OLIVA, Spain – With an ever-growing list of foreign-born MLS talent saying they may be interested in suiting up for the Canadian national team, new head coach Benito Floro says anyone showing a desire to wear the red and white would be more than welcome.
Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Gershon Koffie already has permanent residency status in Canada, while his club teammate Camilo has already applied. Montreal Impact defender Hassoun Camara also submitted an application for residency, and his club teammate Felipe Martins says he intends to do so next year as soon as he is eligible.
All four players have expressed interest in playing for their adopted country. As Floro wrapped up his first training camp here as Canada's head coach, he said he’s in no way opposed if they wanted to join.
“For me, the person is from two places: Where you were born and grew up and then where he decides to live,” Floro told MLSsoccer.com through a translator on Tuesday as Canada closed camp. “In my mind, [borders don't exist]. It is a delicate subject but for me – if they are very good players and they love Canada and they want to participate, for me, I’ll never have a problem.”
For a team as deprived of goals as Canada, players like Camilo (at right) and Felipe, both natives of Brazil, would bring a spark and a flair that has very rarely been seen, if ever, by Canadian players.
And while Ghana-born Koffie, France native Camara and Camilo still have to wait before obtaining a Canadian passport and then sort any issues that may arise due to FIFA eligibility, the fact that all four players and coach are on the same page is a good start.
Prior to officially taking over as coach in August, Floro watched the Canadian national team at the Gold Cup in July and then went overseas to watch some of the Canadians who play abroad. In the recently completed camp alone, he had more than 30 players involved and fielded almost two completely different squads over the two games against Mauritania.
He admits he hasn’t watched any of the four in action, focusing instead on getting a look at the players who are currently in the Canadian pool. But that may not last.
“I went to England, Turkey, and watching the Canadian players abroad but I haven’t seen especially these players,” Floro said in reference to the naturalized MLS quartet. “I want to see all Canadians and all who want to be Canadians as well.”