SNOWY Canada is a long way from the sunny waterside haven of Valentine.
But Phoenix striker Ryan Fante believes he and two of his countrymen are on what will become a common trek for Canadian soccer players.
Fante, Adrian Butters and Shondell Busby have come to Valentine this season and are already proving worthy additions.
In Sunday’s 2-1 win over West Wallsend at Johnson Park, Fante scored the side’s opening goal of the season and Busby came on in the second half and found the back of the net with his first touch.
Busby’s match-winner came after the 26-year-old scored a goal in the under-23s match, his first game for the club.
Butters, 23, a left-side defensive player who came to Phoenix from Swedish fourth division side Juventus IF, is also looming as a valuable utility for coach Lindsay Tapp.
They trio may be the first Canadians to play in the Northern NSW State League, but Fante believes they will not be the last.
Canadians are renowned for their prowess in ice hockey and winter sports, but 26-year-old Fante, who came to Phoenix along with Busby via Singapore’s S-League, said soccer was exploding at home.
‘‘When it comes to youths in sport in Canada, football’s No.1,’’ Fante said.
‘‘Toronto is quite a diverse place, it’s very multicultural and football is obviously No.1 around the world.
‘‘So it’s a big football community and more players will follow us out here as time goes on.
‘‘We have a lot of friends playing in Europe and Asia, so it’s getting better.’’
Fante, Busby and Butters, who are staying together in a house at Morisset, are friends using their football skills to see the world.
But they are also determined to help Valentine be genuine contenders this year and believe the side has the talent to do it.
‘‘I think we can definitely compete for the title, I have no doubts about that,’’ he said.
‘‘I know we’re only a few weeks in, but as time goes on and we learn how to play with each other, we’ll get much better.
‘‘Based on what I’ve seen, we played one of the top teams the week before, the Jets, and under better circumstances we could beat them.
‘‘We’re looking forward to playing against them next time around.
‘‘We’re trying to win everything and we plan to stick around and see how it goes.’’
Fante said the trio, who hail from the Toronto area in Canada, were enjoying their stay on and off the pitch.
‘‘The standard is not as high as Singapore but it’s competitive and that’s the main thing for us,’’ he said.
‘‘Obviously we’re not going to be here forever, but we want somewhere competitive to play. I think for the meanwhile it’s good.
‘‘It’s not the highest level but at the same time we get to experience new places and travel.
‘‘Those combinations drew us all here and it’s a good experience.’’
Tapp said Fante was combining well with No.1 striker Tallan Martin up front, but he saved special praise for 18-year-olds Cody Lucas and Dominic Bizzarri, who set up the goals against the Bluebells, and teenage goalkeeper Nathan Archibald.