The Golden Generation of Canadian Soccer
Montreal’s Ballou Tabla Makes National Debut with Canadian National Soccer Team
Canada Soccer took on Dominica for the CONCACAF Nationals League Qualifying game Oct. 16 at BMO Field, home of the Toronto FC, as part of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
This marked the second of four matches for the Reds as they put up five goals over Dominica, closing the night on a 5-0 note in front of over 10, 000 supporters.
Canada’s head coach John Herdman had a bundle of players to select from for the matchup, as many Canadian footballers decided to sign up for their country’s national team when the call came.
Amongst the group was Montreal native Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla, who made the decision to join his host country’s national team late last month. The nineteen year-old was born in Ivory Coast but moved to Montreal when he was young. Tabla has recently signed with FC Barcelona reserve team B. He grew up within the Impact Academy playing for FC Montreal and later on the Impact before embarking on his European journey.
Ballou entered the field through the second half of Tuesday’s game when the Reds were already up 4-0. But granted the fact that the nineteen-year-old was amongst the youngest to join the national team, soccer devotees did not fail to miss him with chants of his name as he stepped foot on the field.
“I’m so happy to wear a jersey of the national team. We were [up] 4-0 when I got on the field. I’m having fun,” said Tabla. “We work together to win. And I’m just one more player on the roster.”“It [was] just exciting when he came on,” said Herdman.
But the young FC Barcelona B winger wasn’t the only Montrealer on Tuesday’s training roster.
Impact FC’s Samuel Piette was also among the players ready to represent Canada. Piette was recently nominated for the Landon Donovan ‘Player of Excellence’ award, given to the MLS MVP annually.
“We have so many young players playing for prestigious teams all across the world. It’s not just a few, we have more than a tenfold,” said Piette
A third Montrealer was also wearing the red jersey on Tuesday and it was none other than the Impact’s goalkeeper James Pantemis. Neither players were granted any minutes on the field but they were ready to take action when needed.
Ballou witnessed the fifth goal on the field, executed by his teammate Cyle Larin ten minutes before the end of the game. A shrinkage of focus resulted in Dominica’s Malcolm Joseph scoring in his own goal, giving the Reds a bonus goal just one minute into the second half.
The abundance of attackers on the Canadian roster made the task somewhat uncomplicated for the squad. Jonathan David started the party with a pass from Alphonso Davies, allowing him to convert it into a goal only three minutes after the game kicked off. Davies, 17, is amongst the youngest on the team alongside Tabla.
Another assist by David gave the opportunity to Cardiff City FC’s Junior Hoilett to score the second goal at minute 14. Lucas Cavallini scored from the penalty spot by chipping the ball over the keeper three minutes after the second goal for the Canadians.
Herdman described his team as a medley of multiple age ranges. “We had a team of 16 ages on the pitch tonight,” he said.
Veterans like Atiba Hutchinson had the task of settling the nerves of the brand-new generation of players such as Tabla and Davies. “[The veterans] did a fantastic job taking the fear away from the young guys,” said Herdman.
A term was circulating on the online MLS forums recently that refers to the current Canadian National soccer team as the ‘‘Golden Generation.’’ The team not only consists of a balance between experienced and youthful players, but is a physical group filled with diverse attackers and defenders to choose from.
“There is real depth here. It’s a different breed of players that we have,” said Herdman. “There’s a lot more to come. We’re gonna get ready for big games to play Mexico and Costa Rica so we can be tested and play big games.”
The starting 11 amounted to many notable young players competing in major leagues all around the world including Liam Miller [Liverpool FC U-23], Alessandro Busti [Juventus FC U-23], Junior Hoilet [Cardiff City FC] and Alphonso Davies who currently plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps but will soon be transferring to Bayern Munich.
The first game of the CONCACAF National League Qualifying was against the Virgin Islands and the Canadian squad beat them by 8-0 under Herdman’s supervision. The team next plays in front of a home crowd in March 2019.