Yvonne Zacharias points out that the Vancouver Whitecaps' roster features players from 17 different birth nations and a locker room humming with seven different
languages. Seventeen leads MLS; the Seattle Sounders are next with 15.
Some Whitecaps players like Martin Bonjour from Argentina can barely speak English. Others like Long Tan from China have a halting knowledge of it acquired from a long sojourn through English-speaking countries on the soccer-playing circuit. Eric Hassli, the giant striker from France, blinks into the sunlight and explains in French how much coming to Vancouver and playing for the Whitecaps have meant to him.
When Bonjour can’t understand what is going on on the playing field, there are about four players who speak Spanish, including Omar Salgado from El Paso, Texas, and Davide Chiumiento, who was born in Switzerland but speaks several languages.
It falls to Scottish-born coach Martin Rennie to stitch this disparate group together into one cohesive team. “Someone comes in and they don’t speak English," he said. "It takes time to get them to understand key soccer phrases and then obviously the whole language. It allows us to build team chemistry. ... It’s really a fun group of people.”