Canadian star midfielder and 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup “MVP” Julian De Guzman has paid a stirring tribute to Trinidadian-born coach Stephen Hart who was at the helm of Canada’s National Team at the recent tournament.
Hart guided Canada to a semi-final placing, including a 2-1 first round win over Costa Rica in a match which saw De Guzman score both goals. Hart was also recently in charge of Canada’s National Under 17 team which competed against T&T for a spot at the FIFA Under 17 World Championship
De Guzman, is Canada’s first player to play in the Spanish La Liga with Deportivo de La Coruña and the 26-year-old was also a member of Hannover 96, making him only the second player to play his trade in the German Bundesliga.
He credited Hart for getting the best of Canada at the Gold Cup and sees him playing an integral role in Canada’s football future.
“The Gold Cup campaign was a very positive one for the program and Country,” De Guzman told TTFF Media on the weekend as he looked back at the Gold Cup. “For me personally, it was the best team I’ve played with since I made my debut. Stephen did an amazing job keeping a talented team together and forced us to use our qualities at the highest level. We played an unusual style of football that Canadians and the rest of CONCACAF are not used to. A lot of that influence came from Stephen and he will be a big help to the program in the future.”
His style of play which led him to be described as a ““dynamic and polyvalent defensive midfielder” was a big eye catcher to those who watched Canada during the Gold Cup. He was a force throughout in Hart’s team which led him to the “MVP” pick by the CONCACAF Technical Study Group. No wonder he is a big admirer of T&T duo Russell Latapy and Dwight Yorke.
“Yorke is a legend and will always be respected world wide. The guy is world class. Latapy is also world class in my books for what he's accomplished at his age. That’s a dream for myself. To stay healthy and fit for a very longtime. I love the sport too much to stop anytime soon. It’s the greatest thing to play the best sport in the world at any level and day and so I tip my hat to Latapy,” De Guzman stated.
De Guzman’s younger brother Jonathan also plays professionally with Feyenoord Rotterdam in Holland.
The older De Guzman was spotted by scouts from Olympique Marseille while playing for Toronto’s North Scarborough Youth club in 1997 at age 16. He then went on to play for Marseille’s Reserves before moving to Germany and then signing with Deportivo in 2005.
De Guzman, rated by many football correspondents as one of the best midfielders in CONCACAF today, was born in Toronto and is of Jamaican and Filipino descent. He mentioned that he considered representing the "Reggae Boyz" but never received interest.
“I considered representing Jamaica when I was turned down from the provincial program and national program in Canada earlier on. But nobody showed interest. So there was no reason for me to force it.”
Now he’s looking forward to challenging T&T and Jamaica for a spot at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
“It’s always a great thing to play against a Caribbean team. I haven’t played against T&T as yet but I am looking forward to a match against them.”
Tell us a bit about your upbringing in football.
I started kicking a ball at age 5. My mom threw me into to soccer because I was a wild and extremely active kid. My dad spent a lot of time improving my skills and abilities and afterward got involved with club teams he coached. At 13 I got invited to the provincial team but was cut from the program a couple times at age 13 and 15. What actually forced me to take the sport on a serious note was my little brother Jonathan. I figured he needed a role model and I felt I was responsible. So I kept up my work ethic and still had passion for the game.
What’s the experience like playing in Spain? What are your ambitions there?
Playing in Spain is like playing in paradise. The culture is beautiful, the people, food, weather and whole life style always amazes me. And for me, it’s the best ‘futbol’ out there. I would love to play here for the rest of my career and try to win a trophy. Also to play at the international level such as the Champions League or UEFA is a goal for me.
How’s it been playing for Canada and having made such a heavy Impact. You also have a brother who plays professionally in Holland. Tell us a bit about him.
My first call up to the national program was with the U18 team in 1998. I was 18 and a couple months old. Two years later I made my senior debut in the Gold Cup. Up until now it’s been good. I hope I can help the team make it to South Africa. That’s the ultimate goal. My brother is starting his 3rd professional season with Feyenoord and still is a teenager. He has done well in his first two years playing over 70 matches for them and scoring and setting up goals. He's lived in Rotterdam since he was 12.
How do you see Canada shaping for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers? Excited about facing T&T and even Jamaica?
So far I believe that we are on the right track. It’s very important we get as many games possible. Spending time together to mold is a huge factor Canada has failed to do this in the past years. Hopefully we will not make the same mistake. It’s always a great thing to play against a Caribbean team. I haven’t played against T&T yet but I am looking forward to a match against them.
Have you played alongside or against any T&T players?
I’ve never played with anybody from T&T but I am close to Evans Wise. I kept in contact with him during my stay in Germany and he is a very good player.
What’s among your ultimate ambitions?
Futbol is life and I want it to last forever. I want to help put my country on the futbol map. So I hope to have a long, successful career in Europe and play in a World Cup.