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Omotoye: How Immigration Broke A 36-year-old Barrier For The Canadian Men’s Soccer Team

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Canada is not famous for its soccer wins, but for the first time in 36 years, the men’s soccer team has qualified for the World Cup, scheduled for later this year in Qatar. It is great to celebrate that, for the first time, the team is ranked 33rd in the FIFA World Rankings.

Is it coincidental that more than 70 per cent of the squad members are immigrants or the children of immigrants? Maybe. After all, Canada is the home of immigrants, but considering the current top 10 players either immigrated or their parents did, a coincidence is very unlikely. What is more believable, and perhaps accurate is that immigration has played a huge role and benefited the Canadian men’s soccer team in more ways than we thought.

When Alphonso Davies’ parents fled Liberia because of the second Liberian war, they had no idea their child would become arguably the best and most famous Canadian footballer of his time. They left for Ghana and finally moved to Alberta, with dreams and hopes of a better future for their family. With their son regarded as one of the best left backs in the world at 21, it is safe to say he hasn’t even achieved his best yet, and that their dreams have come true as he is an irreplaceable gem to his family, club and country.

In 2006, the year Alphonso Davies and his family moved here, Canada welcomed more than 250,000 permanent residents who came in via Economic Class, Family Class and Protected Person Class categories, as reported by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The Davies family arrived as refugees fleeing a war. What if there were no such immigration pathways to support movement of immigrants to Canada? This would mean we wouldn’t have Alphonso Davies and most of the amazing players we are blessed with today.
Another great team member is Milan Borjan, the goalkeeper, who is from Croatia. Born to Serbian parents, he had to leave during the Croatian War for independence and ended up settling in Hamilton, where he would later be drafted into the national team.
Atiba Hutchinson, captain of the team, was born here to Trinidadian parents; Junior Hoilett, also Canadian by birth, was born to Jamaican parents; Samuel Adekugbe and Ike Ugbo were both born in the United Kingdom but to Nigerian parents; Stephen Eustaquio immigrated from Portugal; Richie Laryea was born here to Ghanaian parents. The list goes on, and without going into the details of how every one of these players or their families came to Canada, we all can agree that key players within the team have very recent immigrant backgrounds.This is not in any way to discredit the talent of other Canadians such as Liam Fraser, Scott Kennedy and exports such as Owen Hargreaves, who played exceptionally well for clubs in England. It is in fact to commend the national team for harnessing the skills of many non-native Canadians to reach new heights.
John Herdmen, the team’s coach, in January highlighted the role of immigrants in the team’s growth, as the national team is a mix of different cultures, backgrounds and ancestries who have somehow been able to stick together and make it work.On March 27 at BMO Field in Toronto, 30,000 football fans erupted, enormous Canadian flags swirled, “O Canada” rang out, and there was excitement in the air as the team clinched a World Cup ticket for the first time in 36 years. It was all thanks to diversity — all thanks to the numerous immigration policies that have made it possible to usher in and absorb the talented players we are blessed with today.Perhaps this will go a long way in changing the minds of Canadians who think immigration should be limited.

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'Tunde Omotoye heads the travel desk at Naija News. He writes on Immigration, Studying Abroad & Tech Skills | He is a CICC Licensed Immigration Consultant.

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