By Santokie Nagulendran
In what will be the Golden Jaguars strongest challenge since facing Mexico in 2012, it was announced this week that Canada will send their Under-23 squad to Guyana on May 15th for a friendly game that will coincide with
50th anniversary celebrations in Guyana. The game has been facilitated by GFF International Ambassador Alex Bunbury, who has ties with both countries, having been born in Guyana and later going on to represent Canada’s National Team as a professional player.
In an initial press release, the Guyana Football Federation wrongly announced the game would feature Canada’s National Team, but Canada’s Soccer Association later confirmed it would be anUnder-23 squad flying to Georgetown to play. Whilst some fans in Guyana may feel the Under-23 team will not be as ‘glamorous’ as playing the senior team, Bunbury is keen to emphasise the strength of the young Canadians: “This is a powerful team. The players are the future stars for Canada and I’m sure some will be called up to the senior team…Guyana will be challenged big time by these players. I’ve watched this team play, they are as good as the senior team. The only difference between the senior team and the Under-23 team is experience. This is an historic event and as such we should embrace this special moment and come together to support Guyana.”
With all of the young Canadian players keen to make an impression, this will be a hungry and determined side that will give their all against Guyana in a game that will help provide the experience they need to make the progression to the senior side.
Global footballing superstars such as Neymar and Lionel Messi started out playing for their country’s Olympic Under-23 squads before making the step up to the senior sides of Brazil and Argentina respectively. The Olympic
team is generally seen in countries as the future senior team, and they play games together in the hope of gaining the experience needed to make it into senior football. In this regard, the Canadian side coming to Guyana will feature many stars of the future and should not be taken lightly despite their relative inexperience.
It’s fair to say that the game against Canada’s Under-23 squad will be the strongest opposition Guyana has faced in recent times, and a good performance will inevitably encourage more International teams to visit Guyana to play games. The game will also provide a fantastic opportunity for Guyana to prepare ahead of CFU games against Curacao and U.S Virgin Islands in June. Canada’s Under-23 side came 4th in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying last year and recently their Under-20 side, containing many players who also feature for the Under-23 side, defeated an England Under-20 side containing Premier League players, in a surprise result which highlighted the quality of the young Canadians.
Winger Mike Petrasso is contracted with English club Queen Park Rangers, while numerous members of the Canadian side feature for MLS team Toronto FC and play full-time, professional football. During 2015, the U-23 side also featured Samuel Piette, who has already amassed an impressive 23 caps for Canada’s Senior Team and whose presence in the side emphasises the depth of quality available to the young side.
Guyana’s squad on the day is likely to be predominantly made up of local Guyana-based players and the Golden Jags will have a tough task ahead of them in order to achieve a positive result. Guyana have remained unbeaten in all International games they have played this year, and not even conceded a single goal, so the arrival of Canada will represent a threat to the impressive form of the Golden Jaguars. It will also be an opportunity for star Guyanese players such as Gregory ‘Jackie Chan’ Richardson, Vurlon Mills and Daniel Wilson to show their quality against a regional powerhouse and they will surely be savouring the opportunity.
With Guyana set for landmark 50th anniversary celebrations in May, the game against Canada’s Under-23 team will be a great addition to festivities, the game has already received coverage in North America, with the official Major League Soccer website featuring a story about the match and giving Guyanese football global coverage in the process. A win for Jamaal Shabazz’s men will also send a message out to the rest of CONCACAF that the Golden Jags are roaring and ready for any challenge that is awaiting them.
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