Archive for the ‘Morning Links’ Category

The Lead

On the eve of Canada’s biggest game since 1998, Sportsnet has laid a giant turd on the Canadian soccer news cycle:

Canada is not just playing for a spot in the fourth and final round of 2014 World Cup qualifying Tuesday afternoon.

Veteran Canadian midfielder Julian de Guzman told Sportsnet Monday evening that his younger brother, Swansea City midfielder Jonathan de Guzman, will play for his home country should Canada earn a positive result versus Honduras.

“He will be there. I can put my life on that, if we make it to the next round,” Julian de Guzman said. “He will be here. He says it. He knows it now.”

Julian De Guzman has yet again decided to put his brother in the news cycle right before a major game. Would he have waited a single day, this would have been a sort-of-okay feel good story, perhaps maybe. And of course, Julian does his brother’s dirty work, in addition to flashing Junior Hoilett’s name:

“[Jonathan] brings Junior, he brings the next Owen Hargreaves-type player. He brings all the other guys who second-guessed Canada. I think it makes sense,” Julian said. “When there is success in the national team, it’s definitely going to attract a lot of people. Not just fans, and marketing, but the right players involved.”

I understand the implications here for Canada, for 2014, for the World Cup in what I’m about to write (not that what I write matters a damn fig). But please, PLEASE Stephen Hart: Just Say No to Jonathan. Canada isn’t some Championship side on the verge of promotion. Playing for your country isn’t a “marketing” opportunity. Yes, Jonathan is holding his own in Michael Laudrup’s Swansea, yes Junior Hoilett would be a welcome addition in any national team side.

But if any of this was serious, Jonathan would already be in talks with the CSA, in private, working out the details. In fact, if Jonathan was serious, this move would have happened already. There are guys out there who have already given their all for this country. Canada didn’t need Jonathan or Junior tomorrow, it needed them today, in Honduras, to help them win or draw.

Please Stephen Hart, don’t do it.
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The Lead

Canada are in Honduras, preparing for a must-win/must-draw tomorrow against the central American nation to (almost certainly) join Panama in the Hexagonal stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

But you knew that already.

And it wouldn’t be prudent to keep hammering the old “most important game ever” shtick, because of course it is. Like Waking the Red pointed out last night, losing tomorrow will not only see Canada crash out of yet another World Cup, it will stunt the growth the mens national team. It will present a major lost opportunity to grow the game in Canada, to push efforts for national player development programs, increase funding to the CSA, provide opportunities for corporate sponsorship, increase television interest in the sport, and give a small victory for good in a world where evil almost invariably triumphs.

But you knew that already.

You also certainly know that this is exactly the sort of game Canadian teams use to torture their fans. Honduras, away (one can imagine Harrison Ford intoning, “Honduras. Why did it have to be Honduras?”). A win or draw required. Hostile territory. CONCACAF referees. Mildly xenophobic CP stories quoting scary Honduran murder rate statistics. The sort of game hardened Canada fans watch, curled up at home, silently weeping on lonely couches or knocking half-full pint glasses off the table in inebriated rage. The kind of game that if everything goes wrong (and there is simply no way to convince anyone it won’t) you can’t wash off, for years.

But you knew that already.

So what don’t you know?

Well, the feelings sparked by a convincing away win for one, which would be so new and confusing they might prompt a visit to the nearest high school guidance counselor. Canada with a very decent shot at a fourth place finish in the Hex is practically the Undiscovered Country of the modernish era in Canuck football. World Cup soccer for Canada in the post-Internet age? It all comes down to how XI outfielders (no apparent strikers) respond to The Question: To be or not to be? Stephen Hart and co will have their answer for us tomorrow afternoon. Prepare to feel feelings, whatever the answer.
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The Lead

Amid all the international news this weekend, this one came like a shot in the dark:

The [Independent Police Complaints Commission] is to launch a major, wide-ranging investigation into allegations of misconduct by South Yorkshire police, West Midlands police and others arising from the Hillsborough independent panel report published last month.

The director of public prosecutions (DPP), Kier Starmer, has also announced that he will immediately review all the evidence in the 395-page report to decide whether new charges of manslaughter can be brought.

“I have now concluded that the Crown Prosecution Service should consider all the material now available in relation to the tragic events of 15 April 1989, including material made available by the independent panel,” Starmer said.

It serves to remember that despite recent revelations, including those in the Hillsborough Independent Panel report which led to today’s headline, the calls from grieving family members over the last two decades weren’t “Independent Inquiries for the 96!” This announcement is the closest aggrieved Liverpool supporters have come to justice being served for the negligence that led to the crush at Leppings Lane.

And lest the reader get their back up over the LFC ‘cult’ surrounding the FA Cup semi-final in 1989, it cannot be said enough: this must be treated like a disaster waiting to happen, a disaster that could have taken the lives of any and all fans of club football in England. It just happened to be Liverpool that day. This is not about one club, but about closing the chapter on a sad era in English football.
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The Lead

When I watch Canada lose—and it’s safe to say no team loses like Canada loses, no team leaves hearts as crushed, spirits as low, as the Canadian mens national team—through all the disgust, confusion, and beer/wine/scotch, I think back to the days in 1888 when a team of Canadians traveled to England and faced off against what were then the best club sides in the world, and matched their record 9-5-9. I think back to David Forsyth’s work in Galt (now Cambridge) Ontario, when a high school chemistry teacher helped perfect the Canadian game a mere two decades after the association rules were agreed upon in the Freemasons’ Tavern in London in 1863. I remember the Canadian game is bigger than any one team, any single iteration of failure, and certainly bigger than the Association which didn’t come into being until 1912. And I feel ever so slightly less had.

