RAISED in Ajax, Ontario, it was perhaps inevitable that Luca Gasparotto would turn out to be a footballer. But as he boarded a flight from Toronto to Glasgow as a teenager six years ago, to hook up with his pal Fraser Aird and undergo a trial for the Rangers youth system, even he wouldn't have dared to dream that he would one day be in line for a dream international debut for Canada against the nation where he has chosen to pursue his career. Having been included in Mike Findlay's squad yesterday for the friendly against Scotland at Easter Road, the Falkirk defender hopes for a first chance at this level to showcase the rugged defensive skills which some would suggest Rangers would have been wiser to retain last summer.
"This is what I want to do, play at the highest level and represent my country," said Gasparotto. "It is a bit weird to be doing in the country I am playing in, but I am really looking forward to it.
"I am still uncapped - I have been involved in five projects, I have just never made it off the bench," he added. "But it will be a small squad so there will be a big chance for me to make it onto the pitch this time. So I am hoping to get on and get my first cap. It would be quite fitting. And the good thing about this project is that you don't have to travel. It will be nice to drive the ground instead of having to fly."
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So no caps yet then, but Gasparotto already has some international heroics to speak of. Back in 2011, he was part of the Canada squad for the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico, where he helped the country secure their first-ever point at this level. The result was even more remarkable as it came in a 2-2 draw against an England side featuring Danny Welbeck, Nathaniel Chalobah, Danny Rose and Raheem Sterling, courtesy of an 87th minute equaliser from his own half by Quillian Roberts, the Canada goalkeeper. For the record, the beaten goalkeeper at the other end was Sunderland's Jordan Pickford and not the other goalkeeper in that squad, Rangers' Wes Foderingham.
"That England match was a group game, they and Uruguay went through," said Gasparotto. "But it was our first ever point at an Under-17 World Cup. So it was a nice piece of history for Canadian football. I have a picture of him [Sterling] beating me on a dribble, I am not even ashamed of that! I was also on the bench against Colombia after the World Cup and James Rodriguez and Falcao were playing so that was quite exciting - even if I didn't get on."
While Wednesday night's match pits together two nations who in all likelihood won't be at the World Cup in Russia in 2018 - back-to-back defeats to Mexico scuppered Canada's qualification hopes and Scotland's prospects aren't exactly too promising - Gasparotto sees much to be excited about in how the maple leaf nation is rebuilding for this summer's Gold Cup after the retirement of the trailblazing Julian de Guzman.
"There is a lot of excitement about football in Canada - I think the sport in Canada is growing," said Gasparotto. "There are a lot of players now committing to play for Canada - guys like Junior Hoilett and Scott Arfield. It is nice to see, very exciting for the young guys to be involved with these kind of players."
Gasparotto's international coming of age can wait, though, because first he has the small matter of a Championship promotion tussle against a former club to attend to. Falkirk face Morton in a televised match this evening, knowing a win for either is crucial if they are to retain genuine ambitions of overtaking Hibs in the race for the automatic promotion spot.
Gasparotto had the choice of both clubs in the summer, having performed creditably on a loan spell at the Cappielow side under the shrewd management of grizzled defensive veteran Jim Duffy. "My time at Morton was very enjoyable," said Gasparotto. "I played a lot of games and felt I had a good season. That, ultimately, was what got me a move here.
"I had him [Duffy] on my case!" added the 22-year-old. "No, he was just very open and honest. If you were having a bad day he would come out and say it. And try to give you things that will help you become a better player. He put a lot of information forward to the defenders and tried to help them as much as he could. He got the best out of me and helped me improve."
The three previous league matches between these teams were drawn, perhaps unsurpisingly for two teams, pieced together by two of the cannier members of the Scottish coaching corps, which seem to be built on the same first principles. While both like to get the ball down and pass, set plays and jousting under high balls could yet prove crucial, with Morton centre half Tam O'Ware having ten goals to his name already.
"Both coaches are similar, they like to talk to the boys, get involved and try to help out as much as possible," said Gasparotto. "I enjoyed playing with Lee Kilday and Tam O'Ware at the back, we mixed it up a few times but whoever came in we got on well and formed good chemistry. I would like to score a few more goals myself personally. But it helps when you have got delivery like Ross Forbes has, he is a special player when he is on the dead balls. He makes it easy for the defenders to get up and win them and that is something we will need to watch this weekend for sure."