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Red & White for Camilo?

Will the Whitecaps' striker one day play for the Canadian Men's National Team?

Could Camilo one day be scoring goals for Canada?
Could Camilo one day be scoring goals for Canada?

I think it's probably obvious to most people that the Canadian Men's National Team program is currently in shambles. I know that new manager Benito Floro will take over at the beginning of August and will inherit a team that has not scored a single goal while under the guidance of interim manager Colin Miller. My purpose for this article was not to go back over old ground and rehash how we got to where we are and what we're going to do about it - I actually intended to talk about hope for the team.

My own story when it comes to being a fan of international football is probably similar to many of yours. I'm a first generation Canadian born of Dutch and British parents. Having lived for many years in Holland it won't come as a surprise when I tell all of you that when it comes to international footy it's Oranje all the way for me. Indeed it's all I have ever really known when it comes to the Euros and World Cup because whenever there has been a big tournament on in my adult life I've almost always enjoyed it with good friends drinking beer out of ridiculously small glasses in a Dutch cafe packed to the rafters with orange clad soccer fans. As much as I've enjoyed cheering for Holland over the years I also want to be able to cheer for a competitive Canadian Men's National Team, but many times it turns out to be a painful experience.

For one reason or another the national program hasn't always been able to convince some of the most talented Canadian players to don the red and white (Owen Hargreaves being the most notorious example) as many of them held out afraid of being cup-tied to Canada and therefore being ineligible to play if a sexier footballing country came calling. But this is where it gets interesting.

As I was preparing to report on another brilliant outing by striker Camilo Sanvezzo and the Whitecaps 3-1 victory over the Chicago Fire this past weekend I stumbled across a the headline "Camilo for Canada?" on the Whitecaps' website. Wow. This was quite a provocative thought. A player - actually a good foreign player - stated that he is interested in representing Canada. Did I read that correctly? Surely he actually meant that he's waiting for the call to wear the yellow and green of his native Brazil? There wasn't really a lot to the story other than Camilo basically putting that idea out there, but speaking hypothetically now - if he ever is eligible to play for Canada and he is in the form that he is in this season wouldn't that be a godsend for the national team?

Now I'm not an expert on the hurdles it takes to become a Canadian citizen and even less of an expert when it comes to the FIFA eligibility rules. What I find interesting is that the desire to play for Canada is there. Of course it may be several more years before Camilo earns his citizenship and when he does will he still be interested in playing for Canada? Another interesting note is that Gershon Koffie, who is also in the process of becoming a Canadian citizen, has also indicated that he would be interested in playing for Canada if it is at all possible. Now I'm not sure whether or not Koffie is actually eligible to play for Canada after representing Ghana at the U-20 level as opinion seems to be divided on the subject. It does, however, pose an interesting question: does it make sense for Canada to cap naturalized players in their quest to become competitive and relevant on the international soccer stage? There are many issues that need to be addressed if Canada is to become competitive, but in general when talented players want to play for your team doesn't it make sense to at least consider it seriously?

I hope that this isn't the end of the story. Of course we cannot expect to build a competitive national team solely by giving foreign players Canadian passports and then capping them. Hopefully one day we will have forgotten all about players like Hargreaves and others of the selfish generation who turned their backs on Canada and will be celebrating a new generation of players who wear the red and white with pride. Will Camilo be one of those players? Only time will tell.


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