Calgary’s Sam Adekugbe selected to Canada’s World Cup soccer side

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Calgary’s Sam Adekugbe was named early Sunday to Canada’s World Cup soccer roster.

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The 27-year-old defender, who plays as a left-back for Turkey’s Super Lig club Hatayspor, made the 26-player squad set to return to the much-anticipated international event next week in Qatar.

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As well, former Cavalry FC and Calgary Foothills defender Joel Waterman — a 26-year-old native of Langley, B.C, — was selected to the defence of Canada.

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Adekugbe is a veteran of Canada’s national team, having played 33 games with the side and having fought hard to reach this proud moment.

“I actually enjoy the competition,” said Adekugbe, whose soccer road has taken him from Calgary Foothills to the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS and onwards to Brighton & Hove Albion of the English Premier League, IFK Goteborg of Sweden’s Allsvenskan and in Norway’s top loop — the Eliteserien — with Vålerenga Fotball in Oslo before joining Hatayspor in 2021.

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“As an athlete, you need competition,” continued Adekugbe in conversation last year. “It’s essential to the success of the team because it motivates everyone to play their best. Ultimately, you get disappointed when you don’t play every game, but it’s impossible to play every game in the first place. It just makes you want to work harder and prove yourself to show that you should be a part of this national team.”

Canada head coach Jon Herdman talked early Sunday on TSN of the reactions of players after hearing if they’d be named — or not named — to the squad.

“The guys are going to respond differently — some are in shock, some are in despair,” Herdman said. “But I think for me and the staff, to be able to share that news with someone like Joel Waterman, who’s been grinding now for four years, is (amazing). He’s been contributing in different ways in his own career to get him to this point. That was a significant conversation.

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“He’s a real Canadian story, that one. For a lot of young players to see the path that he took through the (Canadian Premier League) and probably being told that he wasn’t going to make it at certain levels and then rocking it this year with (CF) Montreal (of Major League Soccer) and being a massive part of what they did (is great). To make his first Cup and then to get the call-up? I mean … this is the stuff I love. And it’s part of the job that you dream of, being able to tell a lad like him that he’s going to the World Cup.”

Canada opens its first men’s World Cup experience in decades against Belgium on Nov. 23 (noon, CTV/TSN). It then follows with more Group F round-robin soccer against Croatia on Nov. 27 (9 a.m., CTV/TSN) and against Morocco on Dec. 1 (8 a.m. CTV/TSN).

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