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Despite being born some 21 years and 7,000 kilometres apart, David Wotherspoon and Nick Dasovic share a special bond.
Born in Perth, Scotland, Wotherspoon grew up supporting St. Johnstone, his local club. The Vancouver-born Dasovic spent six seasons there, from 1996 to 2002, helping the Saints secure promotion in 1996-97 and scoring in a 2-1 loss to mighty Rangers in the 1998 Scottish League Cup final. A year later, he scored in a memorable 3-3 tie against Monaco in UEFA Cup play.
Wotherspoon recalls as a boy quizzing Dasovic at a St. Johnstone question-and -answer session at the club's McDiarmid Park home.
Now 31, Wotherspoon is a star himself at St. Johnstone, helping the club record a historic double this season with victories in the Scottish Cup and League Cup as the Saints (11-15-12) finished fifth in the Scottish Premier League. He also helped St. Johnstone win the Scottish Cup in 2014.
Dasovic, a member of the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame, won 63 caps for Canada.
Wotherspoon, eligible to play for Canada through his Winnipeg-born mother, is just starting his journey in Canadian colours. The former Scottish youth international switched his allegiance to Canada after being contacted by coach John Herdman, making his debut in Herdman's first game in charge — a 1-0 win over New Zealand in March 2018.
"I knew that connection was there but never really thought anything of it," Wotherspoon said of his Canadian ties. "But when I got that call from John, I jumped at the chance to be able to represent this country."
Wotherspoon, who scored his first goal for Canada and added three assists in the 11-0 romp over the Cayman Islands in late March, now has four caps under Herdman and is currently in camp with 70th-ranked Canada ahead of World Cup qualifying games against No. 205 Aruba on Saturday and No. 136 Suriname next Tuesday.
Dasovic, who still follows St. Johnstone closely, is a fan.
"He's turned into being I guess, at this moment, arguably, possibly, the best-ever player to don a St. Johnstone shirt in their history. Which is saying a lot," said the 52-year-old Dasovic, who now coaches the Vancouver Whitecaps under-19 team. "I know it's not Rangers or Celtic but still it's a club that has been around for over 130 years … It's very impressive, to be honest."
Wotherspoon also remembers Dasovic's exploits.
"I've men Nick a couple of times and been able to talk to him" he said. "I do remember watching him play for St. Johnstone. He was a great player, great left foot. He was a joy to watch."
Dasovic, in his first few seasons with St. Johnstone, played alongside Callum Davidson, a Scottish international who now manages the Saints.
Dasovic also played overseas for clubs in Croatia, France and Sweden. But St. Johnstone and Perth, located about an hour north of Edinburgh, remain close to his heart.
"It's kind of my club, in a sense," he said. "Back in the day, it was different. There weren't agents as much. It was just pack your bags and go and try to find work. Then when I landed in Scotland, in Perth, it was like I kind of went home. And I'd never been to Scotland. But it was like I was coming home.
"I always tell people I think it was a perfect club for me and I think I was a perfect for that club at that time. It was a smaller club. A lot of people in the city were passionate about the club."
Dasovic lived a stone's throw from the stadium, walking or biking to work.
"It was probably the best time of my career, when I was living there," he said.
One of his kids was born there, adding to the connection.
Wotherspoon's grandparents lived in Canada in 12 years with his grandfather working for Hudson Bay.
"He's very proud of that … It's a very proud moment for me, representing Canada," he said.
But it is also one that — like for many of the players after a long club season — comes at a personal cost. This week the father of three is missing his wedding anniversary with wife Sophie and their four-year-old daughter's birthday.
"It's a tough time to be away. But it's all for the cause and for this jersey. It's for my family as well," he said.
A creative, intelligent midfielder who often serves as playmaker, Wotherspoon also contributed six goals for the Saints this season.
He even has his own signature move dubbed the "Wotherspoon chop." It usually comes near the byline, when he feints a cross and then drags the ball back the other way, often leaving the defender in his dust.
"it seems to work nine times out of 10," he said.
Wotherspoon started with St. Johnstone's under-12 side before switching to the Celtic academy. At 16 he moved to Hibernian where he made his pro debut. In 2013, he joined his hometown club.
"I grew up supporting St. Johnstone as a kid," he said. "It's a massive achievement for me personally to play for the club. And not only that, to guide the club to such success this year and throughout the years I've been here."
On May 22, Wotherspoon was named man of the match in St. Johnstone's 1-0 win over Hibs in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park. Wotherspoon had previously helped his club hoist the Scottish League Cup for the first time in the club's 137-year history with a 1-0 win over Livingston on Feb. 28 also in Glasgow.
He is signed for another two years with St. Johnstone, which will bring his time with the club to 10 years.
ACHARA ON INVESTMENT: Toronto FC's Ifunanyachi Achara has had time on his hands since undergoing surgery last July to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament in his left knee.
When not doing his rehab, the Nigerian-born striker started researching investments. And with the Nigerian currency up and down and the difficulties in transferring money to Nigerian banks, many of which had shut down, he started looking at cryptocurrency.
Achara has since partnered with Bitwage, which allows him access to bitcoin through his MLS salary.
Achara says while he's not trying to give anyone investment advice, using bitcoin was an easier way to transfer funds back home. The former Georgetown University star had run into difficulty on an earlier fundraising effort for families in need back in Nigeria, because Wells Fargo, his American bank, had required him to be in the U.S. to make the transfer. But Achara couldn't travel due to pandemic-related restrictions.
So he bought bitcoin with the money raised and sent it to Nigeria, where it was resold into Nigerian currency.
He said it showed him "how helpful and how fast and efficient the technology is, especially for people in a Third World country."
The reselling price can move up and down but the good news is there's always a buyer, according to Achara. Other times, people hold on to it as an investment.
"I think it's an investment but you have to look long-term because of how volatile it is," he cautioned.
"I see the potential in the technology," he added.
On the soccer front, the 23-year-old says he's nearing a return to training. He's back running and doing some ball work.
"I'm feeling pretty good each day. And positive," he said. "I'm close."
STAT OF THE WEEK: New England Revolution playmaker Carles Gil leads MLS with five assists, which equals Toronto FC's total in seven games for the season.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2021.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press