Soccer Canada

A weekly sports column from the Free Press

In regards to sports, it’s not often you hear the words ‘Canada’ and ‘soccer’ together but the two have been in the news a lot the past week.

In case you didn’t know about it, the next Canadian generational talent is shipping out of Vancouver to German giant, Bayern Munich. Midfielder Alphonso Davies, just 17, will follow the path of Canada’s last generational player that never was.

In 1997, Owen Hargreaves, born and raised in Calgary, joined the German team and thrived until injuries caught up to him. However, he never did play internationally with the country he was born with, opting to play for England through his father.

The good news is Davies can only represent Canada despite being born in Ghana to Liberian parents. Like Hargreaves, he was eligible to represent three nations (Hargreaves represented Wales, where his mother was from, as a teenager) but Soccer Canada officials learned and cap-tied (June 27, 2017, against French Guiana) Davies as soon as they could after he officially became a Canadian citizen in June 2017.

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In fact, they were so desperate the president of the association actually showed up to the citizen ceremony bearing a Canadian jersey.

But what does the best young Canadian player leaving for greener pastures mean for soccer domestically?

The Vancouver Whitecaps had a decent showing last season, making it to the conference finals in Major League Soccer. Davies was an instrumental piece of the team, appearing in 27 games despite not even being old enough to buy a beer. This season, he’s appeared in 22 games and scored five goals in the MLS.

Currently sitting in the seventh spot in the conference, the Whitecaps will have to look somewhere else to help Sierra Leonean forward Kei Kamara to put the ball in the net. The Vancouver team will definitely miss the young talented player on their books.

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But let’s face it. Even with the three franchises in the MLS and the upcoming Canadian Premier League starting play in 2019, Soccer Canada cannot simply keep talented players here, especially generational talent. Even more so if those players are eligible to play for bigger and more traditional soccer markets like England.

Not at least for the next several years.

It’s good that Soccer Canada has made steps to build the game professionally with the upcoming CPL but the real steps will be at the grassroots level and bind those players to Canada instead of hoping big clubs in big countries can do it for us, because they will be blinded by the lure of other countries, ergo Hargreaves and Scarborough-born Jonathon de Guzman who decided to represent the Netherlands after becoming a naturalized citizen.

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