Canada is certainly bigger than whatever that…thing…on the Toronto lake shore. I find the phony romanticism in fan claims of undying attachment to a corporate entity bestowed unto the city—not by any community initiative but rather a business decision made in the offices of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment—hard to deal with, so I’m going to put on my smiley face instead and remind you there is a far, far more important team to get yourself involved with this weekend, a team built by teachers, community leaders, students, and civil servants before the turn of the penultimate century.

Canada is on the verge of a berth in the Hexagonal stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Tomorrow Canada hosts Cuba, and needless to say, a win is essential to reach the next stage. Then on October 16th (and hopefully not before), comes the most important game of qualifying this calendar year. Canada needs you, and even if it leaves you high-and-dry for the thousandth, millionth time, that long history forged by generations of ordinary people will remain, ready to face the next, seemingly impossible challenge. And you should be there for it too.
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The Lead

It’s hard to pick up a newspaper or tabloid today without reading of some fresh horror in the Middle East, often motivated by the majority religion in the region and deliberately underlined by the editors for maximum political shock value. The latest example involves the horrific shooting by the Taliban of a 14-year-old girl for the crime of advocating for better access to quality education for women and girls. When this kind of story remains the only point of contact between readers and Islam, it’s easy to understand why that faith continues to be regarded with suspicion in Western Europe and North America.

Which is why the news that several Newcastle players, including Cheick Tioté, Demba Ba, Papiss Cissé and Hatem Ben Arfa, may refuse to wear a shirt sponsored by Wonga out of respect for Sharia’s ban on usurious practices that exploit the poor comes as a welcome change. How often do you read a story in which a Muslim cleric clarifies that Sharia calls for the need “…to protect the vulnerable and the needy from exploitation by the rich and powerful”? Yes Margaret, the majority of adherents to Islam are about as radical in outlook as your local Anglican church.

There are some quibbles—why the need for a religious code to take a principled stand on a plainly morally-dubious practice?—but it’s good to see players taking an active role in unethical financial transactions at their club, and even better to see a newspaper remind its readers Islam is not all burning embassies and shooting teenagers.

Now, on the topic of principled moral stands, about those player salaries…
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The Lead

Ashley Cole, charged by the FA, says he’s sorry and gets back on the team. No histrionics, no need for a show of force from the manager about “getting tough” on his charges. Just an acknowledgement of a momentary lapse of Twitter judgment (haven’t we all been there?) from one of the best English left-backs ever, if not the best English left-back, ever.

As this story doesn’t really go anywhere interesting from there, I want to talk briefly about former Bolton manager Owen Coyle. Coyle was sacked today, following Bolton’s dreadful opening to the Championship with a 3-2-5 record.

I think it needs pointing out that this officially (well, not really) makes Owen Coyle a worse manager than Blackburn’s ex-gaffer Steve Kean. Whilst Kean was the clownish face of a club on the way down during last year’s Premier League, he did manage to steer the club back to relative success in the early part of this season.

The smart thing would have been for Blackburn’s perpetually-bungling owners in the Venkys to let Kean steer the ship back to safety, spend the season grooming several candidates for a return to the big-time, and let Steve go with his dignity intact, fully aware—along with the rest of us—that Kean was that special species: a Championship manager. Good enough to wade through your Watfords and Burnleys, not so much your Tottenhams and Newcastles.

Coyle however is clearly a shit manager all-around. I found it particularly hypocritical last season the way some people tried to paint Coyle as a good guy in troublesome circumstances, while Kean was an out-and-out idiot. In reality they were both terrible, except Coyle more so, particularly considering their transfer activity involved acquisitions of the “good enough” Steven Warnock and Jay Spearing.

But one said dumb things in public and even dumber things on tape, drunk on a pre-season tour in Asia. The other maintained “a quiet dignity” even as his team played football the way I play the viola da gamba. Badly.

You been had, you got took. Don’t let it happen again.
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Nothing I write is going to do justice to the level of farce the John Terry/Anton Ferdinand affair has descended into, so here is the FA report which explains their decision to ban John Terry for four competitive matches, and here is Ashley Cole responding to the report’s (drafted by an independent panel it should be said, and not the FA proper) claims his testimony “evolved”:


Ashley Cole was two games from his 100th England cap. Which brings to mind this, about 24 seconds in:

Anyway, if you’d like to see a bunch of schoolyard swears patched together with some expert legalese, I recommend sitting down and taking in the entire 63-page report. It reads like a long trip to the principle office, and while most of the attention will be on Ashley “BUNCHOFTWATS” Cole for his Twitter mistake today, one can’t help but think about the infantilization of footballers via investigations of this nature.

But that discussion’s for another, perhaps less hilarious day…


Say hello to the team that will try to put Canada through the Hexagonal [CSN].

Steve McMananananananaman on what it’s like to play in El Clasico. TOTALLY RAD!, he didn’t say. [The Guardian].

Is Milan v Inter now the “dysfunction derby”? [Football Italia].

Grant Wahl on Barcelona president Sandro Rossell [SI].

Neymar dressed as a cow [Dirty Tackle].

And that, give or take, is the story so far…