Montreal Impact star defender Gabriel Gervais announced Tuesday he was retiring from professional soccer, after a nine-year career in the United Soccer Leagues First Division, including seven years with the Impact.
"This was a very difficult decision to make," said Gervais. "I always said that I would continue playing as long as my body would allow me to, but in light of the various injuries I suffered in 2008, I have to come to terms with the fact that I can no longer play."
"I loved the experience of playing at a professional level," added the veteran defender. "I have always been well treated in Montreal and I had the chance to rub shoulders with incredible players. My greatest moment was certainly the championship that we won in 2004. Besides the trophies and honours, I learned about team work, perseverance and communication, which will be useful all my life."
The 32-year-old athlete from Brossard made his debut in the USL First Division in 2000 with the Rochester Rhinos, where he was part of back-to-back championships. He then joined the Impact in 2002, helping the club win the league championship in 2004, as well as the regular season championships in 2005 and 2006.
He was proclaimed Defensive Player of the Year for the Impact three times in 2002, 2003 and 2006, and won the Giuseppe-Saputo Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player of the Impact, in 2004. He was also named Defender of the Year in the USL First Division in 2003, 2004 and 2006, becoming the first-ever player in the league to win that award three times. Gervais was also picked on the USL-1 All-League First Team for six straight years, from 2002 to 2007, to become one of only five players (Scott Schweitzer, Danny Pena, Mauro Biello, Robin Fraser) to earn the honor on six occasions.
Gervais also played on the senior Canadian national team, playing in 2004 in the qualifying games for the FIFA World Cup. He also played for Canada during the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2005.
"Gabriel has always served the team well," said Impact technical director Nick De Santis, who coached him during five seasons as head coach. "He was a true leader on and off the field, and always showed exemplary discipline. It's unfortunate for him to see his career end because of injuries."
The Montreal Impact has confirmed that he will remain present within the organization, notably involved in community-related projects.