Charlie Trafford’s great Finnish adventure is over.
Trafford has spent most of his entire professional career playing in Finland, but the Canadian midfielder announced on Tuesday he has signed a one-and-half-year deal with Korona Kielce of the Ekstraklasa, Poland’s top division.
Trafford, a 23-year-old native of Calgary, was out of contract at Kuopion Palloseura (or KuPS), having played with the Finnish team since last year.
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“This is a big step (signing with Korona Kielce), and it's been exciting. I’m just looking to develop and keep working hard and ultimately just enjoy this next part of the journey,” Trafford told Sportsnet.
Korona Kielce and the Polish league is a step up from the Finnish first division for Trafford—and not just in terms of the standard of play.
“It’ll be cool playing in front of 10-, 20-, 30,000 people every week. That's what you dream about as a kid. I have a Polish passport and lots of family in Poland, so that adds to the joy of signing here. Going to play somewhere that has a part of me and is in my blood is special,” Trafford offered.
Trafford is a former member of the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program. He later played at York University before joining Dutch club De Graafschap. Trafford then made the move to Finland, where his cousin Mason Trafford (who currently plays with the NASL’s Ottawa Fury) arranged for him to sign with IFK Mariehamn in 2013.
Trafford also featured for Turun Palloseura (TPS) while in Finland, and was named KuPS’s player of the year for 2014.
He was called up by the Canadian national team on an emergency basis last month for the Reds’ friendly against Ghana in Washington, D.C., and played 75 minutes in earning his first cap. Trafford hopes his move to Poland will lead to more opportunities with the national side.
“Anytime you become an international footballer people look at you differently, and being called up by Canada, it helped me sign this deal after two good years in Finland,” Trafford explained.
“The Canada call-up helped me get this job; in return this will help me progress as a player and I hope to continue to get more calls to play for Canada.”
Finland and Poland aren’t exactly the most glamorous European leagues. But they are divisions where hungry, young players such as Trafford can cut their teeth and use as a stepping stone to advance their careers.
Trafford doesn’t mind “slumming it,” as he views it simply as paying his dues.
“I think I'll always be the underdog, the long shot kid, but that's the way I like it,” Trafford said.
“My dad always told there are no short cuts in life, so you better put your head down and grind. And I guess that's what I've done and won't stop doing. I was never picked for a youth Canadian national team. But I'm slowly coming up, sneaking under the radar.”