Returning to the North: Kembo Kibato to earn first professional minutes in Canada with Vancouver FC

On the heels of Vancouver FC signing Canadian Elage Bah to their 2024 roster, the Eagles have brought another Canadian home to the North: midfielder Kembo Kibato. The 23-year-old hailing from North York, Ont., is set to compete for his first professional minutes on Canadian soil since he began his career in 2020.

“Vancouver FC is an exciting project with so much potential,” said Kembo ahead of his first day with his new club. “I am thankful for the teams I’ve been able to play with so far in my career, but it is particularly special for me to represent a Canadian team on Canadian soil.”

For Kibato, it has been a long time coming to play in Canada after spending his entire professional career playing abroad with various teams in the United Soccer League (USL). He got his first break with the now-defunct Rio Grande Valley FC in 2020 before moving onto FC Tulsa and, most recently, Hartford Athletic.

The attacking midfielder made more than 90 professional matches in the USL including an appearance in the 2021 USL Eastern Conference quarter-finals as well as two appearances in FC Tulsa’s US Open Cup matches in 2022. After his second season with the Oklahoma-based team, Kibato even earned Newcomer of the Year award for his impact on the field and is something that Afshin Ghotbi, VFC’s Head Coach, will be looking for Kibato to bring to the Vancouver squad.

“Kembo embodies a modern midfielder with the physical and technical range to play box-to-box on both sides of the game,” said Ghotbi. “He is a hard working ball winner who can also play an important role in creating and scoring goals.”

Kibato not only brings abroad experience from the States, he also spent six months training with Danish Second Division team FC Helsingør in 2019 before returning stateside at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The last time that Kibato represented a Canadian team was back in his youth soccer days in Ontario, where he developed through Toronto FC’s academy system. Now, the 23-year-old is excited to fight for his opportunity to play professionally in Canada, “I want to play for and I want to fight for a coach who believes in me.

“I’m looking forward to playing my first professional games in Canada with this club.”