Jump to content

Canada's World Cup Post-Mortem


Recommended Posts

(The following opinion was emailed to 103 Canadian newspapers and every provincial soccer association on October 15, 2012, a full 24-hours before our 8-1 humiliation. I thought it would be more effective to address the national media while its attention was still focused on Canadian soccer, rather than to wait till after I talked to Stephen Hart.)

As Canadian soccer enthusiasts have to resign themselves once again to watching yet another FIFA World Cup Final tournament that will not feature their national team, is it not high time we honestly examine why Canada has just failed to qualify for the world’s greatest sporting spectacle for a twelfth time? Only Guatemala, the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname have amassed greater records of CONCACAF futility. For those of us who are old enough to remember our one and only appearance at a World Cup Final, 1986 seems like a lifetime ago. Even the images of our last participation in the CONCACAF Hex back in 1997 are already starting to fade from our collective memories. Since then, we have also had to endure a twelve-year drought where our national team failed to win a single CONCACAF semi-final qualifying match on home soil. With a track-record as poor as ours, when do we finally reach the point where we say; “Enough is enough! These repeated failures are no longer acceptable! Something has to change!”

Every country that partakes in FIFA’s quadrennial competition, has at one time or another encountered a difficult draw, been subjected to some refereeing injustices, or just had to suffer some down-right bad luck Naturally, Canada has had its fair share of these misfortunes to contend with, however, they are not the real causes of our ongoing disappointments, but only the excuses that are used to cover up our true shortcomings.

Time and again, the fingers of blame are also pointed at the individuals hired by the CSA to coach our national team. This seems equally lame, as all who have held that position over the past 15 years were only able to progress to the same qualifying stage of the World Cup competition. Therefore, based on the consistency of these performances, it is doubtful that any of the world’s most respected coaches could have achieved better results if had they been presented with the same players, conditions and circumstances.

By process of elimination that leaves only the quality of our national team players to look at. Most of these players left Canada at a young age to pursue professional careers with lower-echelon clubs in foreign leagues. Although a few manage to earn a respectable living, thus far none of them have developed into the type of player that winds up playing for a preeminent club, and with the exception of the 1986 campaign they have repeatedly proven to be uncompetitive when representing Canada in World Cup qualifying matches.

Interestingly enough, the overwhelming majority of Canada’s aspiring soccer players compete in a plethora of regional leagues that are spread across this vast country. These leagues represent the breadbasket of our domestic talent pool. The most successful teams participating in these district leagues end up contesting each other for provincial cup honours, with the winners advancing to vie for the Challenge Cup, emblematic of the Canadian amateur soccer championship. The following 12 clubs qualified for the 2011 Challenge Cup competition:

ICST Pegasus – Vancouver Metro Soccer League

Edmonton Green & Gold – Alberta Major Soccer League

Huskie United Soccer Academy Alumni – Saskatchewan Premier Soccer League

Winnipeg Juventus – Manitoba Major Soccer League

Toronto Celtic FC – Toronto Services Soccer League

Griffons du CS Mont-Royal Outremont – la Ligue de Soccer Elite du Quebec

Fredericton Picaroons Reds – New Brunswick Premier Soccer League

Soccer Edge – Prince Edward Island Premier League

Suburban FC – Nova Scotia Soccer League

Holy Cross Kirby Group – Newfoundland Challenge Cup League

Yukon Selects SC – Yukon Soccer Association

Yellowknife FC – Northwest Territories Soccer Association

Of all the players that competed in the 2011 Canadian Challenge Cup championship, how many were selected to play for the national team that was recently eliminated from World Cup contention? Conversely, how many players on the current national roster have ever won a Canadian Challenge Cup championship? After doing the math, several questions immediately come to mind. Why does the Canadian soccer structure that is currently in place fail to produce the caliber of players that are worthy of being selected to represent Canada at the international level? Are we physically inferior to other nationalities? Are there economic insecurities that dissuade the CSA from establishing a domestic structure that will produce players of an international caliber? Or does the CSA lack the creative vision necessary to design an economically viable structure that is specifically tailored to further develop the best players from our domestic talent pool in a competitive setting?

