Soccer fever in the city is rising as the Canadian men’s national team prepares to compete in their first World Cup in 36 years.
With that in mind, we have rounded-up six Calgary players who are starring in top leagues in Europe, some getting ready for the Cup.
Calgary-born English defender Fikayo Tomori has been a rock at the back for Italian title contenders AC Milan, starting in seven out of their eight matches in October. Tomori scored his first goal of the season and won man of the match in his Oct. 8 match against Juventus, but his defensive contributions are what makes him irreplaceable for Italy’s reigning champions. So far this season, Tomori leads his team in tackles, interceptions, and clearances.
Unfortunately, Tomori was also the recipient of a contentious red card in an important Champions League game against his former club, Chelsea on Oct. 11. His sending off left AC Milan a man down for 72 minutes, which proved to be too big of a loss for Milan as they were defeated 2-0.
Despite the controversy, Tomori’s form has not gone unnoticed by England fans, as he has been a subject of great discussion on the English defence ahead of the World Cup.
Tomori is eligible for the Canadian national team, and he even represented Canada at the under-20 level, however having already represented the England first team in two matches, a change of nationality is highly unlikely.
Born in London, Sam Adekugbe moved with his family to Calgary when he was 10. Now, the 27-year-old plays for Hatayspor in the Turkish Super Lig.
October marked the debut of Hatayspor’s new manager, Volkan Demirel, which meant Adekugbe had a clean slate to impress his new boss. Unfortunately, Demirel opted to bench Adekugbe for the first three games of the month, only bringing him off the bench in two of those games. Adekugbe was finally given a start for Hatayspor’s Oct. 24 clash against heavily favoured Turkish giants Besiktas, where he played all 90 minutes in a “shock” 2-1 win according to Turkish Football journalist Emre Sarigul.
Adekugbe then played all 90 minutes of Hatayspor’s next match, which resulted in a 4-1 loss. Despite the result, Adekugbe seems to have won back the starting spot, which is a good sign for the World Cup-bound Canadian national team regular.
Much like Adekugbe, Aribim Pepple was born in England and moved to Calgary at a young age. Pepple came up through the Calgary youth soccer infrastructure, and earned a move to English second division side Luton Town in August after his red-hot form for Cavalry FC attracted a number of English clubs. Currently, the striker plays for Grimsby Town in the English fourth tier, after being loaned out by Luton.
Pepple has struggled to find consistent game time this season for Grimsby, and October has proven no different for the 19-year-old. He was awarded a start in Grimsby’s Oct. 1 match, but was taken off early into the second half, “having struggled to get into the contest,” according to Luton Today journalist Mike Simmonds. However, Pepple managed to record his first assist of the season during the following match, as he came off the bench late in the second half in a 3-0 win.
Pepple’s game time has been rising steadily in the three matches since, as the search for his elusive first goal in English soccer continues.
Victor Loturi & William Akio
Brothers Victor Loturi and William Akio both ply their trades for Scottish Premiership club Ross County, but their paths to the team could not have been more different.
Born and raised in Calgary, Loturi played all of his youth soccer in the city. Having attended Mount Royal University and played for Calgary Foothills and Cavalry FC, he is a true homegrown product of Calgary’s soccer setup.
Akio’s path could not have varied more from his younger brother’s. Born in 1998 at a refugee camp in Kenya to South Sudanese parents fleeing civil war, Akio and his family immigrated to Calgary – where he grew up and played youth soccer. Akio spent two years at SAIT, then transferred to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to play Division 1 college soccer. From there, he secured a professional contract with Valour FC in 2021. The same year, Akio was called up to the South Sudan national team.
This summer, Ross County announced they had signed both brothers from their respective Canadian Premier League teams, finally uniting them on their soccer paths. Loturi was signed from Cavalry after a strong year where he established himself as a key player for the Cavs. Akio was signed from Valour after scoring 10 goals in 44 appearances.
Unfortunately, the brothers have struggled to find game time for their new club. Akio started in Ross County’s Oct. 1 game, a 2-0 loss, but was taken off early in the second half. Since then, he’s come off the bench in three of the last five games, but ultimately has had little impact on the games.
Loturi has had even less time on the pitch than his brother, only coming off the bench in one of Ross County’s six matches in October. The midfielder may see more game time next month, however, as starter Ross Callachan suffered an injury in County’s Oct. 22 match. Loturi came off the bench for his first minutes of the month in the following match on Oct. 30, a 2-1 loss.
Born and raised in Calgary, Scott Kennedy played youth soccer in the city before moving to Germany at the age of 18 to pursue the sport professionally. Now, the 25-year-old has made eight appearances for the Canadian national team, and plays for Jahn Regensburg in the German second division.
Kennedy kicked off the month on a high after joining up with Adekugbe and the Canadian national team for their fixtures in late September, where he was an unused substitute. Once he returned to his club, he played every match in October, only sitting out one game in the German Cup. Kennedy would have been a lock for Canada’s World Cup squad, however in Jahn Regensburg’s Oct. 29 match he suffered a shoulder injury in the 8th minute, which ruled him out for “a few months,” according to Regensburg head coach Mersad Selimbegovic.
Heartbreaking news for Kennedy as he is set to watch the World Cup from the sidelines.