Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Small redemption for French Football

After the disaster that was France's run at this summer's World Cup, the FFF (French Football Federation) got to see some light at the end of and very long tunnel as the French under 19 squad won the European championship Friday with a 2-1 win over the Spanish. No one has ever accused the French of producing bad footballers, Clairefontaine is one of the premier training academies in the world. However the people's faith in the structure of the senior team has spread to the other squads in the setup.

However a massive amount of credit has to be given to the U-19 squad who did not allow the negative events of the senior team affect their play. Looking at the team the star of the tournament was Gael Kakuta who is a Chelsea prospect. He was fabulous during the run to the title and looks like a bright player for the future.

This is the reason I love watching youth tournaments, you get to see the future of the game and see some young players make their mark. You also get to see how certain countries are developing their players. If you only watch senior level matches you really don't get a sense of where the national football association is really going with the squad. The U-20 World Cup that was held in Canada in 2007 was an excellent chance to see how other nations built their game, although Canada did not win a game they took it as a learning experience.

If they can keep their heads on their shoulders the senior squad manager Laurent Blanc will have a very good squad to choose from in the near future.


An interesting soccer idea for Caribana weekend

As most people here in Toronto it's Caribana weekend, I'm taking a year off from the parade as I've been about 16 times in my life, and frankly they have become less appealing as its become more corporate (it's now called Scotiabank Caribana).

With that said I read an interesting post from Duane Rollins on the 24th minute blog regarding a Caribana international soccer tournament. The idea is that Caribbean nations (Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent etc...) play against Canada's U-20 or U-23 squad in a cup tournament. I personally think it's a great idea as Caribbean ex-pats get to see their countries play, and Canadians get to see some of our young players in competitive action. As Duane states Canada could, A) use the money generated to improve to squads B) Build a tradition of football in the community and C) Get the national squad more games which they desperately need.

Logistically it might be difficult as you would probably have to play the games at BMO field which is right in the way of the parade, but if it can be pulled off I think it should be done. I'll fight for it to happen for sure.

Read Duane's post here.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

3 new Canadian pro teams on the way

Today was an exciting day for soccer fans in Canada as 3 teams, Edmonton FC, Ottawa Fury FC and Highlanders FC out of Victoria are applying for entry into the NASL. This would be the level just below the MLS. The details in terms of stadiums and league approval have yet to be determined by all three teams could be up and running by as early as next season, though it's more likely that Ottawa and Highlanders would start in the 2012/13 season. Edmonton FC is practically in the NASL for next year. This would bring the total amount of pro soccer clubs in Canada to 7 excluding the CSL teams which are based in Ontario  except for the Montreal Impact academy.

Read Kurtis Larson's Canada corner on the soccer by Ives site for more info.


CONCACAF Champions League important for Canadian development

After Toronto FC's important 1-0 win of Honduran side Club Deportivo Motagua, I began to read the debate around how important or not the tournament is to TFC. For those who oppose TFC taking the tournament seriously, the argument goes; TFC is in the hunt for its first MLS playoff in club history, therefore the club needs a less crowded fixture list down the stretch in order to help qualify. This importance on making the playoffs is made even more urgent considering the MLS Cup is going to be held at BMO Field in November.

What the playoff only pundits seem to be missing is the fact that a run into the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Champions League will go a long way in improving soccer all round in Canada, plus bringing TFC extra revenue for future signings.

Montreal's run into the quarter finals of the tournament in 2008 brought not only a level of excitement about the game (The first leg of the quarters was held in front of 51,000 at the Olympic Stadium), but it also brought more talented players into the Impact academy. What the run also did was place the issue of soccer development in the minds of the public. It also infused the grass roots players with a goal to shoot for, play against the best in the region for your home town club. This was an aspect of Canadian soccer that was missing for a long time. In the past there would be little incentive to play in the Canadian pro ranks as it was thought to lead you nowhere. Now the promise of champions league soccer is a reason young players can choose to stay and develop in Canada. This is especially important for TFC as they are still growing their academy, and trying to convince their young players to sign with the club once they turn 18.

The Voyageurs Cup, Canada's one ticket to Champions League
The tournament is also important to the bottom line for TFC, no one can argue that at the minimum, 4 extra home games will hurt the club in the pocket book. The extra money can be used to help upgrade the stadium or build the long dreamed of training complex for both the senior and academy teams that the club wants so badly. As said earlier it will also provide funds for new signings that could help turn the club into league and region elites. Which at the end of the day is what every club wants, competing with the top clubs in CONCACAF helps to raise the team's profile both at home and abroad. It can also provide healthy competition from Vancouver and Montreal who will push to become better and represent Canada at the tournament. In the longer run what fans would like to see is more than one Canadian club be included in the running for the champions league, and with today's announcement of three new teams applying for NASL in Edmonton, Victoria and Ottawa we could see the Voyageurs Cup expand outside of the 3 teams currently involved.

In the end the CONCACAF Champions League is still a work in progress in terms of prestige, but if a Canadian club won it, soccer would really be on the map in Canada.


