When Victor Loturi's team manager at Ross County approached him last week asking for some information to provide for Canada Soccer, the 21-year-old didn't think much of it. He figured the national federation was just doing its due diligence, so he just provided her with what was needed and got on with his day. To his surprise, however, his phone rang later that afternoon, with that same team manager letting the young midfielder know that he had received his first call-up to the Canadian men's national team. He will join the team for a pair of critical Concacaf Nations League group-stage matches against Curaçao, on Saturday and Honduras next Tuesday, March 28, at BMO Field.
"It hasn’t really hit yet but I think once I get there it will properly hit," Loturi told CanPL.ca last week. "It is just a big moment for me and my family, and my friends that have been with me this whole way so I am just so excited."

It is the first time that Loturi has received a call-up to the national team at any level. While it was his excellent play this season in the Scottish Premier League that led to Loturi finally catching the eye of John Herdman and his staff, getting that call has long been a goal of his. When he was playing with Cavalry FC in the Canadian Premier League he saw several teammates get the chance to represent Canada, and this only inspired him further to try to follow in their footsteps.

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"Coming from the CPL, some of my teammates, Joel Waterman, Dominick Zator, [Marco] Carducci, Ledge [Nik Ledgerwood] [got called up]" said Loturi. "I’ve seen them do it when I was younger, and I have always had aspirations of making the national team. I didn’t know how it would happen, what I would have to do but kept working and it finally came."

Zator, who now plays for Korona Kielce in Poland, will be joining Loturi at Canada camp. But it was another former Cavalry teammate that he says had a profound impact on his career. Ledgerwood, a fellow Alberta boy, picked up 50 caps for Canada, also as a midfielder. Getting the opportunity to play and train alongside a player who spent over a decade in Europe, was incredibly formative for Loturi especially entering the CPL at such a young age. He made his debut for Cavalry in 2019 at just age 17. "I got to learn a lot from him on and off the field," he says. "He taught me little things off the field, how I can be a better professional as a young kid, 17 years old, you don’t really know everything about the professional game so yeah he taught me a lot of things off the field that could help my body, help me recover, little things like that. And on the field as well, he is a great player. So watching him play week in and week out you just catch up on little things and how he plays the game and understands it so well so he has been really good to me." His time in the Canadian Premier League not only brought with it mentorship but also significant professional experience, as he played 45 matches in all competitions with Cavalry. He says the league gave him an opportunity that previously did not exist for Canadian players, saying "without the CPL I probably wouldn't even be in Europe". Since arriving in Scotland, Loturi has thrived, appearing in 22 matches in all competitions, scoring twice and adding a pair of assists. But it was a couple of games in particular, against storied Scottish sides, that truly convinced Herdman it was time to bring Loturi into the Canada fold. "To see Victor playing against Rangers and Celtic in 50,000 seat stadiums and being able to perform and handle that pressure and demonstrate his capabilities I think that was big for me," said Herdman. Coming into Canada camp will bring with it a different kind of pressure. Having been battle hardened by a Concacaf World Cup qualifying campaign that led to the country's first World Cup appearance in 36 years -- not to mention facing class opposition at the tournament itself -- this is a Canada group that has become incredibly close-knit. Often referring to themselves as "brotherhood" they also boast more renowned talent than any team to wear the maple leaf previously.
"You always get a gauge, can they handle that next step up when you are on a training field with Davies, David, Larin, Buchanan, Eustaquio," said Herdman, "and you are in and around Osorio, the movements of those players and the speed that they will want to play at. Players get found out pretty quickly, one whether or not they have the technical capability but more importantly the mindset to try to adapt in that moment and stick with it."

For his part, just like playing in front of tens of thousands at Ibrox and Celtic Park, Loturi embraces that pressure, and calls it a learning opportunity.
"Of course, it is going to be eye-opening," said Loturi. "It is going to be a great experience to see these guys. But I’m on the same field as them now so it is just business and I am just super excited for it."

Loturi's former manager, Cavalry FC's Tommy Wheeldon Jr. has kept a close eye on Loturi in Scotland this season. He has been impressed with how the young midfielder has adapted to a difficult league and thinks there is plenty in his locker that will make him a valuable addition to the national team.
"His technique on demand, he has the ability to absorb pressure." said Wheeldon Jr, adding, "he has great peripheral vision, he is aware of where he is on the pitch. Lovely passing range but can run for days, and he’s very, very intelligent."

Loturi has been forced to adapt those abilities to not only a new league this season but also a new situation. Cavalry is a team that generally enjoys a lot of possession. Ross County, meanwhile, currently sits 11th in the 12-team SPL and generally spent a lot of the game, especially against top opposition, defending. That means not only having to battle just to get time on the ball, but also relegation.
"It was difficult when I first came, honestly, it was a different type of football compared to the CPL, at least my team, Cavalry," said Loturi. "It is a bit more physical, a bit more direct so you have to get used to that side of the game. But at the end of the day it is football. After the first month, I settled in pretty well, the boys were good to me. So it was a pretty smooth transition. Right now of course we are in a relegation battle but you live for these moments, you have to play in the big games. If you want to stay up you have to show up and play well."

Loturi says it took him a few weeks to acclimatize to his new surroundings off the field as well, being in a new country with teammates he had never met before. He was quickly able to adjust, however, which was only aided by the fact that his older brother William Akio, formerly of Valour FC, also joined Ross County before going out on loan to Raith Rovers. The brothers live together, which has only added to Loturi quickly getting comfortable in his new surroundings. Akio will also be representing his country in this international window, South Sudan. Loturi was also eligible for the Bright Stars, even being named to the preliminary roster for their upcoming AFCON qualifying matches against The Gambia and Mali. It wasn't easy for Loturi to pick the country of his birth over the country of his heritage. "It was a difficult decision," admits Loturi. "Obviously, my parents being born there, being from there, and three of my brothers being born there as well. Of course, I wanted to represent my family and everything they have done. It was a tough decision but at the end of the day I just think it was a better opportunity for Canada and I think it is just a bigger opportunity on a bigger stage so obviously ultimately I chose Canada." With the Gold Cup this summer, the potential of a Copa America appearance in 2024, and of course a home World Cup in 2026, those stages are only set to get bigger and bigger. For the moment, however, Loturi is focused on putting his best foot forward in his first international camp and demonstrating the talent that has taken him from Calgary to Scotland, and potentially to new heights in the near future.

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