Friday, December 21, 2007

Top Class - Julian De Guzman

When I think of Julian De Guzman, one thing comes to mind, top class. Now you may ask, what exactly do I mean by this... Well, look at him, watch him play, listen to him speak about his goals in life, or Canadian soccer in general. He truly will make you stop and think, no matter what he is doing. Growing up in Canada, it is hard to have a role model, if you are an aspiring soccer player or just a true fan of the beautiful game. But people around Canada now have a player, that in my mind should be considered a role model to children, or a highly skilled player to follow abroad with great interest.

Julian had always been on fans radars in Canada, after arriving onto the scene through the prestigious Olympic Marseille youth system, where he started his footballing career overseas. A move to B2 side FC Saarbr├╝cken, where he received his first first team minutes, was then followed by a move onto Hannover 96 in Germany's top league, the Bundesliga. However, I don't think he truly became a household name until the Gold Cup, his coming out party. Julian could not have picked a better time. With the Canadian Soccer Association in shambles, Julian turned in masterful performance after masterful performance. Scoring crucial goals for the Canucks, like his chip over the goalkeeper versus Costa Rica, and adding solid defensive play to his already high octane offensive style that he so often displays with the national side. His versatility and ability to perform at a high level won over many fans, and media alike. Julian was named Gold Cup MVP, a huge accomplishment for a Canadian soccer player. If it had not been for a, shall we say questionable call, this award may not have been so bitter sweet. However, missed call or not, Julian had asserted himself, in my mind, as Canada's top player, because who else has accomplished more and had a greater impact on the national side than Julian in the past couple years? No one. Julian is the best all around player that Canada can currently field. Let's not forget that he is a holding midfielder at the club level, he brings an amazing amount of defensive awareness to the table, and is one of the most exciting holding midfielders you will see. On the pitch, he is, top class.

The other thing I respect about Julian, is that he is not afraid to speak his mind. Playing in CONCACAF is not exactly a walk in the park for Julian, or for anyone. Yet most players and coaches seem to see criticism as taboo. Julian does not. He has compared La Liga to CONCACAF as "night and day", pointing out constant lapses in officiating. He has also spoken out against the CSA, pointing out that successful countries around the world are supported by strong associations, and that the CSA is in turmoil. This may sound like it is easy to say, for a Canadian soccer supporter, but very few Canadian players have come out in public and stated that there were problems. Julian stepped up, and I respect that.

Although there may be turmoil in Canadian soccer, Julian gives Canadians a glimmer of hope for the future. A player that can make an impact with his feet on the pitch, and his voice off the pitch. He does not allow the turmoil to hinder his play, and is a proud Canadian, who will suit up when ever he is called. He has always said that playing for Canada is an honour, and that he loves his country. He leaves everything on the pitch, game in and game out, and plays with a passion that is unmatched on the Canadian team. Going forward, Julian has the ability to make an impact on Canadian soccer in so many different ways, which very few players can do. And considering what Julian has been through with the CSA, from a young age, he will fight through adversity and do what is right. This is because Julian is truly, top class.

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