Anthony Jackson-Hamel (white jersey) played in five matches for Canada at the 2015 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship. (Photo: Canada Soccer)
MARRAKECH, Morocco -- As Canada starts to rebuild after its elimination from 2018 FIFA World Cup contention, it marks an opportunity for a new batch of players to make their cases for national team inclusion.
The process started off on the right foot with a 4-0 win over Mauritania in Morocco on October 6 and Anthony Jackson-Hamel -- one of those in a position to make a future impact -- came off the bench in the 69th minute to make his senior debut.
“It was an amazing feeling. I’m glad for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to more,” said Jackson-Hamel, who has seen action with both the Impact de Montreal Impact and its USL affiliate, FC Montreal, this season. “This next year for me is going to be very important for me with the first team in Montreal. I’m excited to see how it’s going to go and for the Canadian team it’s a big opportunity that I have now and I’m hoping to take it and to help the team and do my best.”
At 23-years-old, Jackson-Hamel is entering the prime years of his career over the next qualifying cycle after representing Canada at the U-20 and U-23 levels. As his development continues, there are examples to follow at both the club and country levels.
In Montreal, there’s Didier Drogba, whose resume speaks for itself, and with Canada, there’s the likes of Junior Hoilett, who has fashioned a pretty good start to his own career in England.
“It’s good to be surrounded by guys like this, it’s true” said Jackson-Hamel. “Just looking at how calm they are on the ball and how easy it is for them to play, it’s helpful. You can take a lot from those guys and it’s always good.”
Many will look to Orlando City SC star Cyle Larin, 21, as Canada’s biggest up-and-coming offensive threat with 31 goals in 57 MLS games.
Any good team, however, has multiple threats that can contribute at any time. There’s time ahead of next year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup for Jackson-Hamel to become one of those assets.