A long way to go for England's young players

The first half of 2010 has been up and down for the various levels of the England squad. This summer's latest venture to the World Cup produced another disappointing result as the senior team crashed out to a young rebuilding Germany squad. An up is the fact that the U-17 squad won the European Championship earlier this summer. However things were brought down a bit by England's U-19 team being handily beaten by Spain 3-1 in yesterday's U-19 European championships. Since the senior squad returned home from South Africa, many have begun to ask the question, why hasn't the relative success of the junior levels translated to the senior level?

Pundits and experts alike have pointed to the level of coaching, suggesting that the England youth set up is not developing the proper skills to compete on the senior level. Others have blamed the the lack of funds provided by the F.A to a national training center, like Clairefontaine in France or The national center in Germany. Only recently has the F.A been able to agree on building a proper one in England. There is no doubt that both these issues have a hand in the lack of senior success for England, but the key to this lies at the feet of the club teams, especially the Premier League clubs.

The last player census taken for the EPL indicated that just over 60% of the players in the league were foreign. This is in stark contrast to the EPL's continential rivals like Spain, Germany or Italy who were in the range of 25% and 40%. In the league of the newly crowned world champions the "unofficial" rule is that at least 60% of the squad composition must be of Spanish players. There is also a culture of promoting players from the youth academies to the first team on a consistent basis. These type of "unofficial" rules are not applied in the EPL, where the big four teams tend to field few English born players and treat their academies as player cash farms, where you grow players just to sell them for profit. Manchester United and Chelsea have long been accused of doing this and recently Liverpool has picked up the practice. At Arsenal Arsène Wenger consistently puts out starting 11's that contain not one single English player.

The arguments from some of the clubs is that young English talent does not measure up to foreign talent, and that they are in the business of winning and not necessarily improving the English national squad. The clubs say the F.A should be in charge of the development of youth players, but the F.A counters that the clubs should as they have more time with the players. This type of mentality from the club side has lead them to be dependant on buying foreign talent at the expense of young English academy players, and it is here where the disconnect between the junior and senior levels can be found.

At 18 youths can sign pro contracts but aside from the phenoms like Wayne Rooney, and Theo Walcott, most end up having to battle several mature foreign players just to see time with the first team. Danny Welbeck, Frank Nouble etc all could be good enough to see time with the first time had it not been for the purchase of foreign talent at their positions. This is not to say that all EPL clubs are practicing this, Everton, Tottenham and Aston Villa have been giving English talent a chance to develop with first team action, but at times this has been out of a cost cutting necessity more than anything.

If England wants to push quality talent on to the the senior level, they need to seriously look at how they can implement more English talent at the top flight. Germany has required that at least 12 players on a squad be "home grown" players and eligible to play for the German national team. The EPL is implementing a "home grown" player rule this year in which you must field 8 players that fit this label. However the rule has one massive loop hole, that home grown player does not have to be English. If the player has been trained in the club academy for over three years under the age of 21 they are considered home grown. For example Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas who is Spanish counts as a home grown player; He has been training at Arsenal since he was 17. In all the rule will help the other clubs outside the big four bring up English players, but this still does not stop the club from filling out the rest of the 23 man roster with matured foreign players.

What club teams must come to understand is that the success of a domestic league will always depend on the strength of the domestic players. The EPL has been riding its luck on being able to attract foreign stars with the vast amount of money available to most clubs, but to be able to sustain itself long term the league must produce more English talent for the national teams. Or face a potential Spanish and German domination of Europe for a while to come.

Dan Roan wrote an excellent blog post about this for BBC Sport, and must read of England supporters.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Raul introduced as a Schalke player....weird

Today began a new era for one of Spain's greatest players as Raul officially joined German club Schalke. Raul who is Spain's all time leading goal scorer ended his 18 year tenure with Real Madrid on Monday. Although his release from Real had long been speculated, it was still a bit of a shock for long time football fans to see captain Madrid announce that he was leaving the club. Although he has burned Manchester United and England a few times I always had to tip my hat to his skill and class on the pitch.

He leaves Real Madrid having scored 323 goals in 740 appearances for the legendary club. He also won 6 La Liga titles, 3 Champion League titles and 1 UEFA Super Cup. He will be forever linked with the club he helped revive on the European stage. Now he embarks on his German league challenge, here's hoping he can have the same amount of success he did at Madrid, though it don't think that will be the case.

I've added a video of his best goals, plus photos of his Schalke intro.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Will he? or won't he? The Cesc Fabregas Saga

With the transfer market hitting the half way point the one deal that has captivated the football headlines, outside of the Wold Cup this summer, is the potential sale of Arsenal star midfielder Cesc Fabregas to his childhood club Barcelona. Now to understand the consistent talk and rumors regarding the move, you have to understand the nature of football writing in the summer months.

