It was at the Queen and Beaver pub last night. I don't normally go to these sorts of to-do's, but under present circumstances I thought it would be neat to see a hefty chunk of Canadian soccer mashed into a pub with an open bar. The Umbro Canada kit launch itself was perfunctory—the real critical work was being done on the comments section of this post—and I have to say I was largely indifferent to the designs. It's odd how soccer people, even the most intelligent ones, seem to put so much importance on a soccer shirt. Ours was awful up until yesterday; now it's different and weird and chevrony, which means it will get noticed in the cold, dark Eastern European climes where we will undoubtedly play friendlies against Estonia to prepare for CONCACAF qualification in Jamaica.
Anyway, the evening started with me standing around awkwardly, saying awkward hellos to one or two people, awkwardly shuffling to the open bar, realizing I hadn't had anything to eat for dinner, drinking anyway, awkwardly forcing myself to say to the soccer people I know from TV that "I'm that Twitter guy. Yeah. Yeah that guy," then proceeding to chew their ears off whilst awkwardly splashing my Creemore every which way.
Obviously the elephant in the room was the upcoming Canadian Soccer Association board vote on governance reforms, reforms would go some way to putting actual soccer development experts on the CSA board and lessening the influence of provincial reps with provincial concerns, the broken record of Canadian soccer woe. I talked to a few people about it and the general impression I get is that a lot of currently silent voices in positions of power back the proposed changes, that this previously non-existent pressure from fan groups via forums and websites is genuinely helping to move things along (and scaring people in a goodish way), but that the one thing stopping Canadian soccer from getting its shit together is the same thing that was stopping it from getting its shit together back in the 1940s (I'm serious, if I wasn't lazy I'd find an op-ed from the Toronto Telegraph that you could basically run on CSN today with only one or two changes): petty politics.
Meaning this guy won't do this thing because this other guy wants to get voted in again and is angry at this other guy for not backing him on this other thing, blah blah blah. It's fun to know the names and join in the kabuki theatre, but that's what they want. I work in administration so I know administrative politics. The thing we forget is that the people at the centre love it, because politics elevates them from mere functionaries into "power brokers." It affords certain character-types the delusion it's all about them and not the players, the fans, the coaches.
Paradoxically, the one thing that can help end all this political chicanery is to give it credence with a lot of media attention. If this was England, you'd have had News of the World in there last night furiously working an angle (and the supporters groups/trusts would be lucky to even be in the same city block let alone the same pub drinking on the FA's dime). But this is Canada. Soccer operates in a total media vacuum. The CSA could disband tomorrow and they'd be lucky to get a CP wire blurb. As long as this remains the case, people in positions of power can continue to re-arrange the Titanic deck chairs without anyone telling them the way to the life boats. This upcoming vote needs attention in big paper, big TV, big whatever, if only to get the functionaries/power-brokers to do what they know is right.
Similar to the atmosphere at the MLS Cup last year, you get the sense, mashed in between de Vos and Brennan and Lang (swoon!), that the soccer scene here is small. Very, very small. Which ramps up the volume of individual voices. I tend to avoid writing long missives on Canadian soccer (or MLS for that matter) because I'm bad at remembering the names of people who don't score goals. But I will learn these names if it means I never have to write about them again. More important though is for my Big Paper brothers and sisters learn them and write about them too. I know some of you sit in your offices and laugh at me and my struggle to eke out a soccer writing career on occasion. Why not stop making fun of me for a second and do a story on the CSA vote and why it matters for everyone who plays soccer in Canada (and there are a lot of those). The next World Cup is in Brazil for godsake! That means tanning in Copacabana! Work your journalism magic and you could play a small part in helping Canada (and you) get there.