For Tosaint Ricketts, the road to the Canadian men’s national soccer team began in Chile.
Therein lies one of the biggest problems for the national team and the reason they are currently 78th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings.
An Edmonton product, Ricketts, 31, left high school to pursue a professional career with Santiago Wanderers of the Chilean national league, and eventually moved on to play in Finland, Romania, Norway, Turkey and Israel before returning to North America. He’s represented Canada on 59 occasions, making him one of the most experienced players on the current national squad.
“One of the issues is the environments Canadian players have to go to get professional minutes,” said Ricketts, whose three-year run with Toronto FC came to an end at the conclusion of this past MLS season. “I always take myself for example. I had to go to Finland, Norway, Romania … I had to go to all these places where I’m a foreigner, where I’m very much outside of my comfort zone, and all those things can hinder playing time and performance.
“Not only that, youth training is an issue. I didn’t start until I was 13. I think a lot of it has to do with the youth and grassroots and also players having to leave their country to find professional environments.”