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  • Long Balls: From North America, to England... to Turkey



    Time was when the footballers the Canadian Mens’ National team coach selected came largely from North America. “Time was” in this case referring to the country’s 1986 World Cup entry, of which Long Balls carries only the most faint memories. That squad culled nine North American-based players, several amateurs and a dash of foreign spice in the form of Paul James’ stint at CF Monterrey.

    Canada's 2000 Gold Cup winning squad utilized a much higher percentage of players from abroad, specifically from England or Scotland.

    The current Canada squad is more balanced, featuring players who play club football in both North America and Europe. All over Europe. In fact, should this Canada side overcome the tremendous odds set against them and qualify for the World Cup in 2014 it will be due in no small part to three guys who randomly ended up in Turkey.


    Canada’s heir apparent in goal, Milan Borjan, grabbed attention last weekend by backstopping his side Sivasspor to a 2-0 win over league-leading Fenerbahce. This no doubt offered him a huge boost of confidence, especially since a wild sending-off in the middle of September shunted him to the backup role for over a month. The bench is not where Canada fans want to see their goalkeeping hope for the future plopped for any length of time this season, especially considering the real business of World Cup qualifying starts next June.

    Meanwhile, Josh Simpson (arguably Canada’s most important forward) and Mike Klukowski (arguably its best leftback) each started and played 79 and 90 minutes respectively as their club Manisaspor beat Anatalyspor 1-0 to move into fifth place and within three points of the Turkish Süper Lig summit.

    The Süper Lig will send two clubs to the 2012-13 Champions League. The winner goes into the competition directly while second spot enters the third qualifying round. Spots three through five may also gain access to the Europa League depending on outcomes in other competitions. It may be premature to start getting excited about seeing Josh Simpson grace the pitch at the San Siro or Camp Nou in the group stages a year from now, but harbouring impossibly-high-bordering-on-delusional expectations is nothing new for either Long Balls or most Canada supporters.

    Long Balls would think that the more Canadian players playing in more European countries learning different styles of play under different coaches in different footballing cultures would be something that benefits the national team. Keen observers of Canadian soccer, however, will glance back over the past decade and conclude that this diversity hasn't benefited the team very much at all.

    If Long Balls knew why that was we probably wouldn't be doing what we are doing. But European leagues remain the best in the world and the best Canadian players should aspire to play in them. Which brings us to Andre Hainault. Canada watchers dug up a story this week that linked the young defender to Bordeaux. And to quote one of the comments on said message board: Bordeaux? Wow.

    Hainault's agent later confirmed the interest but said there was nothing concrete yet from over in Europe. As long as we're deluding ourselves, Long Balls thinks it would be fantastic to add Ligue 1 to the list of European leagues Canadian footballers inhabit.

    Correction: The sixth paragraph of this article has been rewritten to show that the Süper Lig only receives two Champions League spots, not four.

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