Mallan Roberts came to Canada as a nine-year-old, fleeing Sierra Leone with his father.
It took nearly 14 years for him to get his citizenship. And, shortly after, his first Canada call-up. This past week, late in the second half of Canada’s 4-0 win over Dominica in World Cup qualifying, national-team coach Benito Floro sent Roberts onto the pitch at Toronto’s BMO Field.
One could only imagine what was running through Roberts’s head as he sprinted onto the pitch. Well, believe it or not, there wasn’t a flood of emotion as he headed to his spot in the centre of the defence.
“It really took a couple of minutes on the field for it to really kick in,” Roberts said Friday, as FC Edmonton trained north of the city in St. Albert. “Once I got past that, was able to make a couple of plays, then it really began to feel good.”
Roberts was called into the Canadian camp as a replacement for the injured Dejan Jakovic. But Roberts has also been placed on the 35-man preliminary roster for the Gold Cup — so he’s hopeful that he’ll be wearing the Canadian jersey in short order.
“I don’t want to be the player who was only called into one game,” he said. “The experience, it was huge. I gained a lot of experience from it. There are so many players there who have careers in Europe, from around MLS and other teams in North America. I can see what I want to become, where I want my career to go, what I need to do.”
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