Amidst all the action of the recent international break, a long-running and sometimes aggravating saga involving a Canadian-born player finally came to an end.
Jonathan de Guzman officially will never play for Canada.
The matter of what country de Guzman, the brother of former Toronto FC and FC Dallas midfielder Julian de Guzman, would play for was finally put to bed as he suited up for the Netherlands in two World Cup qualifiers against Estonia and Romania last week.
“It would have been fantastic to see him playing alongside his brother if his brother chose to play for Canada,” recently retired Canadian international Paul Stalteri told MLSsoccer.com. “His quality would have been one of the best we’ve ever had. But again, it’s a difficult decision for some of these young guys. They leave home at 12 years old and go to different countries and it’s a tough decision for them to make, and one you have to sit back and say, 'It’s their decision.'”
Playing in his first competitive games for the Oranje means there’s now no going back – de Guzman can now never play for his birth country, joining Owen Hargreaves on the list of Canadian players who have turned their backs on the country of their birth.
North of the border, however, the ending of this story was met with barely a word as both fans and media alike seem to be more relieved that the latest “will-he-or-won’t-he” involving a Canadian-born soccer player is finally resolved one way or another.
It’s not that there’s no animosity or the feeling of being jilted once again. There’s plenty of that, but this matter has dragged on so long, and become so emotionally draining, that it was more of a nuisance – a cloud hanging over the program.
The last straw seemed to be when de Guzman gave an interview to The Score television network in June 2012 where he professed his desire to play for the Netherlands – while wearing a Canada jersey.
This revelation came not long after Julian went on television to say that he was working on getting his brother and Junior Hoilett to join up for the Canadian program for World Cup qualifiers.
As fans well know, neither player joined, and Canada crashed out of CONCACAF qualifying last year.
While there may be a certain level of relief that the de Guzman part of the story is finally over, the focus will invariably shift to the matter of Hoilett. Stalteri offers advice for anyone dreading what could be the next case of a passport-exchanging Canadian.
“Basically you have to say, 'We’re going to support the players and the team that’s there at the moment,'” Stalteri said. “You have to be able to deal with what we have at the moment and support the team we have at the moment. If he does decide to eventually play for Canada and the manager wants to have him in the squad, that’s another matter altogether.”
Struggling with Queens Park Rangers of the English Premier League, Hoilett has been notoriously mum on the subject of which nationality, if any, he prefers to play for. While also eligible to play for Jamaica, Hoilett has said that he’d consider playing for England if he ever became eligible.
But is a player like that really be a welcome addition to a program when his international loyalty is more of a personal fancy than any real patriotism?
Canada could use the talent, there’s no question about that. But there is no shortage of players whose love of their country means they’ll suit up no matter what, and the dithering of one (albeit very skillful) player doesn’t help those who have made up their minds as to where they’ll play international soccer.
“I don’t think any player would have had a problem with them deciding to play for Canada,” Stalteri admitted. “As a player you’d love to have him as an addition. It wouldn’t have been a problem for any of those players – that would have been a guarantee.”
One way or the other, however, it has been a problem for Canada.