It’s not the CSA’s fault Canada lost to Martinique.
Well, more accurately it’s not the current CSA’s fault that Canada lost to Martinique. So, fans can put the pitchforks down and stop their march toward Ottawa.
The reason that Canada lost to an non-FIFA member island of 400,000 (that is actually much better than most wisecracking Canadian journalists realize and, not subject to FIFA’s rules on player caps) has to do with the CSA of the late 1990s, early 2000s.
Back then the CSA was a carnival of good times. Keven Pipe was the ineffective ringmaster overseeing a hodgepodge of self-interested provincial directors. Fred Nykamp, hired from Basketball Canada with great fanfare (most of the celebration coming from Basketball Canada, it must be said) only to be fired less than a year later, added to the zoo-like atmosphere.
Nycamp suing the CSA for wrongful dismissal (it was settled out of court) was likely the low point of a comically bad decade that also saw the high profile defection of Owen Hargreaves, likely the most accomplished Canadian-born player in history.
When people scream for the CSA’s collective heads, it’s this era that they are thinking of.
They are right to scream for their heads. Nothing positive happened in Canadian soccer during that time. There was no development, no reform, no hope. It’s telling that for a brief while Canadian soccer fans were holding onto the hope Maple Leaft Sports & Entertainment, Toronto FC’s owners, might save them.
The result of that rudderless period is a gap in talent at the national team level. A solid, if at times selfish, generation that was born during the peak years of Canadian soccer (early 80s) and who benefited from a surge in interest in the sport, is getting past its prime.
That next generation just isn’t there. The best Canadian player in those gap years is likely Will Johnson. He’s from Chicago.
So, Canada currently has two choices. It can either continue with the same players that have failed in World Cup qualifying twice and who will be too old in 2016 when the real work starts again. Or, it can put out a team that is mostly made up if players that emerged at the end of the lost years.
That next generation, which has now gone to two straight U17 World Cups, arrived in the era of MLS. There is some promise there that in time some quality will emerge.
But, it’s going to be very bleak for the next few years. It always was going to be. Martinique just reminded us of that, is all.
However this failure shouldn’t be put on the current CSA. Today’s leadership is focused on elite development. And, it does recognize the need for profound change, both in leadership structure and in grassroots delivery.
Today’s CSA is standing up to the provinces. Long Term Player Development Plan principles are being pushed. When Quebec ignored a directive from the CSA it was slapped down.
Change is happening.
So, as much as a loss to Martinique hurts it’s important to keep things in perspective. Demanding wholesale changes at the top of the CSA right now is, at best, pointless. At worst, it might be counterproductive.
What’s needed is an understanding that it took years to create this mess and it’s going to take years to dig ourselves out if it.
In the meantime fans need to enjoy the small victories (I.e. the u17s qualifying to UAE) and for those involved at the grassroots to keep pushing to get better.
Canada has the resources, both manpower and financial, to get back to football relevancy. Hopefully it has the willpower and patience needed as well.