• Ben Rycroft

      by Published on 12-19-2013 06:31 PM

      Today marks a turn in course for myself and my role in helping grow Canadian soccer.

      When we started Canadian Soccer News five years ago (actually I can't remember when we started CSN - it feels like it's always just been here now) the intent was to fill the gap in the next to nothing soccer coverage in this country.

      To take it back even further, when we launched the It’s Called Football podcast, one mainstream media site was covering soccer regularly, a paper here or there and it was still hard to find something that resembled selection when watching EPL games on Saturday mornings.

      Today, every major paper in the country covers the game, television contracts domestic and abroad are sought after and to put it in perspective, the Canadian women’s team drew a television audience of 250,000 earlier this year for their rematch game against the USA. Not bad, eh? Emphasis on the eh.

      The other intent to starting CSN was to ensure that a group of writers got on, got exposure and got out. I’m proud of the fact that all of the writers that started with CSN have moved on to bigger and better things - permanently or part-time, they've become the mainstream voices people look to. I’m convinced that’s a trend that will continue with the writers here.

      Today though, I’m stepping back from CSN, to do the same — but in a different sense.
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      by Published on 11-28-2013 06:25 PM
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      Denials, delusions, dead ends and now the destroying of records?

      The latest twist in the matchfixing saga that surrounded the Canadian Soccer League has now truly taken a turn for the bizarre.

      For the last year, CSN has been applying to the RCMP through the Access to Information Act, to get our hands on what the federal police force knew about the Croatian matchfixers who had infiltrated the small league and when they knew it.

      The Access to Information Act has established the right of applicants to access federally maintained records. It's a way for journalists and citizens to peak behind the scenes of what goes on in the corridors of power.

      That process - which involves a lot of hand-written requests, accompanied by cheques to cover fees, snail mailed and then huge swaths of waiting by the applicant – came to a strange sort of conclusion this week.

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      by Published on 11-13-2013 06:53 PM
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      There are very few positions in the professional world with less job security than a coach. Even a successful season, one where you meet all the goals laid down for you, can lead to an immediate and unceremonious departure.

      It demands long hours, enormous amounts of time away from your family and the understanding that even if you are at the top of the heap, you will still be surrounded by so-called experts who want to tell you how you could have done it better.

      It’s a life that Colin Miller, FC Edmonton’s head coach and periodic stand-in for Canada’s national team, knows the hardships of well.

      And despite his love for the job, he won’t feed you some fairy tale about ‘never trading it in for anything’ or oversell its ‘rewards.’ But he will tell you the blunt truth about soccer and the profession he’s been in for 35 years. And he’ll give you hope for how there can be lasting change for soccer in Canada.
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      by Published on 08-14-2013 08:13 PM
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      Legs stretched out, sitting on the pitch under the Friday night lights at Lamport Stadium in downtown Toronto, I was sharing a laugh with a teammate talking about a recent article he’d found at the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame.

      McMahon: Architect of Canadian Success – published by Soccer 100 in 1981 as a special souvenir at the Soccer Bowl - it’s the kind of headline that lends itself to the humour of the self-deprecating types who populate Canadian soccer supporter circles. The idea, that so long ago, a group of soccer loving Canadians – and by extent soccer loving journalists – had concluded that this solution was the one that was going to (or had) put Canada on the path to global success, is as uproarious in its suggestion as it is depressing in its thought.

      Depressing from the sense that so many development models have come and gone since — none have ever brought the picture of soccer success into any closer clarity in the great frozen North.

      Canadian soccer, of course, did not find the holy grail of solutions under McMahon’s vision – one that was to put them on par with the world’s greats. And, in fact, the thrust of the article – about how McMahon was a visionary for seeing the need to add a strong youth soccer base to the pyramid in our Canadian provinces – should draw strong parallels to the ongoing debates of today.
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      by Published on 08-07-2013 05:00 PM
      1. Categories:
      2. Featured Articles,
      3. Toronto FC
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      Football is such a subjective experience. What one person sees as greatness, the next sees as Julian DeGuzman. While I remain firmly in “the JDG was unappreciated for the work he did, even though he was paid too much to do it” camp, a long since dead debate, it perfectly frames the nature of a current ongoing conversation.

      Is Toronto FC actually playing better over their last two games? Or more accurately, can this be called an upswing in performance?

      They’re winning. So, if you’re a ‘points are all that matter’ person then, yes, this is a team on the rise.

      Toronto FC’s head coach, certainly thinks so.

