After three and a half remarkable years, the time has come for York United to say au revoir to Diyaeddine Abzi.
With the fullback moving on to Ligue 2 side Pau FC after York’s Canadian Championship semifinal tie on Wednesday, the Nine Stripes will — for the first real time in their history — find themselves without the player who may well be the best they’ve ever had.
This is not a pitiable moment for York, though; rather, it’s a celebratory chapter in the organization’s history, with Abzi’s transfer to France a concrete testament to not only the player’s talent but the work the club has done in developing him. In fact, it’s a core mission of the CPL made manifest: A young player who may otherwise have slipped through the cracks thrived when offered a platform, and the world noticed.
Sitting down with CanPL.ca after his final training session at York Lions Stadium, Abzi took a few moments to reflect on his meteoric rise at York.
“I was waiting for this moment so long,” Abzi said. “From the beginning here I was just thinking about playing good, expressing myself, showing all the people what I can do on the field. Now it’s paying (off), I get the move and I’m happy to get this new challenge.”
The Morocco-born, Montreal-raised left-back was one of the first players to sign for the CPL club — at the time known as York9 FC — back in February 2019. He is, now, one of just two players (alongside Roger Thompson) to have worn York’s colours in each of its four seasons.
Prior to taking his chance in the fledgling league, though, Abzi was miles from the professional game. He’d been playing in the Première ligue de soccer du Québec, the province’s semi-pro division, for AS Blainville, in addition to a brief futsal stint (including a cap with the Canadian national futsal team).
Four years later, though, Abzi is on his way to one of the most competitive second-tier leagues in the world. To him, a large part of the credit is owed to York United and the CPL.
“Without the CPL nothing can happen like that,” he said. “I was playing futsal, playing semi-professional; that’s the highest level I could play here before MLS. Then when the CPL came, it just opened the door for a lot of young talented players here in Canada. It’s something big for Canada, and this is what the league do. It takes people like that, like me, and helps them to show themselves to the biggest clubs in the other football countries.”
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One last match with the Nine Stripes for @Abzi__20 @charliejclarke sat down with the @yorkutdfc defender ahead of tonight’s #CanChamp Semifinal and prior to heading overseas to join @PauFootballClub 🛫 pic.twitter.com/nmX1VBTFc5
— Canadian Premier League (@CPLsoccer) June 22, 2022