The likes of Camilo Sanvezzo, Gershon Koffie, Felipe Martins and Hassoun Camara would be welcome additions to the Canadian national team.After already being eliminated from World Cup qualifying for Brazill 2014, interim coach Collin Miller called up a very young and inexperienced side for this summer’s Gold Cup as Canada already sets its sights on qualifying for Russia 2018.
In a group with Martinique, Mexico and Panama, the Reds failed to score a single goal and finished last.
Scoring was also a problem at the last Gold Cup in 2011, where Canada only managed two goals - and both came from the penalty spot.
Without a professional league of its own and only a sparse number of teams that it can count on to groom local players, Canada continues to seriously lag behind other countries in CONCACAF.
Though still relatively very young, Canada’s MLS academies haven’t really bore much fruit. Developing defenders and the odd midfielder hasn’t been a problem, but what about forwards or creative midfielders, when are they going to produce those?
And if our MLS academies can’t produce goal scorers, then who in this country will?
Considering the dire state of Canadian soccer, it’s flattering to hear players that have recently migrated to Canada to play in MLS show a keen interest in one day playing for the Canadian national team. Just last week, Vancouver Whitecaps Brazilian forward Camilo Sanvezzo said he was open to one day suiting up for the red and white.
“For me, I think it will be a good opportunity to play for Canada,” Camilo said. “Vancouver is a good city, Canada is a beautiful country and if I get the opportunity I will decide with my family.”
Camilo isn’t the first to declare such interest; Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Gerhon Koffie, Montreal Impact midfielder Felipe Martins and defender Hassoun Camara, have all done so as well.
To be eligible for the Canadian national team, these players would need to become Canadian citizens and have lived for five continuous years in Canada.
Gerhson Koffie is already a permanent resident and is pursuing full citizenship. Camilo has recently applied for permanent residency, while Felipe will be eligible to do so next year.
Camara, who plans to remain in Montreal even after his playing days, applied for permanent residency in March.
“I filled in the forms to stay here,” Camara said. “I feel 100 per cent like a Montrealer.”
If these players were to stay on with their respective clubs and become citizens, they would be eligible for the national team just in time for the World Cup qualification campaigns in 2016 and 2017. Koffie (21), Camilo (24) and Felipe (22) would also be young enough to help with the push towards the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as well.
Though other countries might take issue with the fact of calling up naturalized citizens to the national team, in Canada that wouldn't be a cause for dispute. It’s enough that the players that step onto the field feel an attachment and affection towards the country they represent.
In Koffie, Camilo, Felipe and Camara those feelings have already emerged as not only have they flourished as professional soccer players in Canada, they’ve also found a home here.
If anything, they are already Canadian.
The prospect of having Camilo leading the attack with Felipe sitting in the hole just behind, Koffie playing in the center of midfield and Camara providing an alternative at right fullback would certainly be a tantalizing one, but it’s not something Canada can depend on either. There’s no guarantee that these players will play for Canada and they shouldn’t be pressured to make that choice. Whether they decide to play for Canada or not, the focus needs to remain improving player development and trying to make the most out of the current pool of players, as limited as it may be.
Of course, if the latest Gold Cup is any indication, new Spanish coach Benito Floro will need all the help he can get.