By RON FANFAIR
National youth back-up goalkeeper Quillan Roberts received a scare just a week before heading off to Mexico for the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) Under-17 World Cup.
The Toronto FC Academy member and Brampton resident broke his left little finger while training. He was however cleared to play in the World Cup and his relieved parents are looking forward to watching Canada and their son compete in the global competition.
Canada plays its first match on Sunday against Uruguay. The national side meets England on June 22 and Rwanda three days later.
Maxwell Roberts said his son has been playing the sport since he was about seven years old.
“It’s sort of funny because he started out as a striker with lots of speed and a little ball dribbling ability,” he said. “The coach at the time was not too impressed and he was going to cut him from the team. There was however an opening for a goalie and Quillan jumped in and has not looked back since.”
This is Canada’s fifth trip to the Under-17 World Cup that runs from June 18 to July 10 in seven Mexican cities.
“It will be a great challenge,” said coach Sean Fleming. “The team has prepared to the best of its ability and now we hope to give a good showing for Canada.”
A total of 24 teams are taking part in the tournament, including Jamaica which is in a World Cup for just the third time after the senior squad created history by becoming the first English-speaking Caribbean side to compete in a global soccer tournament in France in 1998. The Under-17 side competed in the 1999 FIFA tournament in New Zealand.
The current Jamaican squad includes Canadians Quante Smith who lives in Brampton and Ajax resident Shawn-Claud Lawson.
Born in Scarborough to Jamaican parents, Lawson was invited to a tryout last August. He impressed the selectors and made the team that took part in the regional qualifier in Jamaica earlier this year.
“Jamaica offered me the opportunity and I was happy to make the most of it,” said the Grade 11 J. Clarke Richardson student who started in three matches and scored a goal. “It was a good experience and I am looking forward to having an excellent World Cup.”
Lawson’s father, Jimmy, is a former Jamaican international who played for Magic in the Toronto league in the 1980s.
Smith, whose mother was born in Jamaica, is a central defender.
Jamaica starts its campaign on Saturday against Japan before clashing with Argentina next Tuesday and France on June 24.
Switzerland is the defending youth champions while Brazil and Nigeria have been the most successful teams in the tournament’s 26-year history winning three titles each. Ghana is a two-time champion while the other winners are the Soviet Union, Saudi Arabia, France and Mexico.