      “I think we showed the difference between this game and the last time we played here,” TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen told the team website following the game. “We looked like a much tougher unit. I thought it was a top class performance from the guys. It really showed their character and mental strength. They worked ever so hard and stayed organized and in a really good shape.”

      Those are all vague assessments on performance. That isn’t meant as a criticism of Nelsen's statement. There is certainly some unquantifiable element to winning that is a mix of confidence and perhaps heavenly luck. But there are other things that can tell more of the story when it comes to how a team did on that field.

      According to Nelsen, this is a squad that played much better than the last time they faced New England. However, if you look at nearly every category from those two games, it appears that Toronto was, in fact, the worse team on the day.
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      by Published on 06-25-2013 11:58 AM

      Canada will submit its final Gold Cup roster this Friday but here are the names that Canada has called to camp.

      There are some notable absences so tell us who you think deserves to be here who isn't and who you're glad is finally getting a shot.
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      by Published on 06-13-2013 08:16 PM

      Canadian Soccer News has obtained a letter, dated June 13, in which the CSA has informed all provincial organizations, including Quebec, that FIFA has confirmed the use of turbans by youth soccer players.

      "In accordance with the directive of the Canadian Soccer Association as outlined in its 11 April 2013 memo permitting the wearing of turbans/patkas/keski (male head covers), we wish to inform you that the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and FIFA have authorized the wearing of male head covers in all areas and on all levels of the Canadian football community."

      The emphasis is theirs.

      The letter includes visual approximations of what types of turbans are allowed and also details that the following conditions that must be met:
      1. Be of the same colour as the jersey
      2. Be in keeping with the professional appearance of the player’s equipment
      3. Not be attached to the jersey
      4. Not pose any danger to the player wearing it or any other player


      You can read the whole letter here.

      Update (June 14, 10:00am): A CSA source confirmed this morning that FIFA will issue its own press release later today, in support of the letter the CSA sent to the provincial bodies yesterday. CSN will publish that release once it's received.

      You can read the FIFA release here

      From the FIFA release:

      "The letter sent by FIFA to the CSA on 13 June 2013 authorises the CSA to permit all players to wear head covers as described above, in all areas and on all levels of the Canadian football community."
      ...
      by Published on 06-07-2013 03:05 PM

      Canadian Soccer News has learned that the Canadian Soccer Association has given the Quebec Soccer Federation until Monday to reverse its stance on banning the use turbans by their players, or face punishment.

      The source within the QSF confirmed that the Quebec Federation has received the demand from the CSA on the matter and is now considering their next step.

      The QSF source would not reveal what the threats could mean for provincial soccer in Quebec but did confirm that the CSA was furious over the debacle, especially considering this is not the example Canadian soccer wanted to set ahead of hosting the Women's World Cup in 2015.

      CSA sources declined to comment on their handling of the matter but one did curiously note that it was strange that Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo had not taken steps to distance himself from the QSF's handling of the issue.

      Earlier today, FIFA confirmed that their stance on the use of turbans in soccer games was already established and that the QSF must defer to the CSA on the matter.

      Last night, CSN called for immediate resignation of Quebec Soccer Federation president and CSA board member, Martial Prudhomme, after he violated several CSA board of director ethical codes and put himself in a clear case of conflict of interest by allowing the QSF to uphold the ban.

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      by Published on 06-06-2013 04:16 PM
      1. Categories:
      2. Featured Articles,
      3. Canada
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      Stories like this are what make me miss Ben Knight’s reporting.

      For whatever you thought of Ben, his work on the CSA reform and shining a light under the boulder of its bureaucracy really was unparalleled. He had a way of framing the debate, or seeing through the fog of opinion, and putting a finer point on issues that were often too complicated for even the keenest observers.

      I also think he really took pleasure – even if it was just a little - in taking down those CSA bureaucrats who either stood in the way of moving our game forward or embodied the buffoon behaviour that we have come abhor.

      And no behaviour has been more buffoonish than what has come out of the Quebec Soccer Association this week.

      In case you missed it, here is the latest. The Quebec Soccer Association (QSF) has decided that it is, in their words, going to abide by FIFA law and continue to uphold a ban on turbans.

      On their teleconference call the QSF claimed that the Sikh headwear were a safety issue but when questioned on how many injuries said headwear had caused in the past, they couldn’t name a single one. The incident has drawn international headlines and today, the Canadian Soccer Association finally responded with some pretty direct threats aimed at the provincial body.

      “As an unequivocal majority of our membership agrees with our approach and has safe instituted it within their respective soccer communities, we expect the Quebec Soccer Federation to do the same,” said Victor Montagliani, President of the Canadian Soccer Association.

