At Real Mallorca, the Spanish football club on the Island of Majorca in the Mediterranean Sea, they know a thing or two about Canadian soccer.
Now, thanks to two young SIGMA FC players, they know a whole lot more.
His play has raised the awareness of Canadian players at the club, but is by no means the only reason for the connection. For the past four years, SIGMA has held a special relationship with the club's youth director Arno Buitenweg who has coached at the academy's annual ID camp in Mississauga.
But now they have had a closer look at some new young Canadian soccer talent. Thirteen-year-olds Noah Mehta and Michael Matic of SIGMA FC's D1 (1997) squad travelled to Palma, Mallorca over the final two weeks of November on the invitation of Real Mallorca for a training opportunity.
"Our boys trained well, they fit in, and they garnered the interest of the club," said SIGMA technical director Bobby Smyrniotis. "[Mallorca] wants to have a collaboration with SIGMA going forward."
And while it can be said that they clubs are forging a solid relationship, the same can certainly be said of the boy's relationship with their new "friends."
"He was incredible with the boys," said Smyrniotis, who accompanied the pair on the trip. "He answered their questions, and was able to tell them his personal story about leaving home at 13.
Noah called his time in Mallorca a "life experience."
He said that the biggest difference compared to training in Canada was they trained extremely hard 100 per cent of the time.
"The focus was always there with the intensity. The boys played at a very quick pace and the touches where very sharp and his teammates knew the game very well," said Noah's father Tejal Mehta. "He fit in very well in the Spanish style of play as Noah is a technical player."
De Guzman told the boys about his experience leaving Toronto at 13.
Michael said he left Spain with memories he would never forget.
"I would like to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to both my Sigma and Mallorca coaches for an experience of a lifetime," said Michael, who added the Mallorca coaching staff was generous and helpful.
De Guzman has since connected to the boys on Facebook and has sent them messages since they returned home. Said Noah: "How incredible is it that a professional soccer player takes his time out of his busy schedule to talk to us..."
In addition to De Guzman, one of Mallorca's other star players, Cameroon international Webo, gave the boys autographed jersies one day after training.
"Jonathan De Guzman and Webo were so gracious with their time to take both of us out to dinner, share their life experiences. Mr. De Guzman's last comments stuck with me as they were about the importance of continued education and ensuring a balance in life," said Michael
If there is a young Canadian professional out there that is a great mentor for SIGMA's young talent it is De Guzman.
Injuries slowed him in recent years, and it was that uncertain form that led him to be out of contract last year. Mallorca offered him a deal, and he has reignited his career on the Balereas Islands this season.
The Canadian connection is only one part of Mallorca's resurgence. New ownership has pulled the club from financial insolvency, and has put the focus on restoring its fortunes. In the process, the club's committing to its youth system, providing SIGMA with a tremendous opportunity to play a role in that growth.
In May 2010, Mallorca was entered into financial administration after a series of owners mismanaged the club, leaving it in more than $70-million (Canadian) in debt. In June, a consortium lead by Llorenç Serra Ferrer, a former coach of Barcelona, had bought the club and placed it on solid financial footing.
The team is coached by former Danish international star Michael Laudrup.
The relationship with Real Mallorca and SIGMA goes back to 2006, when Buitenweg invited SIGMA to enter a team in its 1995 age group tournament.
"There's new ownership [at Mallorca], and they want to put the focus on getting players. There was a period where they were developing players, and in the last 4-5 years they were not," Smyrniotis explained.
And now the club is getting back on track with some help from its Canadian connection.