Alex Bunbury played for Canada from 1986-97, earning 66 caps. (Photo courtesy of Canada Soccer)
Former Canada International Alex Bunbury was a gifted player. The Guyana-born forward is one of 93 honored players in the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame thanks to his national-team career and club spells in Canada, England, Portugal and the United States. He scored 16 goals in 66 matches for the Canadians, playing in two editions of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, while also appearing in 30 World Cup qualifiers (11 goals). The 49-year-old took some time to speak with CONCACAF.com, reflecting on his career as a player and updating on us on his current activities.
How old were you when you first started to play football?
I was 12 years of age when I first started to play football. When I started to play this game that is when I fell in love with the sport.
Before moving to Canada, did you play any football in Guyana?
No, cricket was the sport I loved in the village of Plaisance in Guyana. In Guyana, it was all about cricket and aiming to represent the West Indies. I didn’t learn the sport of football until I moved to Canada with my family.
Growing up did you have any footballing hero's or any players you looked up to?
Not really, I looked up to my older brothers Roy, Morrell, Sammy and Tony who were outstanding players.
How key were Hamilton Steelers in your development as a player?
It was instrumental I would say. It taught me how to be a professional on and off the field. I got the opportunity to play with some excellent players and a great organization led by Mario Debartolomeo. It laid the foundations for me for sure.
You also had spells in England and Portugal. How do you compare the football you played in Europe with what you played in North America like in the MLS?
Playing for West Ham United, even though I didn't get an opportunity to really showcase my God given talent, was a wonderful experience. It was an experience that taught me discipline and team chemistry. My move to Maritimo in Portugal was the best thing that ever happened to me in the football world. To be their all-time leading scorer to this day is still so humbling. The comparison was night and day, but you could tell that the MLS will be a formidable league.
You made your debut for Canada in 1986 against Singapore. What was your feeling on that occasion?
There's not a better feeling in football. To have the honor to represent the country that gave you and your family so much and to do it at the age of 18 was truly a blessing. Words cannot describe the shear pride and humility because I know how much joy it gave to my parents, siblings, coaches and teammates that were so supportive and encouraging at my formative years as a player.
Over the years as a player, did it ever cross your mind of wanting to or thinking about representing Guyana?
To be honest it never did because I learned to play football in my adoptive country of Canada. My love for the country of my birth always burned inside of me to this day. Hence, the Alex Bunbury Sports and Academics Academy-Guyana project that I set up in collaboration with the government of Guyana. It’s to bring hope and opportunity to our young people especially the disadvantaged. This is my way of giving back to the land of my birth and I am very happy I have found a way that I can give back to Guyana. This academy is planned towards people in Guyana and giving them opportunities that they don’t normally get, assisting with the essentials to get them on track in life. I am now the agent of Jeremy Garrett. He will be back on trial in Portugal in the summer. Hopefully more Guyanese players will get these opportunities.
For the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Canada is in Group A with Honduras, Costa Rica and French Guiana. How do you rate its chances of progressing to the knockout stages?
I believe Canada has the talent to progress to the knockout stages, especially with the newly appointed head coach (Octavio Zambrano). What I admire about this Canadian team is that they have a clear identity. They know how they want to play and how to execute their plans.
What advice do you have for young people who want to play football professionally?
I tell every young player that I coach and mentor that they must be able to take in instruction, process it and execute it quickly. With great focus, commitment and sacrifice you have a shot...because you are motivated and driven.
You are currently a player agent, but outside of football, what do you like to do for fun?
I like to read, listen to music and golf.