Monday, March 29, 2010

Spot # 1 The Football Factory

Located at 164 Bathurst St, one block south of Queen sits the one of the newest and friendliest places to watch a match in the city. The Football Factory (named after the classic brit football hooligan film)is not what you might think of as a typical "pub". The factory is a well designed modern take on what this generation of football fan comes to expect on a day out to watch his or her club.

Although the classic style British pub still exists to suit the needs of the old school punters (Mcveigh's as an example), the "Premier League era" fan is looking for the same type of atmosphere without the dank smell of old kegs and beer nuts. The menu at the factory is great without being to 5 start that the place loses it's cred as a football venue, I highly recommend the chicken wrap by the way.

As for what most of us footy fans love, the tap and bottle selection is excellent with a little something for all tastes. The bar is well stocked with all the standard liquors needed for those who prefer to stay away from the brew. As at any good sporting bar (though I would start to label the factory as a gastro-pub) seating at the bar is a key to the overall experience. Having downed a few Sunday afternoon while watching the Madrid derby I found myself enjoying the surroundings at the bar. It was defiantly the main focal point of the bar both for watching the match and for the conversation.

Which leads me into what I love most about the factory, a bar or restaurant is only as good as the people who frequent the establishment. I must say I have never enjoyed myself as much as I did at a bar on a Sunday afternoon for 2 1/2 hours as I did at the factory. The passion people there had for the game was incredible. The level of knowledge was excellent, without being condescending or frankly dickish! This is important for people who are trying the place out for the first time or who are new to the game as well. The owners Pat Pennman and Christine Whittick are welcoming and are eager to share their love of the game and their establishment with you. The staff are also friendly and prompt, which as we know in the pub world always is not the case.

Overall The Football factory is an excellent place to feel the pulse of Toronto's growing football culture, I highly recommend checking out any TFC matches in Saturday afternoons, though you must get there early as the place is rammed 20 mins before kick off. I also will recommended checking out your favorite club there (schedule permitting) they play more than just EPL or La liga matches think Brazilian league! You can also call ahead for private functions and for booths with your own flat screen T.V.

Thanks for checking in this week, be sure to check back next week as I'll reviewing another famous footy jaunt Scallywags!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

T-Dot Footy hotspots!

This coming Saturday I'll heading out bright and early to some of the city's football pubs and resturants to check the vibe and provide you a possible World Cup pub map for June! If you know of any place I should check out leave a comment and let me know!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Best of the Best 2

As a follow up to my post on Saturday, I'm fully aware that Wayne Rooney scored....again! It seems like every time the boy gets the ball anywhere near him he's looking to score. There is absolutely no doubt that Rooney will be EPL player of the year, and that he will have a strong world cup showing (Provided that he can stay injury free from now until June).

However just as I'm sure Messi read my blog and felt a need to justify my love for his skills he goes a scores another hit trick against Real Zaragoza Sunday evening. This leaves Messi with 8 goals in his last 3 games and 33 in all competitions this season. See the Goals at the link below, hint pay attention to the second and third Messi goals.

I understand that comparing Rooney and Messi is a bit unfair as they are two different types of players. As Tommy Smyth of ESPN points out Rooney has to go and get the ball a lot in the midfield and distribute to the wingers. Whereas Messi many times is fed the ball on his preferred left wing position. Rooney is also the bigger player and over time may be able to take more punishment from the backs and holding midfielders, Messi over time may start to feel the affects of being kicked at by defenders once his pace begins to decline. Though that will be a long while from now. However when it comes down to it most people judge the world's best player on several different criteria. Two of them being technique and mastery of skill on the pitch. Both of which go to Messi hands down in my opinion. Also a lot is based on cup wins and head to head match ups if possible. On point one I would say that the two players are very close as Messi has 3 La Liga titles, Rooney has 3 EPL titles. Messi holds the edge in Champions league titles 2-1.

