LUCA GASPAROTTO was searching for a fresh start when he made the agonising decision to quit Scotland and return to Canada – only to end up wearing a kilt for a living.
Fate has a twisted sense of humour.
The former Rangers defender was facing an uncertain future last summer when his hopes of staying at Morton went up in smoke, having initially believed he would be handed a new contract.
Rather than pursue part-time football in the SPFL, Gasparotto chose to move back to his homeland of Toronto, ending a seven-year stay in Scotland that saw him also turn out for Falkirk and Airdrie.
He was sounded out by the coaches at York9 about joining them for the inaugural Canadian Premier League [CPL] season but, with seven months before their pre-season was slated to begin, Gasparotto was forced to find a day job.
He ended up tending bar at Fionn MacCools in Toronto, serving up beer and pub grub while sporting traditional Scottish garb.
He told Capital City Press: “I had the option to stay in Scotland, maybe go part-time for a year and see how that developed. Or I could come back to Canada and regroup and start again. It was a really tough decision.
“I knew about this league [CPL], I had connections with the coaches at York9 and things went from there. But it was around seven months between coming home and actually starting pre-season – so I had to get a part-time job.
“I ended up working in a restaurant for four days a week. It was called Fionn MacCool’s, an Irish and Scottish bar in Toronto. I had to wear a kilt as part of the uniform so, after moving 3,500 miles away from Scotland, I had to see the funny side of that!
“I trained as much as I could on my own, just trying to keep sharp and stay fit. It was a really testing time, but one I’ve come out of stronger. I knew where I was going, where I wanted to be and that kept me going.”
Gasparotto can smile now. His is a tale with a happy ending.
The towering defender did indeed pen terms with York9, becoming one of their marquee signings for a season that has already captured the imagination in Canada.
Gasparotto made history last weekend when York9 played out a 1-1 draw against Forge FC in front of close to 18,000 fans in the inaugural CPL fixture. The showdown at Tim Horton’s Field was the first professional Canadian league match in more than 30 years.
He continued: “It was a little bit of history and I will never forget that day. It was a massive occasion for Canadian soccer – and has been a long time coming.
“The public have really embraced the league, the media coverage has been amazing with spots on TV and real interest in the games so far.
“I think everybody can already see this will only grow and grow. To get so many fans to the game on opening day was just incredible.
“It was special to have my family there as well. Obviously, playing most of my career in Scotland, it wasn’t the easiest for them to come and watch me – so I’ll need to get used to them critiquing my performances from now on!”
Gasparotto believes the interest in the sport will continue to surge as the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted jointly by Canada, Mexico and the U.S., edges closer.
Money is being ploughed into the game, infrastructure is improving and the national team – of which Rangers star Scott Arfield is among the mainstays – is visibly progressing.
And it is a stage he is desperate to perform on after, remarkably, being part of six full squads in the past without getting on the pitch to make his debut.
Gasparotto, an under-23 internationalist, continued: “Players like Scott Arfield, Junior Hoilett and Alphonso Davies at Bayern at playing at an amazing level and showing a commitment to play for the national side.
“The prospect of having a World Cup on your doorstep is exciting for the people, the fans and all the Canadian players – it is just feeding into that buzz around the league at the moment.
“Canadians are becoming much more engaged with the game and we are moving in a positive direction. The challenge for every player is to get in the squad and get the chance to represent your country on that stage.
“I know my goal is to get back involved with the national team on a regular basis. I’ve had a taste of that and I want to become a mainstay of that team. I know I’ll need to keep improving and impressing – but that carrot is there.”