ALLISTON, Ont. — Canadian international Scott Arfield wears his heart on his sleeve — and his back.
The Scottish-born midfielder wears No. 37 for Burnley as a tribute to former Falkirk teammate Craig Gowans, who was killed in a freak accident on the training ground in 2005 when a metal pole he was holding touched an overhead power line.
"It's a little thing, it's such a little thing. But for the family, I think they take great credit knowing that Craig's legacy lives on," Arfield said of his number in an interview prior to Canada's friendly against El Salvador in Houston on Sunday.
He cannot wear No. 37 for Canada because international numbers don't go that high.
Arfield takes to social media every July 8 to mark the 17-year-old's passing.
"Rest easy my man," he tweeted this year with a heart and the hashtag #CG37.
Arfield honoured Chris Mitchell, another friend gone far too soon, by naming his 15-month-old daughter Bonnie Mitchell. Mitchell, another former Falkirk teammate, was hit and killed by a train in May 2016. He was 27.
Burnley had just beaten Queens Park Rangers to win promotion out of the Championship and needed to beat Charlton to win the second-tier league title. Mitchell sent Arfield a text on the Friday night, wishing him well on the eve of the game.
"Looking back when we kicked off against Charlton, he had already committed suicide, (he) had enough of this world," said Arfield.
His wife Ashley held back the news, to allow him to take part in the team celebrations that night. She told him the next day.
It's news he wishes he never got. But Arfield, who pulled out of a planned team trip to Las Vegas to celebrate promotion, appreciates the way his wife handled it.
Mitchell's death hit the 28-year-old Arfield hard. Nobody knew the why.
"It's something that the whole of last season affected me," he said.
Arfield, a hard-nosed player on the pitch, is a huge believer in the mental side of sport. The death of his friend took a toll.
"I couldn't get the whole thing out of my mind," he added.
Arfield spoke to Sean Dyche, his manager at Burnley, and sought out professional help to talk about it.
His daughter was born one month after his best mate's death. Giving her the middle name Mitchell seemed like the right thing to do.
"Just my little thank you to (his) family for letting me know Chris," Arfield said.
A native of Livingston, Scotland, Arfield qualifies to play for Canada through his Toronto-born father. Arfield's grandfather was in the military and was briefly stationed in Canada.
Scott Arfield, who joined Burnley in 2013 after stints with Falkirk and Huddersfield, won 17 caps for the Scotland under-21 and one for Scotland B. But he never got an invite from the senior side.
The call from Canada came after Arfield — at a birthday bash for teammate Sam Vokes — mentioned his Canadian bloodlines to Burnley defender David Edgar, a Canadian who now plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Current assistant coach Mike Findlay, with then-head coach Benito Floro, brought Arfield into the Canadian fold.
He made his debut for Canada in March 2016, in a World Cup qualifying loss to Mexico in Vancouver. Sunday will be Arfield's 12th cap.
Current Canada coach Octavio Zambrano is delighted to have a player of Arfield's character wear the Maple Leaf.
"I can't say enough about him," he said. "Professionalism, commitment, just sheer quality of talent. Good in the locker-room. I think he is on his way to becoming a much more important part as a member of our team, because of what he exudes."
Arfield missed a June friendly against Curacao in Montreal because he was getting married. When he returned for the Gold Cup in July, Zambrano put him through what he called a "little bit demanding" fitness test.
"He passes it with flying colours. I don't see a gram of fat on him," Zambrano said. "These are the kind of guys that are going to help me as a coach to galvanize the culture of how to do things in the Canadian team ... He's definitely an asset."
Arfield has proven himself to be a Premier League regular, with a goal against Liverpool at Anfield this season this season among his career highlights.
Zambrano says the best is still to come for Arfield.
"There is more to him," he said
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press