This leads to the head to head match ups. Barcelona and Manchester United met in last year's Champions league final. It was actually built up as match up between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who had been world's best the previous year. Either way neither Ronaldo or Rooney were factors in the match as Messi and Barca won with relative ease. This was capped off by Messi scoring the decisive goal 20 minutes from time on a great header. It became pretty apparent during the match that Messi had truly stepped into the best player on earth role. Trust me it hurts for me to say that as a United supporter, but the evidence was left all over the Stadio Olympico pitch that warm May night in Rome.

Well enough of my rambling what do you think? Who is the best of the best in your opinion? (and no Eric Roberts does not count!)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Best of the best?

Hello all! Been away for a week but I'm back and ready to go. Over that past two weeks we have seen the the progression of Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Inter Milian, Arsenal, Barcalona, Bordeaux, Lyon and CSKA Moscow to the quarter finals of the Champions Leauge. During the round of 16 footy fans had the opporunity to watch the top 3 contenders of best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Wayne Rooney.

When this season began way back in August this was for the most part a two horse race between Ronaldo (2008 World Player of thr year) and Messi (2009 World Player of the year). There was concensus, including yours truly that this was Messi's world and we were all just living in it. Ronaldo was a close second and then there was a few guys that were a far ways away from the top two. Rooney was considered to be in that second tier.

However with Ronaldo gone to Real Madrid in the summer Rooney was placed up front in the Manchester United attack, allowing him showcase all of his wonderful skills. In total Rooney leads all European scorers with 31 goals in all competitions, and he has evolved into an all around attacking threat that frankly has keeped Man Utd in the title chase in the Permier Leauge.

After scoring two goals against AC Milian at the San Siro England Teammate David Beckham claimed of Rooney "Without a doubt he is one of the best players, if not the best, in the world at the moment with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi." Rooney will also be the anchor of the England World Cup hopes in South Africa.

So after all that is Rooney assuming the title of Best player in the world? The long and short of it is....No.

Messi is still the best player in the world and if you do not believe me please watch the below highlight package of his hat trick against Valencia last week.

Messi is simply mesmorizing on the ball, he clearly makes everyone around him better and clearly no one can match him one on one in the box, watch the 1st goal. Look out tomorrow for the my full case for Messi.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

An Education

I had a very interesting conversation a few weeks ago with someone over the value of an education for professional footballers. We were speaking in the European context however it got me thinking about the development of the game here and the push for the academy system. To breakdown the basics of the discussion my friend (Dave) argued that the reason Canada does not, and may never produce a talent the likes of a Messi or Rooney is due to the lack of a full blown academy system. Since most world superstars take the step of being elite players in their teens they need to be playing the amount of games most European club academies play (3-4 matches per week). As for the education he mentioned that academies are like professional schools in which the skill taught is football, he also pointed out that almost every academy has time allotted for regular school work; a North American example would be Major Junior Hockey in which players play, practice and train like a professionals but are allotted time to go to public school and live either with their family or with a family in the town their club is in. Dave thought that if Soccer Canada put as much as 20% of what we out into major junior hockey players, Canada would have double the amount of players playing in major leagues around the world. When I pressed him on the fact that education at some of these academies sometimes takes a back seat, he countered by saying that this is not much different that high schools that do well in sports.

As I listened to Dave I had to think about my position on the subject, on one hand I so badly want to see a Canadian tearing it up some of the massive leagues in Europe and garnering world acclaim while leading Canada to a World Cup birth. However on the other I have read too many stories of ex football stars and guys who just weren't good enough struggling to make a living after playing because they had no usable work skills outside of football. In the end I took the opposite end of the argument and sided with education. My arguments were this :

-Canada can produce the talent that can produce in some of the top leagues in the world without giving up the high levels of education the majority of Canadian internationals have (Most players have university/college degrees)

- My example for the above mentioned point was the U.S team in which all of their players have university educations and came through the U.S national residency program which forced player to juggle school and football. Also mentioned that the U.S has made every World Cup since 1990.

- I also pointed out to Dave the many cases of ex-footballers being broke and out of work within 3 years of retiring. Hard to believe with the amount of money some players make in the modern game, but without the education on how to handle money a lot of players squander what they made as a player.

