pitch. You need to make your home the toughest place to play.”