Thursday, June 30, 2011

Canadian soccer's annus horribilis

In honour of the royal visitors Kate and whoseewotsits, this has been an annus horribilis for Canadian soccer.

Our two MLS franchises are stumbling through their respective league seasons. The Canadian national teams crashed in out in the group stages of the U17 World Cup, the Gold Cup, and after today's 4-0 loss to France, almost certainly the Women's World Cup in Germany. And the same stuff gets written by soccer bloggers and journos (a lot by yours truly) on the ever present need for "change." And then we get to the next tournament and the scenery looks exactly the same.

Of course there are many voices in the Canadian soccer media world calling for calm, describing how this game is a one-off and doesn't reflect the Carolina Morace era. I'm inclined to agree. Trying to pinpoint specific blame for a one-game loss in a major tournament is a fool's errand, but the pattern of false starts at major international tournaments is a pattern impossible to dismiss.

We are missing something. What that "something" is is anyone's guess. I personally think it's the swagger of a country that's had its moments. Canada has qualified for a FIFA World Cup, sure. We won a Gold Cup, okay. We scored 17 goals and let in 0 during the women's CONCACAF qualifying tournament. But these feel like hype-laden exceptions, the kind of exceptions that fuel the delusion that we're getting somewhere when we're actually grinding our gears, maniacally convincing ourselves we're not.

You get that "something" by taking football seriously, from the ground up. We're slowly moving in that direction with incremental CSA reform, but it will be sometime before we're there, in clear evidence at the highest level.

My own belief is that the status quo however will be hard, if not impossible, to change. Normally when we shit the bed in large global sports tournaments, we hem and haw and write letters to the editor, get our MPs to write up private members bills and voila: we get an own the podium-like athlete funding mechanism. But with football, no one will care. Stephen Brunt will pen an articulate, soul-searching column, and no one outside of football, save the hardcore sports people, will bat an eye.

This to me is the problem, a problem we've known for ages (and I'm speaking in terms of one hundred years, here).

1 comment:

Tybalt said...

The problem, Richard, is that no one but no one has much content to fill in to "take more seriously".

"Taking things seriously" is just buzztalk, and it's the only kind of thing the anti-CSA forces are able to utter. We need more, we need to get ourselves together and offer real, concrete plans of action for rebuilding soccer from the ground up - IF that is what is necessary, and I argue that it is.

Too many fans - of clubs and the national team - are obsessed with "professional" management, without (I think) honestly coming to terms with the fact, the simple fact, that the Canadian game is funded by its amateurs, and until such time as that changes the amateur ethos will predominate. And it should predominate in such a structure.

I don't know what should happen. I have my ideas. We need to slay the awful beast of football federalism, first and foremost, but exactly how I simply do not know).

Carolina Morace will probably pay the price for this, unfortunately, but that is the kind of ruthlessness we arguably need. I do think it was one bad game.