“Don’t take anything for granted.”
That was Vancouver Whitecaps FC player Marco Bustos’ message to the kids at Cranbrook’s East Kootenay Whitecaps skills camp on Monday morning.
Bustos, a 21-year-old attacking midfielder from Winnipeg, Manitoba, visited Moir Centennial Park to take in the local youth soccer camp, answer questions, sign autographs and give hope to every Cranbrook youngster in attendance.
“You’ve been given an opportunity to excel in a sport that’s growing in a place like this and why not be the one that changes it,” Bustos said of what he meant by not taking anything for granted. “You’re not going to have time on the field to play 24 hours a day… you get one and a half to two hours, so you’ve got to make the best of it.”
— Marco Bustos (@marcobustos10) August 14, 2017
The skills camp, which is being held from Monday to Friday for U5 to U14 players, was just part of a busy summer of soccer in Cranbrook. A ‘prospects camp’ was held in late July for U9 to U14 players and an ‘attacking speed and goalkeeper’ camp will go from August 29 to 31.
“When players like Bustos come over, you can tell that [our] players see that these junior players are coming up through the Whitecaps pathways now,” Heap said. “[He’s] been through the path of a Canadian junior and now [is] playing at the Canadian national level. Hopefully, it is inspiring for the players all over the Kootenays to see that.”
— Sam Heap (@SamHeapCoaching) August 14, 2017
The Whitecaps have had a presence in the East Kootenays for the past four years, which according to Heap has gone from having around 30 casual academy players to having 120 who train all year in the area and travel to various competitions.
In total, in the East Kootenay region, the number of soccer players has grown from around 300 to over 600 in that time span.
“The level of soccer in the Kootenays is going up and up and up,” Heap said. “That’s from the commitment of the local association (KEYSA) buying into what we are trying to do.”
Bustos, who also grew up far away from any MLS team, believes that he is a good example for kids in Cranbrook.
“One hundred percent, I [believe that anyone from Cranbrook can make it to the MLS],” Bustos said. “I come from [a] small city, [but] found my way to Vancouver and had to show progress from there.
“These guys can easily [do it]. They’ve got coaches here in contact with the coaches there. It’s all referral, so if someone is doing well they can go there and have a chance. It goes back to not taking things for granted, because you never know who is watching.”
— Brad McLeod (@bradleydmcleod) August 14, 2017
After leaving home at 15-years-old to join the Whitecaps Academy in Vancouver, Bustos worked his way up to the professional level.
While he is a part of the MLS club, he has played the majority of the time this season on loan with Whitecaps FC 2 in the second-tier USL. In 11 games this season, Bustos has 6 goals.
In addition to his club career, he has also played nationally for Canada’s junior and senior teams.
Despite all his accomplishments, however, making visits to communities like Cranbrook are still one of Bustos’ favourite parts of being in the position that he is.
“It’s good to come into a small town like this and see kids participating in the sport that I grew up playing,” he said. “Just to see them smile and run around kicking the ball [is great]. I miss being a kid sometimes, so it’s good to see that.”
Bustos was a late replacement for the Cranbrook visit. Defender Christian Dean was originally pencilled in to be at the camp, but after the centre back was traded to the Chicago Fire last week, Bustos was called upon to take his place.
It was no problem, however, for Heap and the local players.
“It was so easy to promote [him] with his pedigree and his background, as well as being a Canadian. It was great for us. We were really happy.”
According to Heap, 2017 was one of the biggest years in Cranbrook soccer to date, with a major success story being the KEYSA Rovers U18 team winning a bronze medal at the BC Provincial Soccer ‘B’ Championship.
“It was the first time they’ve ever medalled at provincials [which] was probably one of the [most important] highlights that this area has ever had for soccer,” he said. “The board of KEYSA has taken so many good steps in the past few years to develop the area and develop soccer… for them to get a bronze at provincials was phenomenal for this area.
“I’m really hoping that the junior teams below the U18s see that as a real motivation.”