Canada failed JDG

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Julian de Guzman’s career was filled with the kind of benchmarks that rarely get associated with Canadians.

He played in both the Bundesliga and La Liga. He was a Designated Player in Major League Soccer. He played on some of soccer’s most hallowed grounds.

Now that JDG has hung up his boots, we can celebrate a career of a true Canadian great; he was only a boy when he left for France, clawing and scratching to be noticed. It was due to his hard work and dogged determination that the chance to play in the top flights of European football finally came.

And, on top of that, always answering Canada’s call, collecting 89 senior caps through his career.

If any there was a Canadian player over the last 30 years who was more deserving of a chance to play in the World Cup, please send me his name.

But JDG never got that chance to play in a World Cup. To be brutally honest, he never really got that close. Throughout his career, Canada was an early CONCACAF casualty, usually not even good enough to get to the point where we could at least say we got to the Hex.

Let’s be absolutely clear. Canada failed JDG, just as this country has the few other players who have sacrificed so much in order to build soccer careers for themselves. Players like JDG or Nik Ledgerwood or Josh Simpson or Mike Klukowski or Paul Stalteri or Tosaint Ricketts were told over and over that their Canadian passports made them easily replaceable; if a German or Spanish player was coming up on the radar, the Canadian had to be twice as impressive as his teammates in order to make sure he wasn’t the player who was going to have to give way.

In this magazine and in our sister site, The11.ca, we have long lamented the lack of opportunities for Canadian players. But, frankly, why are so many of our youth players not following the examples of the players mentioned in this column.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN PLASTIC PITCH #12

Far too often, a Canadian U-17 or U-20 prospect flames out; he reads the stuff on the message boards or on blogs, gets an overly inflated ego, then is stunned when he goes to a big club and isn’t treated like he’s the next coming of Messi.

In Canada, we don’t do well enough in prepping our elite players for the rigours of pro soccer life. As JDG said in his retirement press conference. the “younger generation doesn’t understand what suffeing means.”

Canadian youth prospects go over to Europe and are simply not mentally ready to have to fight to be recognized. The youth player doesn’t understand that a coach in Spain or Germany or Eastern Europe or Scandinavia doesn’t give a rat’s ass that he was a star with Canadian bloggers.

This means coaches have to do better. Parents have to do better. We in the media need to stop placing the hopes of resurrecting the program on the next U-17 that comes along. For every JDG, there are dozens of Hanson Boakais.

If you want to make it, don’t look at JDG playing in La Liga; look at how he struggled as a teen in Europe. If you’re not willing sacrifice like he did, maybe soccer isn’t really for you.

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