Scott Arfield "delighted" for "best opportunity" in Canadian national team

Scott Arfield - Burnley - Canada - CanMNT - 2016

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Canadian national team has for years suffered from players turning their back on their country of birth to play for the homeland of their parents, but the signs have been there recently that the times are most certainly changing.

Scott Arfield, a midfielder with English Championship leaders Burnley, is the latest new recruit to the Canadian fold, and the 27-year-old is excited to be in his first camp ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualifying doubleheader against Mexico, starting Friday at BC Place (10 pm ET; TSN, RDS, UniMás) and continuing Tuesday in Mexico (10:30 pm ET; TSN).

Born in Livingston, Scotland to a Canadian father, Arfield represented the country of his birth up to B international level. A senior call-up never came, and the talented midfielder had a soul-searching decision to make as to where his international future lay.

That choice was Canada.

"I made my decision about a year ago to come on this journey," Arfield said of his decision to pledge his international future to Canada at his first training session with his new teammates on Monday. "I played youth level for Scotland, at 19s and 21s, and a B international, but not enough materialized.

"There was no ill-feeling towards it; I just felt I was getting on in my career, and this was the best opportunity for me to play international football and it's one I'm delighted I took."

Arfield last represented Scotland in 2010 in a U-21 Euro qualifier and applied to FIFA last year for a one-time international switch to Canada. A late phone call from current Scotland manager Gordon Strachan was unable to change his mind, and in fact only reinforced that he'd made the right choice.

"He phoned just to touch base and basically just reiterated what I already thought," Arfield admitted. "My decision was already made, and he couldn't guarantee me any football that I could go and play for Scotland. But it wasn't second choice Canada or anything like that, it was just that this is what I thought was my best opportunity."

Arfield had never even visited Canada before landing in Vancouver for Friday's qualifier in front of nearly 50,000 fans at BC Place but joked, "Now, I feel full Canadian. "

It's been a decision that "absolutely delighted" his father, who had tried to get Arfield to choose to represent Canada from an early age. But it was his friend and Burnley teammate, Canadian national team veteran David Edgar, who had perhaps the biggest part to play in his choice.

"He was the main driving force," Arfield said of Edgar's influence. "It was actually only really in a passing comment two years ago when I came there. I kind of said my dad was born in Toronto, in the same hospital as Ed, so then he got in touch with Benito [Floro] and it kind of snowballed from there."

Arfield couldn't have joined up with his Canadian teammates for the first time for a much bigger pair of matches. He's not taking anything for granted in terms of being selected to play, but is excited at what the future holds in store for the team.

"I don't think I'm just going to come in here and cement a place," Arfield mused. "I'm going to need to train well and hopefully get that starting jersey. It's my first time training with the boys, but when you see the depth in the squad, and talk to a few of the boys, they're saying this is the best squad they've ever been in.

"Against a side like Mexico, who are globally a fantastic side, I don't think you can take too much for granted. You don't even think about next Tuesday night, it's solely focused on [Friday] and hopefully this will be the one that will kickstart us into the Hex."