The rumour mill hits over drive in Spain about Fabregas's potential move
During the summer when there are no top level European leagues playing, soccer journalist and bloggers like myself need to have fresh material to present to you the reader. So with the transfer market open and no games we all look at who's going where and it seems more importantly, who's rumoured to go where. Honest soccer writers become tabloid gossip columnists over night, and every player with half decent talent is link with a move some where. For example there have been a total of 89 different players linked to Manchester United this summer, the club can only carry 23 players by opening day. These numbers are similar at Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

In the case of Barcelona Fabregas has become the 30 million euro question, will he come home or is he staying in London? Almost daily there's another opinion regarding the move, and another anonymous source that says that he's leaving or staying put. The man himself has been asked countless times, including after the world cup final when teammates forced a Barca shirt over his head during celebrations. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has been asked so many times about the move he no longer entertains questions about Fabregas's future.

At Barca the situation is a bit different, as new club president, Sandro Rosell is trying to ring in his term as "The man who brought Cesc home" In addition to adding World Cup star David Villa before the tournament began. Rosell has put out conflicting quotes first by saying the club was on the verge of wrapping up a deal with Arsenal for Fabregas, to then saying the club had no interest in the player. To then saying that a "pre-agreement" is in place for Cesc to join the club next summer.

Which ever side you choose to believe this is becoming a bit of a saga (Along with Mario Balotelli to Man City rumours). Right now as things stand, and again this is only based on the same rumours you've heard, I cannot see Fabregas leaving Arsenal this season. I do believe his heart is in Barcelona, but he has a loyalty to Arsène Wenger for sticking with him and giving him a chance at the age of 17 in Champions League. I think at the end of this up coming season Cesc is going home, the lure of the Nou Camp is too much even for the most loyal of players.

And frankly it's where his skill belongs.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

2 points lost more than 1 point gained

TFC kept their unbeaten home record alive for the 2010 season by drawing with FC Dallas 1-1 at a rain soaked BMO Field this afternoon. Both teams came into the game on a bit of a streak, TFC had their afore mentioned home unbeaten streak. While FC Dallas had been unbeaten in 6, and came to pad their lead over TFC in the chase for one of 8 playoff births.

Stfan Frei dives to make a save in a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas
TFC head coach Preki will be less than satisfied with the result as his team controlled much of the play and created the better clear cut chances. He will also be upset with the way TFC conceded the tying goal. It all came about from sloppy and lazy play between captain Dwayne De Rosario and defender Nick Garcia. After a poor clearance from the back by Garcia, De Rosario played the ball back towards his own goal for a corner kick. As has been the case for the majority of the season so far, the marking on the resulting corner was poor allowing Milton Rodriguez a free header past the helpless Frei. After the game Preki stated about the Garcia, De Rosario incident that “It was one of those lethargic plays,” Frei added regarding defence of set pieces “We’ve got to win our individual battles and almost take the intensity up a notch when we defend our set pieces. It’s got to get better.”

However there were positives to take from the game.

 Up until that point TFC were in the drivers seat. They were playing some of their best football up front in a while, as recent signing Maicon Santos is proving to be an astute pick up for the club. Staring his first MLS game for the Reds, Santos provided the hold up play Preki has desperately been seeking. Santos also has the ability to play the link up role with either Chad Barret or De Rosario. It was Santos who fired TFC into the lead in the 61st minute with a low shot to the near post, which in all honesty the FC Dallas keeper should have had.

It is also as good sign that Julian De Guzman seems to be picking up his game on the offensive end, as it was he who provided the inch perfect through ball for Santos to score. De Guzman is starting to look like he's finally finding his feet for TFC after his transition form the Spanish league.

Today also provided us our first look at former Spain international striker Mista in an MLS game. He came on in the second half and immediately showed his quality on the ball providing excellent passes out wide and to the feet of the forwards. He also looked like someone who had not played a competitive match in over 2 months. TFC fans shouldn't be too worried about this as he will be in full match fitness soon, but supporters shouldn't see him as the saviour as well, there is still much to be improved upon with this team.

Overall it seems like a good news, bad news view for TFC today. On the good side they kept the club record home unbeaten streak to 9 matches, however on the bad it's two point lost in the standings against teams they are fighting with for a playoff spot. As De Guzman said in his closing remarks “We made it a bit more difficult now for us giving away two points at home.”


Friday, July 23, 2010


So when I think of Thierry Henry I usually don't think "Man I feel sorry for this dude" but after finally watching the debacle that was the Good Day New York interview after signing with the Red Bulls, I actually felt a bit embarrassed for the guy. Check out this interview I have linked below, you'll see the lack of soccer knowledge around in North America. Topics covered: France winning the 2010 World Cup.... Henry's handball against France (not in words but check out the stock footage they roll out) The lack of racism in America....wait...what?

NOTE: If you are going to interview someone you don't know a lot about, DO SOME RESEARCH!!!! No one was asking them to be experts but seriously you would think they were professionals...although come to think of it they do work for Fox News.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

A new/old favorite

As the kit makes for England since the very beginning, Umbro has truly been "The badge of football since 1924". With it innovative kits and ground breaking ball construction Umbro has touched every facet of the game at every level.

