Carleton soccer star caps winning week with historic draft selection

Ottawa's Gabriel Bitar has had a pretty good week.

The Carleton University men's soccer team striker led his squad to third place in the national university championships with a two-goal performance against the Trinity Western Spartans on Sunday.

Then that night, surrounded by his family, Bitar received a phone call telling him he'd been picked first overall in the inaugural university draft of the new Canadian Premier League (CPL), set to kick off next spring.

'You can always improve on everything. So as long as I know that I'm improving. I know that I'm going the right way.' - Gabriel Bitar

"I tried to tell them it was an important call but they told me to put it on speaker phone. So I had to," Bitar said.

The 20-year-old graduate of the Ottawa Fury soccer academy said the new league will give university soccer players like him a place to play, even after classes end.

"This is an incredible opportunity for all student athletes such as myself. It gives us the opportunity to play for a professional team in the summer. Also, it gives us the opportunity to sign a professional contract after we're done our schooling," Bitar said.

Focused on learning, on and off pitch

Carleton University

"School is the reason I got this opportunity, so I'm still trying to focus on finishing school and doing well in it." 

In fact, Bitar sees life as one big learning opportunity, both on and off the pitch.  

"I've had many high-quality coaches throughout my career with Ottawa Fury," he noted.

One of those former mentors, Martin Nash, is now with Calgary Cavalry FC, the team that picked Bitar.

The success hasn't gone to Bitar's head: he knows he's still developing as a player, and pledges to keep improving.

"Just working on my touches, my shooting, getting faster, getting stronger, learning the game, learning how to play smarter. I think those are all things I can improve on. I mean, you can always get better, you can always improve on everything. So as long as I know that I'm improving, I know that I'm going the right way."