By Thomas Nef, speaking to Bohemians’ Canadian winger, Kris Twardek.
You’ve been living away from home for six years now, since 2013. What’s it like being a Canadian overseas and flying the flag there?
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play overseas for six years going on seven now. Starting off at Everton at a young age, getting scouted and travelling back and forth until finally committing at the age of 16 to Millwall.
“Doing a scholarship program there for two years in the youth team system, following up into the reserve team, and breaking into the first team eventually while they were in the Championship.
“I followed that up with a few loan spells and eventually moving to the Irish Premier Division. And now, again, starting a new adventure with a new team and the Irish first division with Bohemians.
“So, it’s a real honour and privilege to be a Canadian playing abroad because there’s not too many, but there’s definitely more and more coming as the sport is developing in the country.
“I’m proud to be one of few Canadians that have played in the Championship, and probably in the Irish league as well. So yes, definitely a privilege.”
Do you still think you would be a professional footballer if you hadn’t left Ottawa at age 16? Given that Ottawa fury began in 2014.
“I think for me, I was very fortunate having dual citizenship. With the Czech passport. And it’s easier to make the jump into Europe, so with limited opportunities in Canada, you know with the Fury not available anymore, and in the past the real options were Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, so for Canadians, those were the outlets. And for me, I decided to take a different route into Europe.”
Can you speak about your development in the UK? While coming up through the ranks in the academy and playing Championship, League One, and having had gone on loan stints in League Two and National League.
“My progression came through England. Starting off at Millwall FC in the championship. The manager at the time was Steve Lomas and then Ian Holloway,
“I made good strides early on, establishing myself as a good player in the youth system and then progressing into the reserve team, and then making a progression which was rare at the time at the club into the first team in the Championship. Making a few appearances there and in the FA Cup.
“So I was fortunate with that and that led to opportunities. Going on loan which were difficult in the development stages as a young player in a country with so many clubs for professional sides to choose from for young players to come on loan.
“It was a challenge to get that so I was fortunate enough to go on loans to Braintree Town at a young age in the National League and to a very good league — League Two with Carlisle United.
“So that was great for learning. You obviously go through different challenges when you go on loan. You learn how to play with men, you learn the importance of winning matches, you learn the importance of, you know, tracking your honour. Clinical and product. And just being able to manage your work rate to get the most effectiveness out of your performance.”
At Sligo Rovers, you had the chance to play alongside a fellow Canadians Sam Warde and Daryl Fordyce who has Permanent Residence. Were you three close in the locker room?
“In Sligo on the west coast of Ireland. That was the team I committed to signing with Millwall. It was a great opportunity to get matches and develop at what was a really good club community club. It was really important to that area of fans and a club where young players were given a chance.
“So, for me, it was great to have foreign players coming in from Jamaica, Romeo Parkes and Dante Leverock from Bermuda.
“Two people with ties to Canada — Sam Ward with Canadian background and Darryl Fordyce, who is a permanent resident and played with FC Edmonton and did fantastic there. I think maybe he is still the record goalscorer for the club and just a fantastic player for them and for us.
“Real lucky and fortunate to have some different Canadians there with me at the time.“
Why is Milwall one of the most disliked clubs in England? Their fans? Obviously you have an appreciation for them.
“Millwall fans are special. I think that’s definitely the word you’d have to use to describe them. You can love them or you can hate them but they’re extremely passionate and they follow their club to the ends of the earth.
“So I think I was really fortunate to be a part of that, that real deep football culture and just how important it is to an entire area, a group of fans that will travel home and away for, you know, the entire year, whether it’s the six-hour drive and to Stoke on a cold Tuesday night. you know they’ll be there and then they’ll be at the next home match as well.
“So I think it was really special to be at a club like that with fans that that cared so much about about about their team.”
The past two seasons is where you really excelled in minutes played. 47 games total – a breakthrough in your young career that is just starting.
“After leaving the wall it was an opportunity to get consistent games, and so there are different outlets players can take. Some hold off and go and trials and get themselves to a really high level and try and work their way into the squad by side.
“Ireland is a great opportunity. It was an opportunity where I felt that the manager was going to give me lots of opportunities to play and I was going to develop.
“Coming to Ireland was a good opportunity for me to pursue regular matches and then learn my own game, and get myself to the highest level where I’m playing consistently, 30 games a season at the highest level, not just one, two, three, four, five, maybe six games a year.
“So it’s important for me that I got that development and it was a good decision in the end.
“You mentioned there in the question, over the course of this season for sure this full 12 month year that I played 47 matches. An appearance in every game this season and that’s just what you need at a young age.
“Not only having to perform consistently but managing your body and having a certain level of professionalism to keep yourself away from injuries, keep yourself fresh and ready to perform every week.”
Tell me what it was like to play for Czech Republic in your youth — your father’s country. Did you speak the language and how cool was it to play in UEFA tournaments?
“Like I mentioned before, I have a Canadian and Czech passport and so whenever I was playing in Europe, it made sense to follow my Czech heritage and play for the Czech youth national team when they showed interest.
“And that was a fantastic experience for me playing from under 17 to under 19. There was an opportunity to qualify for the Euros for under 17 and under 19 age groupß. And for myself in my first year, I think I made 11 appearances for the under 17s. And, and by the end of, of my entire time with the Czech Republic, I probably played close to 20 competitive youth team fixtures.
