Gee signs with Vancouver FC, returns to B.C. to be closer to family
Family has brought Paris Gee home after two successful seasons with York United FC.
The 29-year-old defender from Burnaby, B.C., one of six York players who left the Toronto CPL club in December, has signed a two-year contract with Vancouver FC. The move reunites him with his family and father, who is needs a kidney transplant as a result of chronic kidney disease.
After learning of his father's medical situation last year, Gee spoke to York management about a possible move west.
"It took a few months to get everybody on board and approve things, with me leaving and coming back to Vancouver," he said. "I'm really grateful for Nashie (York head coach Martin Nash) helping me get back close to my family."
Gee's father is still looking for a donor. A few people have come forward but they were not matches. He has recently begun receiving dialysis treatment, which involves four-hour sessions three times a week.
"He's not really enjoying it too much right now," said Gee. "I think his body still has to get used to what's going on. But it's life right now and what he has to do. I'm happy to be home and I'm here to support my mom and my family."
Dealing with his dad's illness from afar wasn't easy.
"Throughout the year I'd have had to get constant updates like 'How's dad doing? How was the visit with the doctor? How's he feeling today?' Things like that. To be able to actually be home and know what's going on and see how he's feeling and actually spend some good quality time with him is great because I've been gone for basically nine years, nine seasons."
In the past, Gee has usually only been home for a couple of months in the winter. He is close to his father, who is an avid angler and trap shooter.
"Now I'm back, I can go fishing on the river in Squamish, go fishing for salmon in the Georgia Strait with him, go shooting on the weekends if I have a day off," Gee said. "Maybe a little golf, if he's feeling up to it."
Gee, who has two older sisters, played youth soccer in Burnaby before entering the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program in 2011. He spent a year at Simon Fraser University before signing with NK Rudes of the Croatian second division in 2014.
He played for the Tulsa Roughnecks (2017-18) and then Saint Louis FC (2019-20) in the United Soccer League before returning to Canada to play for first FC Edmonton (2021) and then York (2022-23) in the Canadian Premier League.
Gee enjoyed his time in Toronto but had to move out of his comfort zone for a few games last season. Normally a fullback, he had to slot into centre back because of injuries.
While he has also played as defensive midfielder and winger, right back is his favourite position.
He got a taste of what awaits him this season when York played at Vancouver FC's Willoughby Community Park stadium in Langley last season. Family and friends showed up in numbers.
"The atmosphere is really good. The fans they have are great. And I think this year is going to be even better," he said.
Gee seems to like playing in B.C. He scored a highlight-reel bicycle-kick goal at Pacific FC in the playoffs, only to have the spectacular strike negated for offside in stoppage time. York lost 1-0.
Gee becomes the eighth B.C.-born athlete on Vancouver’s 2024 roster, joining goalkeeper Callum Irving, defenders Kadin Chung, Anthony White and James Cameron, midfielders Ben Fisk and Grady McDonnell and forward Taryck (TJ) Tahid on the second-year team.
“Bringing Paris home to be closer to his family, friends and fans will complete the circle of football for one of the most underrated players in the CPL," Vancouver coach Afshin Ghotbi said in a statement. “He is talented, versatile, consistent, durable, coachable and makes every team he plays for better.
“I am excited to coach him and I believe his best performances are ahead of him at VFC,."
Gee's partner Sara Cathcart, a fitness trainer from Vancouver who joined him in Toronto in July, has also made the trip back to B.C.
According to 2023 figures, the Kidney Foundation of Canada says one in 10 Canadians has kidney disease.
The five-year survival rate for adults with transplanted kidneys from living donors is 88 percent and 77 percent from deceased donors.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2024.