I wore my first Umbro kit when playing house league soccer as a kid. The double diamond has always been somewhere in my life, Manchester United had Umbro kits for the majority of my childhood. As you know I'm not one to be pimping products as the next great thing on the blog; but I have to give shout outs to the brand that made football fashion cool both on and off the pitch, if you done believe me check out the England kits for the 2010 Would Cup.

Although they didn't bring football home, they looked damn good in the kits.

2010 Umbro England Home Shirt
I've linked a copy of the Umbro newsletter here,Sign up for it to check out all the latest from, plus check the excellent blog straight from the U.K.
2010 Umbro England World Cup Away shirt


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Quick Soccer posts

Just some news and notes for the soccer world today:

- It's been a bad month and a half for French football. First the disaster with the team mutiny in South Africa, then the fallout of said mutiny from both the public and the French government, and now this...
French international Franck Ribery was handed preliminary charges for soliciting an underage prostitute in Paris today. Another French international Karim Benzema is under investigation for the same charge. Wow that's all I can say. Click Here for the full article.

- On a lighter note, Toronto FC have reached the half way point in their season. They currently are in a playoff spot sitting 7th in a league that sends 8 teams to the playoffs. I've written a few times about the state of the club during the season, and CBC commentator and former Canadian international Jason De Vos writes a pretty accurate review on how they have done so far this season. Click Here.

- Also the vuvuzala debate has come up again...this time in England. Several teams in the English Premier League have actively banned the noise makers. The BBC outlines the teams and the why's.

Enjoy the links!

The true Mad Men of World Football

I'm not too sure why a random episode of the excellent AMC series "Mad Men" prompted me to write about the way soccer clubs spend their money, but I figure why fight it?

As we reach closer to the beginning of another European club season, you start to see how teams are shaping up for the new campaign. What you also get to see are all the new signings clubs have made over the past few months. For the supporter it's a time of endless hope, where the long standing members of the squad team up with the new boys in order to chase that moment of glory for your club. From Chelsea to Blackpool, Inter to Bari and Barca to Sporting Gjidon, every supporter believes it's their year, but what seems to get lost in the hysteria of the new club record signing, ownership trotted out at the club ground, is the price tag.

I found it interesting that during the global economic meltdown, with some of the largest and most important institution crumbling under the weight of bad financial decisions (Lehman Bros, GM, Chrysler, RBS etc..) Football seemed to be completely impervious to this. Now of course when I say this I mean the big world clubs as many of the smaller clubs REALLY felt the brunt of the economic down turn. Clubs like Portsmouth, West Ham, Crystal Place, Valencia, Lazio, Nice, Rangers have all had to make what were in effect austerity measures to stay afloat and out of administration, and in the end this was not even enough to save Pompey and Crystal Place from bankruptcy.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Signing of Henry shows improvement of MLS

Whether or not you believe that the Thierry Henry signing by New York Red Bull earlier this week is a move more to do with publicity, the fact that he chose MLS over other European clubs that wanted his services shows that players are starting the see the improving quality in the league. Sure Henry is an aging star who has not has not been firing at his best since leaving Arsenal in 2007, but the fact that a player of his quality and stature in the game decided that MLS will be his home for the next four and a half years is a watershed moment for the league.

Although this move is less heralded than David Beckham's move in 2007, it will be more successful from a quality on the pitch perspective than Beckham ever was. This is not to say that Henry won't be looking to expand his brand in North America, however he will certainly bring more quality to the pitch than any DP player in the league before him. As he said in his press conference this week "I am a competitor, and I expect to win" he added "This marks an exciting new chapter in my career and life."It is an honour to play for the New York Red Bulls. I am fully aware of the team's history and my sole goal during my time here is to help win the club its first championship".

The biggest plus for the MLS is that Henry's name has clout with other top players in Europe. Seeing him sign and play in the MLS will leak back to Europe and other top players will look at making the jump. The latest rumour is that L.A Galaxy may make an attempt to sign Brazilian international superstar Ronaldinho. Of course this is only a rumour, but these types are press and rumours will only help the league grow stronger in terms of quality and drawing power.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Canadian soccer identity?

I've been writing a lot recently about the state of Canadian soccer and where the game is heading in this country. I've looked at development both at the player level and at the boardroom level with the recent changes in the governing structure at the Canadian Soccer Association. Although things look bleak on those fronts, there have been encouraging first steps in correcting the mistakes of the past. The introduction of the MLS to Canada will only help to develop top level talent and persuade  them to play for Canada at the senior level. In terms of organization the provinces and the CSA have finally created a realistic framework in which to help better run soccer in this country, and to make sure that from both a business and playing stand point Canada is preforming to its potential.

However there is still something missing from Canadian Soccer, and it is a true identity.

What does it really mean to play for the national soccer team of Canada? What type of playing style fits Canadians?