Up to the present, the CSA has shown it is either unable or unwilling to address the dire state in which Canadian soccer has been stuck in for so many years. Even if we concede that soccer will probably no time soon rival the popularity that hockey enjoys in this country, the CSA should at least be able to attract a similar level of interest and support that the sport of curling has managed to earn in Canada. However, the recently concluded 100th anniversary tournament of the Canadian Challenge Cup in Winnipeg received none of the 66 hours of nationally televised coverage that TSN devoted to the 2012 Tim Horton’s Brier earlier this year in Saskatoon. As a result, the attendance and gate receipt figures of the CSA’s cup competition were no where near those that the Brier competition brought in and it is therefore hardly surprising that the financial rewards for curlers by far outweighed the paltry honorariums that the soccer players received. This once again raises a series of questions. Why does the CSA continue to insist on organizing an amateur Canadian cup championship? In today’s world this is certainly not necessary from an Olympic eligibility point of view. Why are these players not allowed to receive any financial incentives? Why does the CSA continue to discriminate between amateur and professional clubs by organizing two separate Canadian cup championships?

The direction of Canadian soccer is not going to turn any corners with Victor Montagliani at the helm of the CSA. We will not “see thee rise” with World Cup preparations that consist of a hastily arranged match against Trinidad & Tobago that was not televised and did not generate any gate receipts, while at the same time scarce financial resources were wasted by the CSA on a full-page Globe & Mail advertisement for the Women’s World Cup three-years in advance of that event. We will not “see thee rise” with governance that advocates amateur policies, while the rest of the world has adopted a professional approach. If Mr. Montagliani really had a vision to change the plight of Canadian soccer, he would have surely started to reveal and implement those plans during his first six months in office. If this is not the case, then what is he waiting for? The fact that there is absolutely no evidence to support that the CSA has acknowledged the need to either replace or rebuild the ineffective structure that is currently in place, clearly corroborates the fact that Mr. Montagliani does not have a clue on how to solve our predicament.

Canadian soccer needs visionary leadership that is capable of creating and implementing a competitive environment for the elite players from our national talent pool, where they can obtain a maximum amount of playing time at the highest level of competition that is currently available in this country, and which provides them with a domestic pathway that leads directly to the national team. In addition, sufficient financial incentives have to be offered in order to make it worthwhile for aspiring players to make the personal sacrifices that are necessary once they commit to pursuing a career in soccer. Such a structure would simultaneously create a number of high-level coaching positions and increase overall public interest, which would subsequently make soccer a far more attractive proposition for investors and advertisers to consider. This kind of vision can only be provided by an individual who has a thorough understanding of the unique challenges that confront the Canadian soccer landscape and who has developed a keen appreciation for the mechanisms that have and have not worked previously in Canada.

Although my passion for soccer was ignited almost half a century ago in the Netherlands, I have been blessed to have lived the past 43 years in Canada. My curiosity to learn how the game evolved in this country has resulted in dedicating a large portion of the last 15 years to a fact-finding mission that has allowed me to acquire an intimate knowledge of our past and to develop the necessary expertise to lead us to a brighter future. If given the privilege to serve in this capacity, on my first day in office I will present and begin to implement a five-year plan that will take our national team to the next level, a berth in the 2017 CONCACAF Hex, which is where Canada will earn the right to take part in the 2018 World Cup Final, in Russia.

In order to realize this objective and to play a key role in helping achieve that success, the CSA’s Board of Directors will need to take action today, rather than wait until three years from now when it will be too late to implement a new structure and give it the necessary time to develop the players that will qualify Canada for the 2018 World Cup Final.

Robert Janning is the author of a recently published book entitled: “Westcoast Reign – the British Columbia Soccer Championships, 1892-1905.” BallBoy Press (2012)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Of all the players that competed in the 2011 Canadian Challenge Cup championship, how many were selected to play for the national team that was recently eliminated from World Cup contention?"

Really Robert? You expect amateurs to be in the CMNT? They couldn't even crack the Olympic roster.

But I'm glad you're passionate about Canadian Soccer, and agree that the CSA board needs to take immediate action.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Create New...