TORONTO – Across the Canadian Premier League, by and for Canadians, there are a smattering of internationals. There are players from England, Japan, Sweden, Germany, South Korea, Belgium, Ghana. Americans, too. In some cases coaches leaned on previous experiences in their recruitment. Few were surprised when Stephen Hart's HFX Wanderers FC signed a quartet of Trinidadians, but two veteran South Americans – Peruvian Juan Diego Gutierrez and Colombian Luis Alberto Perea – coming to the Maritimes stood out. How? Both received a phone call from the same man. “There is a Peruvian person who lives here in Canada, who is involved in soccer,” explained Gutierrez, mysteriously. “One day he called me and asked if I was interested in playing in the CPL here in Halifax. I told him that, of course, I was interested. “I had some other options, but this one was the most serious, so I took it." Perea received a similar call: “He called me up one day, maybe six months ago, telling me about the idea and since the beginning I loved it. “Canada is a great country that I always wanted to visit and (this) is a great opportunity for me to keep growing as a player and as a person also.”
Game winner Scored by our Striker, Luis Perea.#COYW #Firstofmany

— HFX Wanderers FC (@HfxWanderersFC) May 4, 2019
Neither knew much about Halifax at the beginning, but the idea of life in Canada was appealing. “Everybody told me that it is maybe the best country,” said Gutierrez. “Where everyone wants to live because it is a high life level, but, really, about soccer.... I know about teams that played in MLS. “I'm really (pleasantly) surprised about the level and everything here in CPL.” And as for Nova Scotia, their new home, itself ... “I didn't know anything to be honest with you,” levelled Perea. “Once I knew I was going to sign with the team I started searching on the internet. I was glad the city is nice; the people are really friendly. “And also I like the environment, people are really passionate about sports. Everybody is behind us, we really feel the support of the fans.” Perea, 32, and Gutierrez, 27, have plied their trade across the Americas and a little in Europe. But a move to Canada, to play soccer, was an abrupt change. The response from friends and family has only been positive. “Everyone was happy because everybody knows that here in Canada if you do something, you do it well,” explained Gutierrez. “People in Canada are seen in the rest of the world as very serious people. “If they made their own league, it's going to be a good level.” Perea's family in particular were excited: “They didn't think about the soccer side, just about living in Canada, this being a great country and really excited to visit me.” And they were in attendance for HFX's home opener against Forge on May 4, where Perea scored the game-winner in the 82nd minute. Former teammates are intrigued at the possibilities, according to the Colombian. “A ton of players that I've played with in other countries have texted me," he added. “They want to come here, they like the challenge, that it is a new league.” Both have featured in HFX's opening two matches, but have only played 12 minutes together. Expect to see more of them working in tandem for Hart's side with time. Coming to Halifax after all was a reunion: they played together at Lima-based club CD Universidad San Martin de Porres. “We played two years together, went together to training, have a really good relationship,” said Gutierrez. “He's a very good player, scores a lot of goals, he's really strong, he keeps the ball well. “I'm really happy to see him again because he's great as a player and as a person.” Added Perea: “It's awesome man, being reunited with him, especially because he's a great player, a great person. “To be with someone that you know from before makes it easier.” Did either, ever, in a million years, think they would be reunited, playing soccer together once more in Canada of all places? “Of course not,” said Gutierrez. “I didn't think about playing with him again, didn't think about playing in CPL, in Halifax. “But when you work hard, life always gives you new opportunities and surprises you.” Echoed Perea: “That's the beautiful game. You don't know what is going to happen.”

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