The honest answer to those questions are hard to define. In a sense soccer falls in line with the same crisis that many Canadians face in the 21st century, what is the Canadian identity? The majority of the Men's senior national team is made of  immigrants and first generation Canadians like myself. With  many players in the same boat there at times seems to be a clash of styles when you watch Canada play. The playing system for a long time was the old English way of dump and rush, or route 1. When the children of the first real waive of modern immigration began playing football here, they brought a little bit of their cultural way of playing. Once  they were in the Canadian system those kids, now young men, tried to blend the two. Now what you have is a mix of styles that is not always the most attractive to watch in the pitch.

Currently as of July 14th Canada is ranked...100th in the world by FIFA dropping and astounding 37 places. We are currently ranked behind Jordan, Botswana, Uzbekistan and just for you Vaslie..Moldova in 89th. Now take the FIFA rankings for what they are, the teams FIFA wants to see flourish, but there is come truth to this if you're Canada. Without a soccer identity there is little expectation placed on the team except for us footy freaks who want to see Canada progress. This has at times led to complacency within the national ranks.

Former Canadian international Paul James, who represented Canada at its one and only World Cup appearance in 1986 wrote a blog piece on the national team and its issues identity. I do not agree with everything James has to say about Canadian soccer, but he hits the nail right on the head more times than not. Click here to check out the article provided by the Globe and Mail online.

Even if Canada currently lacks a soccer identity now, we will have it sooner than later.

Mike N

The World Cup final in Lego

This is an excellent recap of the World Cup final, if you didn't get to see it...and if you like lego!

Courtesy of one of the best online papers in the world The Guardian from England.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

FIFA leaving Football in the dark ages

Whenever a World Cup tournament ends there always seems to be a post mortem on how successful the tournament was, who really were the best players, teams, managers etc. For broadcasters the ratings bonanza during month long coverage is analysed and translated into dollars and cents. Corporate sponsors count the millions, and in some cases billions made in advertising; and then there is FIFA who looks at all these things combined.

For us football faithful we look at not only where the games has been up until the end of the tournament, but also to the future and where it is going. If you look at the World Cup in political terms you would call it the end of a Presidential term, where the game is judged based on the previous 4 years. When I look back, one very important and highly controversial issue really came to light in the past 4 years. It is argument for and against the use of video replay.

The only other issue that causes nearly as much debate is diving in the game, which was the major topic between 2002-2006. The official stance of FIFA the world governing body is that video replay is not a tool to be used for football. According to FIFA president...or evil overload depending on how you view the man, Sepp Bladder has publicly said that instant replay "Would take away the spontaneity and fascination of our game - we must keep football with a human face," he adds "Until I am no longer president, there will be no chance [for video replays]." These comments came just after the 2006 World Cup in which there were again some very controversial calls that cost teams chances to progress in the tournament.

Although at first I agreed with Bladder, that stopping to check replay screens would slow down and impede the flow of the game. I have come around on the issue. The plan fact is aside from cricket, football remains the only major organized sport that refuses to use technology to help judge a match. The lack of video replay has cost club teams millions in lost revenue because a bad call got them dropped from the top division, national teams have missed out on qualifying for regional, continental or world tournaments due to a sloppy decision. In almost every case a simple replay could have set the decision right.

With that said I do still agree with Bladder on one thing, I do not want to see the human element of the referee taken away by technology. So much of the intrigue and passion for the game stems from questioning a call  by the ref. When replay comes to football, as I believe that FIFA cannot hold out much longer from the cries for it. I would only like it to be used in two scenarios,
  1. To determine if the ball did or did not cross the line for a goal: FIFA needs to forget the "Goal line technology" idea, putting chips in a ball or magnetic fields in the ground under the goal line is ridiculous compared to having one or two cameras at the back of the goal watching play.
  2.  Questionable offside calls: In the modern game where the game play is now so quick, linesmen/women need help.
These are the only two instances where replay in football are really needed. Match officials take a lot of heat for calls they miss, but when really looking at the game they usually get it right 9 times out of 10. Notice also that I did not include checking for dives in the list. Video replay will not stop players from diving, plus replays cannot record a players intent, you don't know if it was his or her intent to deceive the ref. That decision must be made by the officials alone.

For years the argument against replay has been a time factor, it slows down a game that for the most part is all about continuous action. The majority of football fans that want video judgements agree that this continuous nature cannot be tampered with. Which is why video replay should be watched by the fourth official that is on the sideline. This can be done quickly due to the fact the forth offcial is looking at two clear cut scenarios, did the whole ball cross the line? or was he offside? This Unlike the NFL which needs two t.v breaks before the decision is made due to the complex nature of the things the ref must review. By keeping the replay rules to just two instances you also defeat the argument that the "human face" is lost on the game. The ref will still have to make the majority of the calls and the linesmen/women will only have to use replay when they are unsure of an offside. Below I've added a video of where Sir Alex Ferguson feels replay stand in the game.

At the end of the day as I stated earlier FIFA will have to adopt replay as a method to judge matches at some point, and I believe that time is sooner rather than later. Over the past year alone we have seen three major incidents (Henry handball against Ireland, England no goal call against Germany, Tevez offside goal against Mexico) when replay would have helped spare the game the unsavory spotlight of unfairness. Will Bladder bow? Or will it take a new president to make positive change in the game? No one truly has the answer to that but Sepp Bladder, however if he is truly a "man of the game" as he claimed he was when he was elected, replay is coming for Brazil 2014.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Things looking up for the CSA?

