The road to World Cup Qatar 2022 started the moment Octavio Zambrano took the reigns of the Canadian Men’s National Team. Since then, there has been much to be excited about – promising young players, respectable results on the pitch, a clear plan and vision etc. By no means is it good enough though. There is much work to be done to improve and grow the game on so many levels.
A couple weeks ago it was reported that FIFA is looking into changing the nationality rules of soccer players and the criteria of how they become eligible to represent their country. This, of course, could reveal itself in many forms. The one proposed rule change that has peaked my interest the most is the issue of a player wanting to switch their allegiance.
Currently, once a player has represented their country (by playing one competitive international match for them) they can no longer switch allegiance to another country – no matter what passport(s) they hold. They are cap-tied.
I totally understand this. If the game wants to have its credibility remain intact, it can’t have players flip flopping between national teams based on convenience e.g., not making a major tournament with one country, and therefore choosing to join the party with someone else. But the rule would be tweaked to accommodate specific circumstances. For instance, a player representing a country only a few times, and never receiving another realistic chance of a callup in the future.
Of course, there would have to be strict guidelines to follow if this rule were to be changed. For arguments sake, let’s just say it is less than 10 caps and a 5 year absence from international soccer. This could have major implications for players who otherwise would have thought they were done with international competition.
This rule modification may reintroduce us to a couple familiar names of yore: Teal Bunbury, Jonathan De Guzman ( oh gawd!) etc. A few years down the road, we may even be using this rule to welcome Bryan Cristante into the fold if his Italy dream fizzles out.
We may all have opinions on this, and I’m positive it will cause a few of us to get worked up, but I’m confident that those who have the power to make decisions, like Octavio, will look at each player on a case by case basis. There will be many questions I’m sure: Does he even want to play for Canada? Do WE want him to play for Canada? Will they be a distraction? Are they good enough? Would they be a starter or just a depth piece who creates competition for places? Don’t be surprised if we see these aforementioned players in the future, and I’m sure there will be a few more added to the list. I’m not saying it’s right – I actually don’t think it is. Nonetheless, it could be a tool that’s used at our disposal.
That being said. We have to keep moving forward to develop our own talent, and they have to be in our pipeline early on. I have written numerous times about the importance of the Canadian Premier League, LTPD, Naturalization etc. They all have a role in improving our Men’s National Team. We should be looking at every way possible to get better. At this point, we are not in a position to say no to anything or anyone. We should listen and explore it at the least.
I sure hope that Jonathan and Teal learned the age old lesson: Be nice to those you meet on the way up, because you will definitely meet them again on the way down.
Sometimes, things come around full circle. And it sure would feel nice if Canada were the ones who were able to choose this time.
By William Jamieson