Ottawa Fury FC head into Friday night’s game against Canadian rivals FC Edmonton (“the Eddies”… ugh…) coming off two straight draws against Indy Eleven and Miami FC, both very strong opponents. The ties are especially impressive considering the incredible number of injuries the Fury have. Top players like Kyle Venter, Gerardo Bruna, Rich Balchan and Kyle Porter are all out long-term, and that’s nowhere near all of them. After the tie against Miami FC, coach Paul Dalglish said “I’ve never known anything like this. We’ve got a lot of experience on our staff, we’ve never seen anything like this in our careers.”
While the Fury fight to overcome this plague of injuries and stay in the hunt for a playoff spot, one player whose role has grown significantly is Portuguese-born Canadian Mauro Eustáquio. Apt613 spoke with Mauro about his path to Ottawa, his influences, and fish.
Apt613: Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Portugal. I was born in a little fishing town called Nazaré. I moved to Leamington, Ontario at the age of 1.
Can you speak Portuguese?
Yes, I consider Portuguese my first language.
Did you play anything besides soccer when you were growing up?
No, not really. Soccer was a sport that I grew up with in my family. My dad used to play soccer, he also played futsal, my uncles all played soccer… Soccer was the number one sport in the house. Obviously, coming from a Portuguese family, soccer is like a religion back there. My first toy was a soccer ball.
Can you describe the path that led you to Ottawa?
I was playing in an academy in Portugal, and I had a coach who got in contact with the CSA [Canadian Soccer Association]. In my last year there, I got a call up to Canada’s U20. We had two games against Mexico, with Phil Dos Santos [one of Fury FC’s original assistant coaches, and original Academy coach] as assistant coach. I went to the camp, which went very well for me. A couple months later I got called up to the Francophone Games and that tournament, and at that point Phil Dos Santos was [Canada’s] head coach. I had a good tournament and [Dos Santos] liked me, and he knew his brother Marc was going to get the job (as Fury FC’s first head coach). He gave me a call and asked what was my club situation was… and got to talking to me just as a person. I think that’s one thing Marc liked, he wanted good players but he also wanted good people in the locker room. He gave me the opportunity, I took it, and I’ve been in Ottawa ever since.
You’ve been with the team since the beginning. Do you feel maybe a sense of ownership or pride seeing the way the team has grown with you?
Yeah, it’s been an unreal ride. I’ve been here for three years now. I saw the stadium when it wasn’t [finished] yet, the first tours, looking at how it was going to be, and all that. Going from our first year at Carleton, having an average of 1,500 people every game, to go to TD Place and having consistent four or five thousand people, that’s something huge. On a personal and professional level, it’s been my first time in a professional environment in a club, so it’s something I’ve learned from and taken as much information as I could. Playing with big names like Richie Ryan who taught me a lot, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, who also taught me a lot… Julian de Guzman came in our second year… I’ve taken as much as I can from those guys who have stable careers, and that’s something I want for myself, to have a stable career just like them.
There were a lot of changes in this past off-season, a lot of new faces, particularly a new coach in Paul Dalglish. Is it difficult as a player to transition to a new coach who maybe brings a new philosophy to the team?
I wouldn’t say it’s difficult. Football is football. Soccer is soccer. There’s many ways to play the game. As a professional soccer player you have to be able to adapt. You’re going to always have the same coach. You’re not always going to have the same teammates. You’re not going to always be at the same club for your whole career. We lost a lot of big names, but that’s what happens when you do well and win titles, your bigger names leave for other places for better contracts. That’s what you want, you want to give the opportunity to yourself, to your family, to fulfill their dreams and get bigger contracts. Obviously there were a lot of changes, I think the first couple weeks, getting to know what Paul wanted and getting to know the [new] players was hard to deal with. But I think, after those first weeks, the team knew how Paul wanted us to play, what were his ideas towards the game. We’ve had low moments in the season, but I think slowly we’ve been getting to what we want, which is winning games.
Fun Facts about Mauro Eustáquio
What was your favourite team growing up?
S.L. Benfica (in the Portuguese top tier)
Favourite sport besides soccer?
Who has had the biggest impact on your career?
Richie Ryan. He took me in like his son. We knew we were fighting for the same position, but we never looked at each other as rivals. He took me in, said “Hey kiddo, I’m here to help, we’re on the same team, and we’re going to do this together.”
Who is the best player you’ve ever played with or against?
With: Richie Ryan or Julian de Guzman
Favourite kind of fish?
Favourite pre-game meal?
Grilled chicken and white rice (but not a lot)
What’s a fact about you, or an interest of yours that most people wouldn’t know about you?
I’ve had the same game Speedos for the past six years. Kind of a lucky charm.
What would you be doing if you weren’t playing soccer?
I’d have a degree in architecture.
Ottawa Fury FC takes on the FC Edmonton at TD Place this Friday, September 2nd. Kickoff is at 7pm. Fury FC tickets are available online, by phone at 613-232-6767 ext 1, or in person at the TD Place Box Office.