Victoria Highlanders player Craig Gorman celebrates a goal during the 2012 PDL season at Royal Athletic Park.

Victoria Highlanders player Craig Gorman celebrates a goal during the 2012 PDL season at Royal Athletic Park.

Highlanders seek Mexican playboys

New general manager Mark de Frias is boldly taking the Victoria Highlanders where they’ve never gone before, to the front page of Playboy

New general manager Mark de Frias is boldly taking the Victoria Highlanders where they’ve never gone before, to the front page of Playboy’s website.

Playboy Mexico, that is (warning, link features mature content).

It’s all part of an out-of-the-box approach to recruiting players this season, the first with de Frias and head coach Steve Simonson at the helm of the Highlanders’ premier men’s team.

The Highlanders have a history of fielding imports such as Ash Burbeary of England and Tynan Diaz of Australia.

This year de Frias is big on a Belgian player who is committed to attending the Highlanders’ upcoming trials, April 8 to 10, at the Pacific Sports Institute of Excellence.

But it’s interest and requests from young males in Mexico that are filling the GM’s inbox.

“It’s not exactly where everyone would think we’d be found (in the media),” de Frias said.

You can say that again. But it also makes sense, given the, ahem, demographics of the site’s viewers, and that country’s penchant to produce high level soccer players the numbers of which Canada does not have.

As of Monday the GM had 40 requests from the story, which, to be clear, is strictly about soccer, a feature on how the Highlanders organization got off the ground and it’s direction moving forward.

It’s also clearly directed at recruiting players for the Highlanders men’s Professional Development League team and not the premier women’s side, respectfully, which will feature local players as it returns to the Pacific Coast Soccer League after a stint in the W-League.

The story, titled Mexican footballers wanted, came about as Playboy Mexico’s web editor Erick Tapia, who interviewed de Frias and wrote the story, is friends with Highlanders new administration assistant Saul Garcia, a UVic grad who hails originally from Mexico.

“In terms of responses from one particular article it’s generated a lot of response for the PDL men’s team. If anything it’s just more proof how important it is to us to compete, and to find hidden gems out there,” de Frias said.

“And it helps our branding objectives of going global, it broadens the horizon of an amateur club playing fully professional teams.”

With the Fraser Valley (Abbotsford) Mariners dropping out of the PDL this year it means the Northwest division is down to seven teams and, more importantly, is down to three instead of four playoff spots.

The Highlanders will return the Hughes brothers, Jordie at striker and Tyler on defence, as well as six or seven UVic Vikes, de Frias said. Only eight players on the PDL roster can be over 23-years-old.

“We want to make it into the playoffs and the championship final. But five of the last six years the finalists have come from our division, most of them MLS reserve clubs, fully professional. It’s no easy thing.”

Hey, no one can argue with what works.

The Highlanders aren’t expecting 40 prospective Mexican players to show up at trials next week. But they’d also be surprised if two, maybe three, of the most interested players didn’t make it here.

In the end the players are ultimately selected by Simonson, though it’s also de Frias’ job to bring in as many quality players as possible.The usual channels are still open, and are also being expanded where possible, he said. In particular that includes CIS and NCAA teams.

Athletes who travel here for Highlanders tryouts must cover their own costs during their stay, though players selected to the team will get most, or perhaps all, of their travel and accommodation costs reimbursed.

Trials run 8 p.m. at PISE beginning Monday night.

Interested players need to be in touch with the Highlanders office 250-590-8432 email trials@victoriahighlandersfc.com.

sports@vicnews.com