Julian De Guzman plays soccer, football, futebol, whatever you want to call it at arguably the highest level. Currently plying his trade for Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga, Spain's premier league.
He was voted player of the year for his squad last season. After flirting with relegation during the early stages of the season, they roared back to clinch a UEFA Cup qualifying spot in a league that includes European powerhouses Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Atletico Madrid.
For Canada, he has been the engine of the midfield since his inception into the starting 11. When he plays for Canada's national team, few play with the passion, poise and class that De Guzman brings to the pitch game in and game out.
If you need evidence check his resume, you will find 2007 Gold Cup MVP and the male selection for 2008 Adidas Canadian Players of the Year award.
I have had the pleasure to see him play live in Spain (Santander in 2008 and La Coruna in 2009), as well as 2010 World Cup qualifying games in Toronto and Montreal last year.
I do not claim to be a soccer expert but I can claim to be an educated eye for talent and skill on the pitch.
I have held wonderful discussions and conversations with some of Canada's most recognizable figures in the soccer community since I became involved in coaching at the university level.
Topics covered include the direction of the CSA, the future of Canadian soccer at the professional and National level and of course, De Guzman. The general consensus is De Guzman is the class of the Canadian men's program.
Not only the current crop, but in the history of Canadian soccer.
I have also has the pleasure to meet and have conversations with De Guzman. The Scarborough native and Canada's No. 6 is one of the most humble people I have ever met. He makes himself very accessible to his fans both in Canada and Spain.
He is a very intelligent human being and can talk about more things than just soccer.
His fluent command of four languages is as impressive as his command of the midfield. He is an overall exceptional person, and one that Canadians can be proud of.
About a month before I went to Spain, an interesting article appeared on Sportsnet.ca. De Guzman finally spoke his mind about the Canadian Soccer Association, our very amateur and embarrassing governing body of the sport in our country.
Anybody that has a clue about the sport in Canada knows the De Guzman was just saying what everybody else already knows.
In truth, I have been waiting years for Canada's top players to speak out against the CSA. I have followed the national men's team for several years and they continually disappoint me with their lack of financial and marketing support for the men's program.
This was never more evident then when I traveled to Montreal for Canada's World Cup qualifier against Honduras. I was shocked to the see Saputo Stadium filled with the blue and white of Honduran flags and replica jerseys all around the stadium.
They were clearly the majority of fans in a game where home field advantage surely meant nothing.
I am hoping for not only the players, but for the fans of the present and future's sake that De Guzman's comments are the spark needed for change. The highest level of Canadian soccer needs to be revamped so that players like De Guzman are marketed in this country properly.
He and his teammates need to receive the attention and support they deserve when they put on the red and white. The die hard fans are trying to do their part to support the team during matches, but a new demographic of soccer fans are growing up with names like Ronaldo, Messi, and Kaka on their lips.
They need to know that De Guzman is a great player and fantastic ambassador for this sport in this country.
Canada's sports history is filled with heroes. Names like Gretzky, Nash, Morneau and Bailey immediately spring to mind of the latest generation of Canadian athletes. Known not only for their skill and accomplishment in their respective disciplines, but also being ambassadors for their sport in Canada.
Add De Guzman to that list.
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