-Many player have reported that it is very hard for them to anything else as a career outside of being in football. For every Robbie Fowler who has become very rich in real estate, there are 1000's of other players that cannot make the jump from footballer to regular career man.

I conceded with Dave that with more MLS pro teams coming to Canada you'll see more academies pop up, however I hope that if and when they do show up that they will each life skills on top of dribbling and tackling.

Cheers all, let me know what you think!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Champions Leauge highlights

Hey all! I'll be doing my first Vlog tomorrow reacting to the latest round of Champs league matches mid week, but for your viewing pleasure here are some links to highlight packs on the games.

Disclaimer: Links may not work by the time you view them as UEFA loves to take these down as fast as they can!

Man Utd v AC Milan:

Real Madrid v Lyon

Arsenal v FC Porto (Includeds a goal of the year canidate from Samir Nasri)

Fiorentina v Bayern Munchen

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Soccer in Canada has a long history in this country going back to U.K settlers on both coasts. As you may or may not be surprised at the fact that Canada Select teams have not only played England squads, but have won on a few occasions. However those great moments have been overshadowed by the importance of "our game" (hockey).

However in recent times starting with Canada's one and only World Cup appearance in 1986, there has been increasing interest around soccer in Canada. This has been enhanced by the large immigrant population that bring football over as a passion and the substantial increase in T.V exposure to top European leagues (especially the EPL). Enrollment in grass roots youth soccer has now outpaced youth hockey enrollment, and more local clubs are starting up across the country. As those youth players become teens more of these players are staying with the sport where traditionally they would have dropped out; and now with MLS (Major League Soccer) adding teams to Canada we are starting to see the long awaited development of the professional game.

So with all that said the question must be asked, Why has the Men's team failed to qualify for the past 6 World Cups?

Do we lack the raw talent? (i.e. Messi, Ronaldo Torres)

Do we lack a proper Youth set up?

Are we not producing Elite level players?

Are we identifying top young talent and moving them from the recreational level to the advanced level?

Does the CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) need an overhaul?

I'll be looking at some of there issues over the coming weeks, but let me know what you think, Can Canada qualify for a World Cup in the next 10 years?

Monday, March 8, 2010

So it begins!

Hello all! So here it is, I've finally gotten off my ass and started pouring all the opinions I'm sure I've bored some of you with down so others can see. I plan to write about the hot topics in world football that are affecting this truly global game. I also plan to add to the growing number of blogs that are chronicling the Canadian soccer scene (Shout out to the 24th minute). This will be a companion piece to a vlog I'll be doing at least once a week, though I'll be surmising on here most of the time.

2010 has been and will continue to be a very interesting if not ground breaking year in world football. With the first ever World Cup to be held on African soil just 3 months away (June 11th South Africa v Mexico). It promises to be one of the most watched and scrutinized World Cup tournaments ever. With all the usual suspects qualifying for the tournaments (though some by dubious manners which can be discussed in a later blog) there will be no shortage of excellent football on display. Currently the favorites to lift the trophy on July 11 at Soccer City Johannesburg are Spain or Brazil, however this tournament will be fielding one of the strongest South American and African contingent of teams in tournament history. This is especially true of the African teams that have qualified. Aside from the hosts South Africa the other 4 teams pose a threat of making at least the second round...yes I'm saying Algeria could make the second round England supporters! The two strongest African sides at the moment are Ivory Coast and Ghana as both sides have strong midfielders and forwards that can carry the balance of the play. The weakness of both sides will be their back fours and in goal, though I believe Ivory Cost is stronger in both cases. Although I do not believe an African team will win in 2010, this will continue to lay the ground work for 2014 in Brazil where I believe an African team can at least reach the semis. As we draw closer to June 11th I will be creating blogs breaking down each group and team.

Here in Canada I cannot remember a World Cup being so widely anticipated by a large number of the Canadian populace. It is a sign that Soccer both as a sport and as a cultural identity can survive even -40 degree winters to become a part of the Canadian sporting fabric. I hope I can in my own small way contribute to that.

Well thanks for reading the maiden voyage, always let me know what you think and see you soon!