Recently I wrote about the past stagnation of soccer development in Canada. One of my main criticisms was that the CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) lacked the organization and vision to lead Canada to a World Cup birth. In May of this year the governing body set up a new governance framework in order to address some of the long term issues there have been around the CSA.

This framework calls for an elected president, 6 appointed directors, 6 elected directors and most importantly none of them can be members of their provincial or territorial associations. This point may seem useless to casual observers, but for someone who knows how provincial power plays within the CSA has stymied progress in the past this is a huge deal. It in theory eliminates the provincial bias out of the decision making process. Time will tell if this will be true, but it is a positive first step in building credibility in the decision making process for soccer Canada.

Another positive aspect that came out of the new framework is its emphasis on gender in the top decision making group. The stipulation that there must be at least 3 directors of each gender is a first step in truly making women a part of the national team process. Given the success of our Women's Senior, U 20 and U 17 teams this step was long overdue.

What this also spells out is the clear roles of each of the branches of the association. Each branch understands and knows it role in helping to produce not only the best talent we can, but also to attract more sectors of corporate Canada who can help pour more money into player development. This will help Canada move away from member fees an dues which is the association's financial life blood, and into a more cost effective relationship with corporate Canada.

However what I hope this really does is send a message to the players and supporters of the national program that change is coming and that it is worth staying in Canada to reap the rewards. In the past players like former TFC captain Jim Brennan, current TFC captain Dwayne De Rosario and others have questioned the decision making of the CSA. This has lead to players retiring early from the national set up like Brennan, to players out right choosing other nations to play for due to the FIFA linage rules. Although this is only a first step in building a stronger CSA, this can instill a bit of belief in players that the national team will be moving in the right direction.

  • If you want some excellent insight into what these changes mean I suggest you read former Canada and Ipswich Town Captain Jason De Vos's take on the governance changes (Click Here)
  • On Saturday Michael Grange wrote and excellent article on Canadian Soccer and youth development through the club level here in Canada, and how it works in some other nations, I highly suggested read. (Click Here)


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cristiano Ronaldo is a Dad...WTF!

Here's a small story that has slipped under the radar during the World Cup that deserves a mention. During Portugal's ill fated run in the tournament, Cristiano Ronaldo became the father of a whining...sorry bouncing baby boy!

Yes I really did say that, and yes it's really true.

The mother is unknown and it is unclear on how she is or was related to the Real Madrid star forward. All we know at this point is that Cristiano's mother and sister will be taking care of the baby in Portugal. Ronny has been called many things negative, but one of the positive things is that he is known as a family person. Hopefully the birth of his first child will help him settle down a bit from his hard partying lifestyle. One also hopes it helps him keep his head on straight, he is not known to be the most modest of people. He needs to understand that it can no longer be all about him, and that he needs to set an example not only for the throngs on kids that look up to him as and athlete, but for his new son. If you want another view of this check out my friend Jemima Codrington's post on

He needs to do better that this:

It will be interesting to see if this in anyway affected his play during the tournament. It is the widely held belief that this was one of Ronaldo's most disappointing showings in a Portugal shirt. Although he was heavily marked he lacked to star quality in his matches. As you see above he ended the tournament on a sour note which has led to speculation that he had a massive falling out with the national team manager Carlos Queiroz. Also the question of should he keep the national team captaincy has grown louder as many have called for the Portuguese F.A to strip him of the arm band for Euro 2012.

As the European club season draws closer, the question will be can Ronaldo juggle a baby and his footballing responsibilities at Real Madrid?

Stay tuned folks this soap opera is likely to have a few more twists and turns.


The key to tomorrow's World Cup final

So what else can be said that already hasn't been said about tomorrow's world cup final? We all know it'll be a sexy match full of wonderfully talented players, it will be also be a tight game with a lot of the play happening in the midfield. Most will point to the two star players as the keys to victory for either side. I agree that David Villa for Spain and Wesley Sneijder for the Netherlands will have to play massive roles for their clubs in order to win, however this will not be as big a factor as which team will be able to contain their emotions and execute their manager's game plan.

This final presents something we haven't seen since 1978, two teams that will be chasing their first World Cup title. For all the players, manager's, coaches and supporters this will be a new and exciting experience. The emotion of potentially being called the best in the world is something that can be daunting for any seasoned professional, especially when representing their country on the highest stage of the game.

The question will be, which side is best suited to deal with the pressure of entire an nation's expectations and dreams? Both are accomplished footballing nations with proud histories. Both countries have also been world football's two biggest underachievers, each having disappointed in World Cups past.

With no players on either side having World Cup final experience it will be interesting to see how the captains will try to calm the players down in the first 10-15 minutes. Not only will they have to manage the weight of their own responsibilities on the pitch, but now they will have to be an on pitch manager controlling the emotions of their team mates. The squad who can cope with the pressure first will have a decided edge in who will lift the World Cup trophy at the end of the match.

