Insider Blog: My Dutch Lament

Like most Canadian soccer fans, I was disappointed to hear the announcement from Jonathan de Guzman that he intends to play international soccer for the Netherlands. The 20-year-old received Dutch citizenship on Wednesday and quickly made his decision official to those in Canadian media. The reaction to his decision has been predictably bitter from Canadian soccer fans out there in cyberspace, with references of ‘Judas de Guzman’ being used to refer to the Feyenoord midfielder. Now, as much as I am disappointed by de Guzman’s decision, I’m not going to harp on about what the youngster said to Rogers Sportsnet last Saturday in regards to being seemingly undecided about his international future or speak on the subject of where his international loyalty should lie. What I will say is that I had wished to see de Guzman add his abilities to the emerging quality we have in our Canadian men’s national team at present. His quality on set-pieces and attacking prowess would have been a real asset for us in World Cup qualifying, but all this is not to be, I guess. Though I wished that de Guzman had chosen Canada, I cannot blame the youngster for choosing to play for Holland after the kind of soccer experience he has had with Feyenoord. The midfielder has been with the Rotterdam club since he was 12, so considering he has spent almost half of his life living in Holland, de Guzman has the right to feel some affinity for both Dutch soccer and the European country. We Canadians seem easily delighted that someone like freestyle wrestler Daniel Igali wins Olympic gold for Canada after moving here as a refugee from his native Nigeria, so is it a bit hypocritical of us to condemn de Guzman for choosing to play for The Oranje after living in Holland for so many years? It is worth thinking about.In regards to this, I want to focus on a comment made by a Canadian soccer observer about the need to create an environment by where such potential talent does not slip though the cracks and go on to play for our beloved country. In an effort to give some positive spin to this point, Canadian soccer fans need not look further than the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Residency program as a setup that is trying to address those needs. The inaugural year of the program has been highly successful, and with the current squad made up almost entirely of Canadian players, the potential that these talented youngsters will ply their trade with both our Whitecaps men’s team and with Canada seem very likely. Jonathan de Guzman was afforded the chance to be oriented as a Feyenoord player from an early age, and therefore with Dutch soccer. Whitecaps Residency is intended to provide the same type of environment of orientating top players to our club and our brand of soccer. Since we are club that is committed to the growth of Canadian soccer, we have made the commitment to try and develop emerging Canadian player right here in Vancouver. I know our Residency program is in its infancy stages, but it’s reputation is building all at the time. We may not have the attention of soccer fans and media in eastern Canada at the moment, but it won’t take long….Global EPLWell, January 2011 could be an historical time in world soccer, as the English Premier League announced on Thursday that they are looking to play an extra round of games in overseas markets. Imagine West Ham United playing Bolton Wanderers in Bangkok, Thailand, while Wigan Athletic take on Tottenham Hotspur in Johannesburg, South Africa. Manchester United facing an important contest against Everton in New York, while Liverpool and Aston Villa clash in Toronto….sorry, let’s make that Vancouver. It’s a radical plan by EPL officials, even if we all recognize that the Premiership is the most popular domestic league in world soccer. Naturally, soccer supporters in England are up in arms about this. They claim the EPL and its clubs are in it for the money and nothing more. I must admit that I found the comments of EPL chief executive Richard Scudamore to be interesting. From our perspective here in Canada, it’s nice to know that both Scudamore and the EPL clubs recognize the level of interest in their league globally. Still, I can’t help but feel for supporters in the UK. They are lifeblood of the clubs there, and I do wonder if the backlash (as ridiculous as it may seem to be to this plan…) will be so strong as to deter the EPL and its clubs from pursuing this overseas initiative. Stay tuned on this…Pharaohs versus Indomitable LionsThe African Cup of Nations concludes on Sunday, and it pits two countries that I did not expect to see in the final. My personal favourites in hosts Ghana and Ivory Coast were abruptly knocked out in the semifinals by defending champions Egypt and Cameroon. I was dismayed by the events that occurred on Thursday. Ghana obviously suffered the jitters that a host nation can have to win its own tournament, but the big shock for me was Egypt’s dismantling of an Ivory Coast side that had been in impressive form leading up to the semis. To fall 4-1 to Egypt after thrashing Guinea 5-0 in the quarterfinals last Sunday leaves me scratching my head, to say the least. The Pharaohs had not been firing on all cylinders at Ghana 2008, but they are five-time champions, so their determination to be ‘Kings of Africa’ remains apparent. The tournament has also allowed many to see the emerging talent coming from Egyptian soccer, with Amr Zaki and Mohamed Aboutriaka just two names to look out for in the future. Standing in Egypt’s way is a Cameroon side who have also done enough when needed to reach Sunday’s final. Should The Indomitable Lions claim the title, they would join the Egyptians as five-time winners, so I expect a tense affair on Sunday.Scouting Belize and St Kitts & NevisThere was more international soccer during this past week, with several friendlies played around the world. Fabio Capello got his first win as England manager after a 2-1 success over EURO 2008 co-hosts Switzerland at Wembley, while Italy were impressive in beating Portugal 3-1. The week also saw a number of World Cup qualifying games in Asia and our region of CONCACAF. One game that I decided to take a view was the somewhat obscure contest between Belize and St Kitts & Nevis. Going into Wednesday’s qualifier, Belize were one of seven nations ranked right at the bottom of the FIFA World Rankings in 201st place. St Kitts, meanwhile, came into the tie ranked 151 in the world. This first-round clash had Belize’s home leg played in neighbouring Guatemala, with Guatemala City’s Estadio Mateo Flores being the venue for the qualifier. Curiosity was the reason as to why I wanted to view these two minnows of international soccer, and judging from the events of the first leg, there was nothing to suggest that these two nations would trouble their awaiting opponents in regional giants Mexico. Nonetheless, there was some neat individual skill that balanced the shaky defending that was on display from both sides, with the dry and bumpy pitch adding to the teams’ challenges during the 90 minutes. Though the stadium was relatively empty, home side Belize had their finishing boots on and claimed an important 3-1 win. Both nations will meet again on March 26 at the Warner Park Stadium in Basseterre on the island of St Kitts. Can Belize hold on and line up a tie with Mexico, or will St Kitts overcome a two-goal deficit to advance? We wait with anticipation…Remembering MunichFinally, I would like to end these latest musings of mine by saluting those that perished in the Munich air disaster of 1958. This past Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the crash of BEA Flight 609 ZU that claimed the lives of 23 people. Included in those that perished were eight members of the Manchester United side that were returning from a European Cup game in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia. Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor, Liam "Billy" Whelan and Duncan Edwards all perished as a result, and the crash remains a major part of the folklore at the Old Trafford club. The Manchester derby between United and City will see a moment of silence before Sunday’s game, with United wearing a special kit to commemorate one of the saddest days in the game’s history. May all who perished remain in our thoughts…Click here to view more of the Whitecaps Insider Blogs, as club staff give their thoughts on the 'Beautiful game'.