I first met Jonathan De Guzman a number of years ago when he was playing for Feyenoord in the Dutch Eredivisie.
I had travelled to the Netherlands to interview the Canadian midfielder as part of a larger story gathering trip through Germany. Rotterdam was not far away, so why not. The idea was to generate stories on Canadians playing overseas.
We had no idea what his international intentions were at the time. But he did. He didn’t make it clear during our interview but he did imply that he had just about made up his mind.
Keep in mind this was 2007 and back then there was plenty of hope he would choose the country of his birth. It was only a week or so after airing the interview on Soccer Central when I was in Florida covering a Canadian youth camp that the text message came through.
“I’ve made up my mind and I’m choosing Holland.”
Two things struck me. First, it was pretty clear to me that he knew all along what his decision was, but he just couldn’t bring himself to say it on camera. Second, here was a guy who has declared his intentions to play for a country whose federation had never even called him up at the senior level. A bold announcement that.
And in fact he only recently earned his first call up with his inclusion in the Dutch squad that is scheduled to play Italy in an international friendly on Wednesday. It doesn’t cap tie him, of course, since a FIFA rule change a number of years ago that states a player can only be tied to a country if they play in an official FIFA competition.
That means he is still technically eligible to play for Canada. But that will never happen. The book has closed on this one.
Still, the De Guzman story remains a curious one. At various times over the years his brother Julian had suggested both privately and publicly that his brother really did want to play for Canada and that something was in the works to make it happen. And yet Jonathan would declare the opposite. The classic flip flop.
Forget about Jonathan De Guzman. You probably already have. In fact it might be a good idea to forget about anyone who has options to play for multiple countries.
Here’s the problem. De Guzman was born in Canada to parents from Jamaica and the Philippines. He left Canada for the Netherlands at the age of 12. It’s clear that neither he, nor the likes of Junior Hoilett for that matter, have strong personal ties to this country.
It’s hard to blame them. They’ve lived and played the sport elsewhere for most of their formative years. You can’t make someone feel Canadian. Either they do, or they don’t. End of story.
My feelings on this subject are pretty clear. If a player is eligible to play for Canada but doesn’t jump at the chance to wear the Maple Leaf at the first opportunity, then he’s a lost cause. History tells us so — over and over again.