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Ben Knight: The endless tour continues


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The endless tour continues

After almost three years on the road, Canada's top soccer players are within hailing distance of home ... sort of.

(posted Jul. 3, 4:56PM EDT)

There's a funny old American folk song, penned in 1949, to protest a fare hike on the Boston subway system. A luckless, well-meaning shlub named Charlie pays his dime to ride the train, only to be told he has to pay another nickel or he can’t get off. He doesn’t have it. He's stuck.


“Did he ever return?

No he never returned

And his fate is still unlearn’d

He may ride forever

'neath the streets of Boston

He's the man who never returned.”

(From “Charlie on the MTA,” lyrics by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes.)

Soccer’s version of The Men Who Never Returned are in the outskirts of Boston this week. It’s the closest they’ve been to home in almost three years. I speak, of course, of the Canadian men’s soccer team, who are in Foxboro, Massachusetts, to take on Costa Rica and Cuba in the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

It’s not that Holger Osieck’s road warriors don’t have a nickel to get home. The travel budget is in fine shape. They’ve been all over the United States since that icy 0-0 draw with Mexico at Varsity Stadium in Toronto in November of 2000. They’ve also logged time in Malta, Estonia, Scotland and Libya. Where haven’t they been?

Well: Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Victoria for starters. All these cities have been graced by the presence of Canada’s fine women’s team, all within living memory. But where the women see playable fields in all these towns, the men disagree. They concede that Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium is worthy of their presence, they just don’t ever quite show up to play there. They’re lobbying hard for a new soccer-worthy stadium in Toronto, but they’ll almost certainly need the co-operation of the Toronto Argonauts to pull that off, and that means joining the Boatmen in a very, very leaky boat.

The fans, in the meantime, have coped as best they can. There was a good, vociferous turnout at Easter Road in Edinburgh for the Scotland game, and all indications point to flurries of red maple leafs in Foxboro.

But when, oh when, will our wandering boys return? Well, they’ll have to turn up eventually. World Cup 2006 qualifying will begin soon, which will force Canada to actually play in Canada, not just once but several times. Will all the games be in Edmonton? Will Ottawa or Montreal get a sniff? Centennial Park way out by the Toronto airport, anyone?

All right, this has degenerated to guessing. Howzabout some actual analysis of the team and its Gold Cup chances? Well, the team is pretty much where it’s been for quite a while. Goalie Lars Hirschfeld is apparently back from injury, Tomasz Radzinski is elsewhere, the kids are still promising, and eternal exile Fernando Aguiar is still good enough for Benfica of Portugal (good enough to loan out, at least), but not good enough for Canada. We’ll know lots more after the Gold Cup games are in the books, but it’s all seems like pretty much more of the same just now.

If that sounds like a slight, at least please think of it as a counter-slight. This isn’t coming from a journalistic point of view, by the way, but from an actual fan. This fan feels slighted because the team never plays a home game. Oh, I’ll be watching the Foxboro games, glued to the TV feed wherever I happen to be in my own travels at the time. But I’d feel a lot more connected with this team if they could stop being content with wrestling with the obstacles blocking home games, and actually OVERCOME THEM!

Canada is making good, honest efforts to improve in the tough, competitive world of international soccer. Yes, it’s hard to get all our best players free from their European club commitments, but with all these promising young players we’re developing, how hard would it really be to bring Honduras or Jamaica up to Frank Clair Stadium for a two-hour kick around?

Truly, I’m sorry I’m not more gung-ho about this Gold Cup. But I’m starting to feel like a Montreal Expos fan here. Taken for granted, certainly. On bad days, deserted.

“Our team” needs to show up in one of “our stadiums.” Until that actually happens, maybe “our fans” need to be a bit less patient and forgiving.



Soccer actually won out over politics when FIFA dramatically reversed its dull and dismal decision to grant Oceania an automatic spot in the 2006 World Cup. Yes, theyre complaining bitterly about it in Australia, but the simple fact is that Oceania teams still have the easiest route to the finals of any region on earth.

It’s undeniably awful that FIFA opened the door to them last Christmas, and is slamming it in their faces now. I’d be howling to, if I’d been treated that way. But all Australia (or New Zealand, I suppose) has to do to get to the World Cup is beat a mid-table South American side over two legs. The real reason Oceania hasn’t been represented at the World Cup for ages is that their teams simply haven’t gotten the job done.

You want to play? Beat someone to get there!

I’m delighted that FIFA finally got this one right. I share the world’s embarrassment that they didn’t get it right in the first place.


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Yes, the weeks up to the GC would have been perfect to play Brazil, Colombia or some other tropical team in Eastern Canada. Would have helped them or us. However, can't practically see any friendlies here for awhile now if we want Euro placed players to go.

Saint John gets the U-23's in September, and Victoria or Vancouver will probably get the same team against El Salvador in mid-November.

Will be looking forward to the WCQ home matches next year and hopefully 2005, hopefully at least one will be in Edmonton.

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change

the subject. -- Winston Churchill

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quote:Originally posted by DoyleG

“Our team” needs to show up in one of “our stadiums.” Until that actually happens, maybe “our fans” need to be a bit less patient and forgiving.

I'm not quite sure what Ben is suggesting here - in what way can we be "less patient & forgiving", and how exactly would that help things? [?]

The CSA, the coaches & the players all badly want to play in Canada & are all frustrated by their inability to get home friendlies, rather than being "content" with the situation.

By the way, Honduras, Jamaica and a slew of other major Concacaf nations have all recently turned us down for a home friendlies in the past few months.

Even the wolf can learn. Even the sheep can turn. Even the frog can become at last the prince. - Peter Hammill, Over (1977)

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quote:Originally posted by beachesl

We do have to realize that our wonderful woman warriors don't play professionally in Europe, that NA is the aegis of their careeers. Playing at home is a natural fit for them darlings, not for most of our best men.

That seems to be a point that's often missed in comparisons between the men's and women's teams.

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quote:Originally posted by Massive Attack

We still should have had a friendly right before this Gold Cup. Most of the players are already at the training camp. We could have set up a friendly in Montreal or Ottawa. Even if it was against a team like Barbados.


"I'm gonna fight 'em off,

A seven nation army couldn't hold me back..."

The White Stripes

Geezus, I'd take a couple of friendlys against our eastern A-League clubs. Sure they'd be the best crowds Toronto has had all season and they could use the gate money. Could play on at a neutral ground even. Ottawa, London, Hamilton, blah, blah, blah.

"Minority of one"

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The team will likely be (during the camp) playing some kind of "closed-door" friendly which you are referring to (they always do that), but I don't think that is what Ben Knight had in mind.

Even the wolf can learn. Even the sheep can turn. Even the frog can become at last the prince. - Peter Hammill, Over (1977)

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