Citizenship Judge Farid Osmane had choice words for 10 soon-to-be new Canadian citizens on Tuesday.
“Don’t be afraid to have professional ambitions, whatever they are,” Judge Osmane said. “[You may want to become] Montreal’s Zinédine Zidane or Lionel Messi.”
It was one of the easier parts of the speech to write. Judge Osmane and the 10 candidates for citizenship were at Stade Saputo for the first such ceremony ever held in a Canadian stadium, Citizenship and Immigration Canada official Vito Vassallo said.
Among the candidates was French-born Montreal Impact defender Wandrille Lefèvre. He bit his tongue when Judge Osmane mentioned Zizou.
“That’s very kind, but there’s only one Zidane,” Lefèvre told reporters after the ceremony. “Only one Messi, too. They stay where they are, and I’ll go my way, at my level.”
By then, Lefèvre had taken his oath and sung the national anthem of his new country. A country that had already been his for 11 years, really.
Born in Chartres in 1989, Lefèvre left France as a 14-year-old, when his dad came home one day and said that, for professional reasons, the family was moving to Canada. After five years at Perpignan’s academy, the young Lefèvre had to rebuild a (potential) soccer career in Montreal.
He eventually made his way to the university ranks, for the Université de Montréal’s Carabins. That’s where Philippe Eullaffroy, the director of the Montreal Impact Academy, noticed him. Lefèvre joined the Academy in early 2011, started training full-time with the MLS first team under Jesse Marsch in 2012 and became a professional player on Feb. 26., 2013.
“Like any person that becomes a Canadian, I wasn’t happy to leave my country at first,” Lefèvre said. “But then, different connections came about here. Professional connections, emotional connections as well, that translated into Montreal becoming my city and, along that path, Canada becoming my country.
“I’m here because I chose to,” Lefèvre continued. “My parents have gone back to France. I stayed. I chose to. I love my life here. My integration is complete.”
As a symbol of Lefèvre’s integration, a colleague’s gift for him on Tuesday morning was a pack of maple leaf crème cookies. Lefèvre enjoyed the treat, but he’s after another symbol: the national team jersey. Canada’s jersey.
“I’ve had contacts with them when I learned that I’d become a Canadian today – I’ve known for some time,” Lefèvre said. “Word got around. They started by sounding me out on my interest. It was positive on my part. They expressed their interest, that calling me up could be worth exploring.”
The Canada national team is an objective of Lefèvre’s. The ball is now in Benito Floro’s court. Lefèvre won’t be Montreal’s Zidane or Messi. But he could become Canada’s Wandrille Lefèvre, and that’s already something.