This element of the unknown is what makes this world cup final so attractive, this really in my opinion is a real toss up game in terms of trying to pick a winner. Both teams are treading into uncharted territory and the team that handles the big stage the best will have won their country the biggest sporting prize in the world....No pressure boys!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Leaked Manchester United 2010-11 Kits

Hello all!

As most of you know I'm a Manchester United supporter, so of course I already have my 2010-2011 kit pre ordered, however I've been able to get my hands on what could be the look of the new shirt for the up coming season. I'm not so hot on the away white shirt, but I'm all thumbs up on the home red shirt.


The makings of a classic: Spain v Netherlands

As I was doing my research for Sunday's World Cup final I became incredibly excited about the possibilities this match up brings to the table. As both sides have never won a World Cup before it promises to be a very aggressive match full of goal chances and hard tackles. I also expect to see the tears flow at the end of the match as either grown men will be crying over winning the World Cup, or over losing their one chance at football immortality.

I actually have no actual idea who's going to win this game, as both teams are very strong and match each other in just about all parts on all parts of the field. In overall big game experience I would have to tip my hand to Spain as the majority of the team was around for the 2008 European final. Also based on the strength of the Spainsh defence through out this tournament they may have a slight edge over the Dutch in the back four.

However despite this, I think that squad with more desire to be called the world's best will win out. As we've already seen in this tournament talent can only take you so far, if you don't believe me ask the Brazilians, French, English, Italians and Germans who it can be argued have more talent then our two finalists.

Frankly I'm seeing this as a pick em' type final and I'm not going to spend too much time anaylsing the game, I think it's time to sit back and enjoy what will be a beautiful final!

Mike N

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Canadian soccer: Not making the grade

With another 2 day break until the semi-finals of the World Cup, it leaves me time to ponder about the state of soccer in Canada. For a country that boasts one of the worlds highest percentage of youths enrolled in soccer programs or leagues it defies logic as to why the Canadian national teams do not perform better on the world stage, especially at the senior men's level.

Many will point to the fact that Canada is not a "soccer nation" therefore leading to a lack of interest in the game or its development. However this is clearly not the case if one takes a look at ratings for the 2010 World Cup games here in Canada. CBC has reported as much as 120% jump in ratings between 9:30 am to 4pm time slot during the group stages when the games were shown live. This does not of course include the Internet site hits for the online streaming of the games, which a lot of people have used (including yours truly)when they are at work.

People have also argued the fact that although ratings are high, people who watch the games have no interest in Canadian soccer, but rather cheering for their birth nation or the one of their parents birth. Making Canada in effect a "satellite soccer nation" for other countries. The argument is highlighted by the great flag debate, where at any given time during a World Cup you can see a United Nations kaleidoscope of world flags before you even see a Canadian one. I agree that there should be more Canadian flags flying as a show of support for the nation. However there are two elements that the "Satellite soccer nation" theory fails to grasp. First Canada is simply not in the World Cup, it is hard to justify flying the Maple Leaf in support of a soccer team that failed miserably to qualify. Second it fails to understand that Canadians as a people are now made up of a large amount peoples from different nations around the globe, who bring their national passion for the game with them. It does not mean that naturalized citizens or first generation Canadians dislike Canada, in fact if Canadian soccer was better funded and better organized those Italian, Brazilian and English flags would change to Canadian ones in an instant.

In a real sense this is the issue with Canadian soccer, funding and organization at the national level. If you look at soccer funding based on a per capita income level Canada is one of the worst funded soccer associations. Most governments around the world fund their national programs at a decent rate, however the Canadian federal government barely has done so for the CSA (Canadian Soccer Association).

If you want an example of how funding a national program can change results don't look at the United States as we normally do, they have triple the population. We should look at Switzerland who have only 7 million people, but have the same per capita income as we do. The Swiss Football Federation in the early 90's made a shift in the way they would develop their football, they looked at better funding, and developing youth players to increase success in future results. They went to the Swiss government presenting the case that if they helped just a little bit, it would increase national unity and self esteem in a population that was increasingly becoming more diverse. The government agreed and began a modest funding program for the Swiss FA to develop a youth center to train them at an elite level. Nearly 20 years later the Swiss are producing a conveyor belt a young talent both at the men's and women's level, and are perennial World Cup qualifiers.

In comparison Canada has spent very little money on converting good recreational youth players into the elite national youth set up. It leads to what you are seeing now from the Canadian national side, a lack of young exciting players moving into the senior level and a now 24 year World Cup drought. This also ties into the lack of organizational thinking within the CSA.

Due to the fact that each province has its own soccer association there is a disconnect in what the technical standards should be in regards to developing players. Some provinces like Ontario, B.C and Alberta have higher standards in regards to developing elite level players, while other provinces lag behind in this regard. This is not to say that the other provinces are not producing quality players, but if you look at the recent roster of Canadian players taken on the South American tour just before the World Cup it is dominated by player from those the provinces named above.