      That’s the first step and it re-asserts the CSA’s position on the matter during this firestorm but it doesn’t go far enough.

      The QSF president Martial Prudhomme, who is also a member of the CSA board of directors, must immediately step down from his board position. And if he has any desire to spare the QSF any further embarrassment, he should step down from the president’s post as well.

      Here is why:
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      by Published on 06-05-2013 06:31 PM
      1. Categories:
      2. Featured Articles,
      3. Canada
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      That's a pretty nice picture above. Chris Hazard does good work.

      In it, hundreds of crisp, Voyageur flags flying in the south end of BMO field. There too, a sprinkling of Support Local Soccer flags - brought from those who were there when this new wave of national team interest began a few summers ago. If you look up at the top, you can see the man in the red suit looking over it all - aka Jamie McLeod, the person largely behind the national team's growing supporters culture.

      That being, specifically on this day, a sea of red in a sold out Toronto stadium, tuned into every play like it was the Olympic semi-finals.

      All of it is framed in that photo by an advertisement for the World Cup 2015.

      That's where the bottom drops out.
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      by Published on 05-30-2013 12:11 AM
      1. Categories:
      2. Featured Articles,
      3. Toronto FC,
      4. Vancouver Whitecaps,
      5. Montreal Impact,
      6. Canada

      The Canadian Soccer Association is hoping to level the playing field when it comes to Canadians in MLS.

      And the Canadian federation have already made their feelings clear to the league on what they want.

      According to CSA president Victor Montagliani, the Canadian federation met with the USSF and MLS earlier this year to begin formal discussions on having Canadian players considered domestic signings for U.S. teams. As it stands now, U.S. players are considered domestics on Canadian club rosters, but a Canadian player on a U.S. squad has to take up one of the coveted international spots. If you need a deeper understanding of the issue, the 11.ca did a fantastic series on the ins and outs on the matter.

      But even prior to that series, the CSA was looking at ways they can give the Canadians a leg up in the league that now houses the three Canuck squads, which boast some of the best attendances in the league.
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      by Published on 05-28-2013 01:49 PM
      1. Categories:
      2. Featured Articles,
      3. Canada

      Tuesday night we watched as an inexperienced but well organized Costa Rican side proficiently did away with a similarly staffed Canadian side 1-0.

      With a number of the Costa Rican players playing full-time in their domestic league, like several other CONCACAF countries, it has become continually clear that they have a distinct advantage over the likes of Canada in terms of preparation. Their players can train year round together and their coach can keep a close eye on young developing players - knowing when the right time to bring a new player into the fold is, instead of just throwing handfuls at the wall to see what sticks for the national side.

      The simple differences Costa Rica enjoys were on full display when watching their defence deploy organized offside traps and their attacking midfield and forwards performing in and outs eloquently around the offensive box with a certain calm fluidity.

      It's these competitive advantages that opponents have held for nearly a geneation now that have spurred conversation within the CSA in recent years - forcing them to consider exploring similar options by forming our own national, professional league.

      Since the Easton Report was released this spring, there hasn't been much talk publicly about what the next step is for the CSA, or even when this league might start. Hell, even if this league might start.

      But speaking to Canadian Soccer News this week, CSA president Victor Montagliani gave a short update on where things stand on the Canadian national league and where he sees them going over then next two years.

      "The semi-pro league structure is starting to crystallize," he said. "Quebec already has their league. And they’ve increased the number of teams that are participating in that league. Ontario will have something in 2014. Whatever it’s going to be called. But the standards are there. And they’re going to move forward with that."

      After that, the CSA intends to set their sights on progressing the pro game in British Columbia.
      ...
      by Published on 05-27-2013 07:23 PM
      1. Categories:
      2. Featured Articles,
      3. Toronto FC,
      4. Vancouver Whitecaps,
      5. Montreal Impact,
      6. Canada

      Coming on the heels of a Canadian Soccer News series showing how youth clubs here are missing out on major revenue, the CSA president Victor Montagliani has called on Canadian pro clubs to step up and do their part.

      "Why do we need to look at the problems with European clubs buying our players (and not paying)? Why don’t we start with our own professional clubs? Why aren’t our own professional clubs, in our own backyard, paying some kind of stipend to the originating club for signing some of these players?" Montagliani said. "I think that’s something we need to put in place. It’s a balancing act. It doesn’t have to be big dollars. But I think it will change the culture beneath the pro clubs."

      Montagliani drew on a local example to make his point.
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