No regrets for Vitoria

TERRY JONES

, Last Updated: 6:53 AM ET

He's the last Canadian still standing.

Steven Vitoria spent the first 18 years of his life playing in Canada.

Tomorrow he plays for Portugal in Commonwealth Stadium against Chile in the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Like Calgary's Owen Hargreaves before him, Vitoria had a choice. He chose his parents' homeland, not the land where he grew up and learned to play soccer.

And today he's glad he did.

Canada's gone. Portugal's gone on.

Vitoria is already on the record about Canada's U-20 coach Dale Mitchell sending a fax to his club, FC Porto, inquiring about the possibility of him choosing Canada as his soccer nationality and playing for the home side in this tournament.

"To be honest, when I was there for the 18 years that I lived there, I was never asked," he said of any opportunity to wear a red maple leaf.

"It wasn't until after I signed in Portugal that all of a sudden everyone started caring," he told reporters in hometown Toronto before the tournament began.

"I had the opportunity to represent Portugal and to be honest I didn't have to think twice.

"It was a dream of mine. It was a dream of my family. It was not to choose over Canada, but to take this opportunity of representing Portugal.''

Vitoria didn't want to go over all that again yesterday and rub salt in the Canadian wounds with Canada having been eliminated here without winning a game or scoring a goal.

The 6'5" defender just wanted to glory in the moment.

"It's a special happiness in my life," he said of playing with Portugal, in Canada, in the glamour game of the tournament here so far.

"To be back home in Canada, playing in the round of 16 - there are no words to express this experience."

Sitting behind a multitude of microphones yesterday at a Portugal press conference at the Westin, Vitoria said he's living his dream.

"My goal was to play for Portugal," he said of growing up in Sudbury and the Toronto area. "It's always been a boyhood dream.

"Right away when I heard this tournament was coming to Canada I thought it could be something special.

"I thank God for it. There are no words that can explain. I'm just going to keep all that in my heart," said the 20-year-old who played for the FC Porto junior team two seasons ago and was on loan from Porto last year to Touizense.

Did he even consider Canada?

"I considered it. Lots of things happened. I don't want to talk about it now.

" I just feel so fortunate to be playing for Portugal and having the tournament in Canada," he said of getting the best of both worlds.

Vitoria, who started Portugal's third game in group play, followed Canada's depressing, humiliating, embarrassing run through the tournament.

"I have a lot of friends there. Even though they didn't win a match, there is a lot of talent on that team.

"I played a bit with David Edgar," he said of the Canadian defender.

"I know Canada was capable of doing more, but it didn't happen."

Portugal, one of the pre-tournament favourites, flew here without their captain and star Bruno Gama, who broke a bone in his foot and has been lost for the tournament.

"He's a big loss. He's our leader," said Vitoria.

"But we still have a lot left out there.

"We want to show the world what we're made of out there against a very good team.

"I think it's 50-50," he said of advancing to the quarter-finals.

At least Vitoria is no longer unofficial team tour director with the team moving West. He's never been to Western Canada before.

"The boys have had a lot of fun with this in the change room," he said.

Maybe one day he'll do what Hargreaves has now twice done for England and compete in the real World Cup.

"Hopefully," he said. "I'll keep working for it.

"A lot of people said I wasn't going to be good enough to make this part of it."

He's here.

And he's still playing.


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