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Canadian team adds new player in Edgar Bartolomeu


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Canadian soccer team adds new player in Angolan-born Edgar Bartolomeu



783 words

7 January 2004


The Canadian Press


© 2004 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

TORONTO (CP) _ Angola's loss could be Canada's gain.

Edgar Bartolomeu is headed to Florida next week to take part in Frank Yallop's first camp as Canadian men's soccer coach. And the Angolan left back, who plays for the New York-New Jersey MetroStars in Major League Soccer, can't wait to pull on a Canadian jersey.

``It would be an honour for me to play for Canada,'' he said solemnly Wednesday.

Bartolomeu, who is awaiting word on when he will get his Canadian citizenship, was the surprise package in the camp roster of North American-based players announced Wednesday.

Canadian officials have been tracking him the last six months or so, paving the way to have a close look at him.

The 27-year-old came to North America in 1998 after going to school and playing soccer in Portugal, the country from which Angola was granted independence in 1975, for five years.

``It wasn't actually soccer that brought me to North America,'' he explained. ``I went back to Angola and my country's situation wasn't the best one.

``Life brought me here to North America.''

Angola, located on the west coast of Africa north of Namibia, has pretty much been in a state of civil war since independence. The Central Intelligence Agency estimates up to 1.5 million lives may have been lost in fighting over the last 25 years.

But a 2002 cease-fire bodes well.

``Things are getting better,'' Bartolomeu says.

Bartolomeu, who played for the Toronto Lynx in 1999 and 2000, now makes Toronto his home and has official resident status. He has applied for Canadian citizenship and says he could hear later this week when he gets it.

He says playing for Angola is all about politics. But in making the switch to Canada, he won't be too far from his native land when it comes to the FIFA rankings. Angola is tied for No. 83, four places above Canada.

In Portugal, Bartolomeu played futsal or indoor soccer and spent time outdoors with Sporting Lisbon. But after five years, as a foreigner, he had to leave.

He lives in Toronto with his wife, who joined him from Angola in 2000, although during the MLS season he lived in a New York-area hotel. They love Canada but, like more than a few these days, aren't sure about the winter.

``I don't think you ever get used to it,'' he said with a laugh. ``It's pretty different from back home.''

Bartolomeu credits veteran coach Paul Kitson for helping him find his way in North America. He played for one year indoors under Kitson, a former coach in Montreal, in Buffalo before the Blizzard folded.

Kitson helped Bartolomeu sort himself out when he was taken by the Philadelphia Kixx in the ensuing dispersal draft. Kitson also got him to play for the Long Island Rough Riders and then negotiated his contract with MLS when the MetroStars got interested.

Bartolomeu played 13 games last season for the MetroStars, starting in 11. It took a while to process his paperwork with the league, so he missed the pre-season. An injury also cost him some playing time.

Credit Yallop and San Jose Earthquakes striker Dwayne DeRosario for noticing him and helping bring him into the Canadian fold.

Bartolomeu's first start _ and second MLS appearance last season _ was against San Jose, coached by Yallop.

Bartolomeu remembers he had a good game. And DeRosario, a Toronto native, had already met Bartolomeu with the Lynx.

Yallop, who officially took over as Canadian coach on Jan. 1, has called up 15 players for the Jan. 12-23 camp in Sunrise, Fla.

All but two are based in North America as Yallop elects not to take his European-based players away from their clubs until he really needs them.

The exceptions are midfielder Patrice Bernier who is on his winter break with Moss FK in Norway, and Olympic team captain Chris Pozniak who is on trial with a team in Norway.

Yallop will also have access to some 10 Olympic team players who are in a Florida camp with coach Bruce Twamley, preparing for next month's final CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico.

Yallop will add one or two Olympic players to his roster before heading to Barbados for a friendly game in Bridgetown on Jan. 18. The players will then return to Florida for the second half of the camp.

Canada's first major challenge of the year is a World Cup qualifying series against modest Belize in June.

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