In previous posts I have also pointed out the CSA's inability to keep some of its most talented players from playing for other nations, this is in part due to Canada's under achieving track record on the international level but it also in part to the lack of organization beyond the amateur level. Only now is CSA making a concerted effort to promote the professional level in Canada. Without the pro option in Canada many of the elite level players have left for European club teams and then eventually their national teams.

Money and better organization alone will not solve this issue, it will take a collective effort from the CSA, government, the provincial associations and fans of the game alike to make change for the national programs. If this happens we could be hearing "Oh Canada" in Rio four years from now.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

A rebuttal for Luis Suárez

We've all had a day or two to digest the ending of the Ghana v Uruguay quarter final match. In particular we've had time to digest Luis Suárez's "hand of god" part deux handball in the dying seconds of extra time. I have heard it said from countless people both online and in the Ghanaian bar I was watching the match at (The Point @ Jane and Wilson) that Suárez is a cheat, liar and in the most extreme case should be banned from football for life. Now on Friday I was viewing the game from the biased view of someone who was supporting Ghana. We were all heartbroken at the final result, in a game that lets face it Ghana should have won in extra time as they dominated play. However due to the disproportionate response in favour of making Luis Suárez the living model of everything that is wrong with football, I'm turning off my bias and defending him...a little bit.

First, Mr Suárez you are a great player and a the same vain as Theirry Henry and Diego Maradona. You may get your big summer move to Manchester United, but you'll always have this hanging on you.

Second, although people want to ban him for life and take away his world cup goals (will never happen by the way) He was caught by the linesmen. He was punished appropriately by the rules that govern the game, he was red carded, sent off, the team was punished by having one less man and a penalty was awarded. Also lets not forget to mention that he will miss the semi final against Holland, which if they lose he won't be singing the happy tune as he is now.

Third, It is up to the penalty taker to convert the penalty. Gyan did not do that. Now I know the argument will be that it should have never been a penalty situation as Suárez used his hands to clear the ball off the line. I disagree with this as Suárez could have gotten to it with his head had he now been so focused on using his hands.

Frankly for all those who are looking for 10 match bans for Suárez and a apology from FIFA to the Ghanaian Football Association; Stop it is not going to happen nor should it. He has been punished to the full extent of footballing law, plus the football gods always seem to put the wrongs right again....If you don't believe me ask the Irish FA.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why Brazil lost and why Holland is making me rethink things.

So as I sit here I've just returned from The Point Bar where I watch Ghana lose in heartbreaking fashion to Uruguay more on that in the next post. As for this post I'll be looking at the sudo upset that took place earlier today as The Netherlands defeated Brazil 2-1.

Scanning the headlines it seems the world has been rocked by the fact that the 5 time world champions were defeated by Holland. It seems that most of the world has forgotten that the Dutch are a world class side as well, in fact they are currently riding a 23 match unbeaten streak. They are also ranked fourth in the world by FIFA and contain a squad full of players just as good and skillful as Brazil's.

The issue for Brazil was not the lack of attacking football as many in the Brazilian press have stated. It wasn't really even the formation or team selection by head coach Dunga as he picked his best 11, and the formation had worked up to this point. The real issue as to why Brazil lost was their lack of discipline when things started to go The Netherlands way. After the tying own goal by the now vilified Felipe Melo, Brazil seemed to lose its focus and allowed the Dutch to carry the majority of the play. This was in stark contrast to the first half, in which Brazil had the lead and looked in complete control. The go-ahead goal was set up by poor defensive decision making by Brazil's Juan as he put the ball out for a corner when he could have kicked it into touch. The goal was scored from said corner kick. The surprising lack of discipline shown afterward was their downfall, Melo's insane stomp on Robbin's leg left Brazil down to 10 men and virtually out of the match.

As for Holland, they showed in the second half a team unity that has been missing in past World Cup campaigns. Whatever was said in the half time talk by manager Bert van Marwijk seemed to spark the team into action, and they bossed the game after that. Looking ahead to the semi final match with Uruguay, you would have to make the Dutch the odds on favorites; provided they can carry the form they showed in the second half into the semi final match. Once again mid fielder Wesley Sneijder and forward Arjen Robben were the trigger men in the "Oranje" attack. Sneijder especially as he control the link up between the rest of the midfield and the forwards.

Given they way the Dutch responded after being a goal down to the best team in the world, Bert van Marwijk's side is making me think twice about my world cup winner.


TFC v Houston Dynamo on Canada Day pics

Hello All,

I had the good fortune to attend last nights match between Toronto FC and Houston Dynamo on Canada Day. It was a very well played game by TFC as they held the majority of the play. The match ended in a 1-1 draw which saw a fight break out between the squads and two red cards shown. TFC has run their club record unbeaten streak to 10 matches, and also remain unbeaten at hone this year (4-0-3). Enjoy the pics and I'll be back today to break down the two world cup quarter final games today....Hint: There will be a few less samba drums in the stands.