The soccer narrative in this country is littered with tales of promising young prospects who have snubbed Canada in order to play for other nations.
The list is long, but some of the more notable names include Owen Hargreaves (England), Teal Bunbury (United States), Asmir Begovic (Bosnia) and Daniel Fernandes (Portugal).
Keven Aleman insists his name won’t be on that dubious roll call and that he is firmly committed to playing for Canada’s senior national team in the future.
“Right now I’m playing for Canada (at U-20 level). That’s the country I’m playing for right now and there’s nothing more to it. Canada’s my home and I will play for my country,” Aleman told sportsnet.ca on Friday.
Such a declarative statement might not seem newsworthy, but considering past instances with Hargreaves et al and the yet-to-be determined international futures of David Hoilett and Jonathan de Guzman, it’s a big deal whenever a young Canadian player who has options comes out and declares his international allegiance to Canada.
And considering Aleman’s potential, it’s especially important.
Aleman is a 17-year-old midfielder who recently signed a two-year contract with Real Valladolid in Spain’s second division. He grew up in Canada (his hometown is Brampton, Ont.) and developed as a player in the Canadian soccer system, representing his country at last year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico. Currently, he plays for Canada’s under-20 team and he has yet to be capped by the Canadian senior side.
The attacking midfielder, who is a former member of Toronto FC’s youth academy, is one of Canadian soccer’s brightest and most talented young prospects, and the general consensus is that he could be a key player for Canada’s national senior team for years to come.
But Aleman was born in Costa Rica and as a result he is eligible to play for Los Ticos, as well as for Canada. Aleman’s international future became a hot topic of discussion last year when his father told a Costa Rican radio station that his son was considering playing for his birth nation.
Concern amongst soccer fans grew over the ensuing months, especially when Aleman went on trial with Real Valladolid, as the thought was that he might not feel the same ties to his country while living in Spain.
However, Aleman insists he is firmly committed to playing for Canada’s national team and shoots down any possibility that he will represent Costa Rica.
To further underline his stance on his intention to play for Canada, Aleman said he rebuffed a recent invite from Costa Rican soccer officials.
“They contacted me and to see if I would come down to a (U-20) camp a few months ago, but I said no,” Aleman said.
It’s important to note that Aleman could still play for Costa Rica and until he actually appears in a competitive match for Canada at the senior level he retains the option of turning out for Los Ticos. However, his comments to sportsnet.ca suggest he has made up his mind.
A standout with Canada’s under-17 side — he finished runner-up in voting for Canada’s U-17 player of the year for 2011 — he has since graduated to the Canadian under-20 side, one step below the full senior national team.
Aleman participated in Canada’s U-20 training camp in Florida last December, and is expected to be called up again when the under-20 team convenes for another camp this spring.
by John Molinaro at sportsnet.ca