“It was an amazing opportunity to be surrounded by players, you know like Vaclav Cerny who was at sixteen a fantastic talent that played a similar position to me, and I thought, well, what better opportunity than to play with the best and learn from them.
“There was an opportunity to play against England under 17s in the Euro qualifiers where it was essentially between us to to see was going to qualify for the final competition.
“There were players such as Roman Macek of Ajax, and there was myself at Millwall which was great to be a part of such talented players a talented group, some playing first-team football in the Czech first league.
“It was special and to be a part and is something that will always stay with me. It was something that helped my development as well, to adopt some of the Czech philosophies into my style.”
In 2016 you switched your allegiance to Canada. What went into that decision? Did it have anything to do with the World Cup 2026
“My biggest reason to change for the national team, obviously I’m Canadian and I feel a lot of pride to be Canadian and to represent them at any level is a massive honour to anyone who can do that in any sport.
“So for me it’s, it’s a real privilege to do that because I love Canada, I love being home whenever I have the opportunity to be.
“And so that obviously plays a huge part in that, and the other thing is that it was difficult to really progress through the [Czech] age groups with the language barrier being tough.
“Also the opportunity arose. Rob Gale approached me for the U20 age group and it felt like the right time and it made sense for me to pursue it.
“I was and I’m glad I did because it led to a lot of successes, with U20 Player of the Year and having the honour to captain the U23’s at the Toulon tournament was a true honour for me, so hopefully I’ll earn a spot into the Olympic side, and hopefully we can have success there.
“I think with the players that are here in Canada at the moment and with the league formed, I think there’s a there’s a real bright future, for this age group and for the next ones coming through.”
You just signed for Bohemians, a new challenge. Europa League qualifying on the horizon; a competition that not many can say they’ve taken part in. How are you preparing for what’s ahead?
“The European place, qualifying for the Europa League with Bohemians, was a massive attraction to come to the club. Any team that finishes top three in its domestic league is doing something right. And with a really great fan base.
“You mentioned there in the question that not many people from Canada have had the opportunity to play in these games, so it’s really exciting for me to be involved in that. Hopefully we can have success in the competition, win some matches and give the club and all the players a good run, so that’ll be exciting to be a part of and it’s something that I look forward to throughout the year.
“I think for myself, I’m working really hard to establish myself as a key player in the team. So that I’ll be very much involved in those fixtures and throughout the season.”
You featured twice for the senior national team, under Octavio Zambrano and John Herdman. Take me back to both weeks, in what was your debut and second cap.
“I had the privilege to join the Canadian team, the men’s senior team for fixture against El Salvador in Houston. That will stay with me for the rest of my life. That was a massive moment for me.
“I think from the 1997 age group I would have been the first one to make an appearance and it’s been a long time since. But I think for me, the idea is to never give up on the opportunity to play for my country.
“Other fantastic players that play in the national team at the moment, so it’s always a challenge. You see players like Jonathan David doing so well, and Alphonso Davies, I could name tons.
“So it’s just up to you to focus on yourself and give yourself the best chance put yourself in a manager’s thoughts in any team you’re playing for, so all you do is focus on yourself and hopefully, in the future, I’ll earn a place back into the national team. It is a true honor and a fantastic thing to be a part of.”
You’re part of a strong group of 1997 born players. Has Canada Soccer reached out to you for U23 Olympic Qualifying this coming March/April in Mexico?
“For the under 23s Olympic qualifying I think, like any team selection, there’s going to be decisions made closer to the time. Of course, there has been reaching out to players now, which is great, but that’s very general at the moment.
“Leading towards the competition are other factors form there: availability of players, availability through clubs, and so I think that to make any assumptions or any remarks on it, wouldn’t be fair to anyone.
“But, of course, from my point of view, I’d love to be a part of the Olympic team qualifying and hopefully with, like you said, a good group of players, not only for the 1997’s but I’m sure a lot of the young age groups coming up are doing well.
“Seeing the U17s qualify for the World Cup, it’s a fantastic achievement for them. So to answer your question, I’m sure that the team selection will be made a lot closer to event.
“I’ll just do my very best like I always do to put myself in contention. Try and get as many games, play as well as I can, and just keep learning and developing.”
What have you seen from the CPL? Is that somewhere you see yourself playing in the future?
“I think first and foremost, it’s fantastic that Canada has its own professional system now. Something for players to look up to, role models in their own cities — Halifax, Edmonton, more areas covered in Toronto.
“There’s Vancouver Island and whatnot. So I think that’s really important for for the whole country for the development of the sport, and now you have players that see it as a realistic opportunity to play professional soccer. Then that gives them a bit more drive a bit more motivation across more areas of the country.
“To answer your question about whether it is an option for myself or for other players in my position, I’m absolutely I’m sure it will be in the future.
“You always follow what opportunities are right for you at the time, and for me this is what was right for me.
“But there’s absolutely nothing, against the league itself. It’s fantastic that they have this and I’m sure it’ll grow. With fanbases growing I’m sure budgets will grow. Everything from the quality from the coaching, they’ll adapt each season. And so I think it’s it’s a fantastic thing and it’s really promising for Canadian soccer.”