VFC Welcomes Assistant Coaches Marco Ferreira and Azad Palani

The Vancouver FC squad is shaping up both on and off the pitch as the Eagles announced their two new assistant coaches who will join Afshin Ghotbi’s staff for 2024.

Brazilian Marco Ferreira and Kurdish-Canadian Azad Palani will both be making their coaching debuts in the Canadian Premier League (CPL) this season and both bring a wealth of knowledge to the table.

“I am very excited to add both an international coach and a local coach to my team this season,” said Ghotbi, Vancouver’s head coach.

Ferreira has coached across the globe after he retired from his 17-year playing career as a goalkeeper for various professional clubs in Brazil. The 59-year-old uniquely brings Olympic experience to Langley first as a player, representing his native of Brazil in the 1992 Olympics where he secured a shutout victory in his lone appearance, and second as a coach, for South Korea at the 2004 Olympics where the nation went all the way to the quarter-finals.

However, most of Ferreira’s resume contains the same stops as Ghotbi as the two have coached more than 200 matches together since they first met on the bench in 2008.

“I am thrilled to bring Cossa [Marco], who I have known and worked on-and-off with for more than two decades, to Vancouver,” said Ghotbi.

Ferreira has coached alongside Ghotbi as either a goalkeeping coach or assistant coach in Japan, Thailand, China, and Iran. Prior to working with Ghotbi, Ferreira got his coaching break in Korea’s domestic soccer league, K League, before joining the South Korean National team and heading to the Olympics as a goalkeeping coach in 2004.

“Cossa [Marco] has worked in more than eight counties across two continents for national and club teams and I’m certain that his vast international experience will be invaluable to the growth of VFC’s technical staff,” said Ghotbi.

Ferreira’s most recent coaching stint was with China’s Women’s national team which he joined in 2021 and was a part of the staff that went to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

As with Ghotbi’s squad, his coaching staff demonstrates a balance of inspired internationals, in Ferreira, and local talent which he has brought in with Palani.

“Azad has played a big role in the development of football in the local community,” said Ghotbi. “I am happy to add a young, talented, energetic and charismatic coach to our staff.”

Palani is well known in Vancouver’s amateur and youth soccer scene, beginning as a player and developing into a coach. During his youth growing up in Surrey, B.C., Palani participated in local youth soccer, represented B.C.’s provincial youth team, and received an invitation to a Canada U-17 identification camp in 2000. 

Palani went on to play collegiate soccer at Douglas College, where he won the Provincial Championship in 2004, and began his long tenure of playing organized amateur soccer. The Kurdish-Canadian coach represented Coquitlam Metro-Ford (CMFSC) and Surrey FC Pegasus of the Vancouver Metro Soccer League (VMSL), and Langley United Premier in the Fraser Valley Soccer League (FVSL) over the course of 16 years.

Most notably during his adult playing career, Palani won the Adult Provincial Championship twice with Surrey FC Pegasus in 2011 and 2016, and in the former year, went on to compete for the Challenge Trophy at the Toyota National Championship in which his team came second. After playing for Langley United Prem, Palani transitioned to coaching for the team and continues to do so to this day.

“Azad will play an important role in supporting me with group and individual training, and I believe he will contribute to our continual growth as a football club,” said Ghotbi.

Palani first began coaching in 2010 for Surrey FC before moving to Langley United Soccer Association (LUSA) just three years later. Palani has risen through the ranks at LUSA, reaching the position of assistant technical director with the help of technical director Mark Parker. Palani will continue to hold his role as assistant technical director at LUSA while coaching with the Eagles, to foster further collaboration between LUSA and VFC which enables both clubs to thrive together while doing more within the local soccer community.

Palani was also an assistant coach for TSS Rovers of League1 BC in 2023 which was the same team that made it to the quarter-finals of the Canadian Championship.

Ferreira and Palani, along with goalkeeping coach Mark Village, now join Ghotbi and the rest of the Eagles in pre-season training to prepare for the club’s second CPL season. With less than two months until Vancouver’s home opener on Apr. 14, the coaches will be looking to usher in a new chapter for the fledgling club.