ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL IN CANADA…………….
by Don McMahon
This is not meant as an exhaustive or serious overview of what is happening in my country’s Association Football (known as soccer over here) but rather an overview of how we treat, support, officiate and play the game in the Great White North.
It is called the Great White North because it is almost always covered in snow except when our titular head of state, Queen Elizabeth II comes to visit. Then we paint the snow green…..
As I am sure you will know, Canada is the world’s second largest (area wise) country after Russia. Like Russia, we are mostly underpopulated wilderness of forests, rivers and lakes, and further north tundra and snow, depending on the season. Ninety percent of Canada’s meagre population (33 million) live almost directly on the border with the US, or at least within 100 kilometres of it thus making it easier to shop in the States and a perfect place to laugh at Donald Trump from.
We are a country of four distinct seasons; WINTER, less winter, a little warmer than winter and two days of summer! In actual fact, six months of the year we spend in our Igloos and huts, the other 6 we spend ferrying American and European tourists around in our canoes, so they can see what a bunch of trees actually look like.
We are famous for our Canadian beavers, (take that as you may), seal pups that make great fur coats or place-mat souvenirs, maple syrup, hockey (we wear our skates during our honeymoon), politeness (except at a hockey match) and disdain for Yankees.
We are a very heterogeneous mix of people from every corner of the world. Most Canadians are 1st generation children of immigrants (42%) or newly arrived immigrants (38%) with the remainder being either French Canadian, English Canadian of Celtic descent, Aboriginals (also known as First Nations) and a few token Englishmen in honour of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, upon which our parliamentary system is modelled.
Enough of demographics! When it comes to Football, we participants are very reflective of our society. The game is played by almost everyone under 80 with a passion and enthusiasm that lasts 12 months of the year, despite only being able to actually play in the late spring, summer and fall months (about 5 months in total) and not being allowed to wear skates or carry hockey sticks on the pitch!
Speaking of pitches, ours are either artificial (our womenfolk knit the turf from discarded seal pelts, birch bark and recycled water bottles) or, once we manage to get the cows and sheep back in their sheds, on what resembles grounds that could pass for the quagmire after the Battle of the Somme.
In Québec, my home province, every player must belong to a sports Club and every official must also be a member of a Club. This is the same model as in Germany, where a Sportverein oversees the local football. There is a serious shortage of referees, coaches, managers, fields and administrators because there are so many kids wanting to play Football and because we have other summer sports that use the available grounds as well. The Laws of the game have been amended specifically for Canada, to permit a stoppage of play when a soccer player is hit by an errant baseball, or crushed to death by a Canadian football player who got confused and ran onto the wrong pitch, or on occasion by an errant pack of wolves.
In actual fact we have over 1 million registered and unregistered soccer players in Canada. Here are some statistics from the Soccer Canada website: ¨Soccer is the largest participatory sport in Canada and is considered the fastest growing sport in the country. There are nearly 1,000,000 registered Canada Soccer members in Canada within 1,500 clubs across 144 districts that operate in 13 provincial/territorial member associations.
Canada has 3 professional soccer teams; The Montréal Impact (Didier Drogba plays for them) Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps. They play in the MSL and generally challenge every year.
I have personally officiated in Pangnurting (on Baffin Island) which is about 80 kilometres from the magnetic Pole. I have officiated in St. John’s Newfoundland and played in Vancouver B.C. These three places are about 2200 kilometres apart so travelling there is like going from Montréal to Bucharest for a game. It takes us about 2 months by dogsled or canoe, so our season has only 5 games before the ice freezes.
Like every other member of FIFA, we have 7 FIFA officials and about 45 national referees. Politics being politics, we have a considerable competition between provincial associations to promote their candidates to the national level. Each province has about 60 provincial referees and 25% of our officials in Québec are women but we don’t hold that against them.
Finally, our international teams have had varied success on the world scene, with our women outperforming our men significantly in recent years (nothing to do with honeymoons). There were and are a few Canadians playing professionally in Europe but like England, our lower ranks suffer from a penury of qualified coaches and managers…..and it shows in the results of our teams. However, we have recently discovered that Canadian beer, which is made from the juice of polar bear spit, grizzly bear saliva and spoilt maple syrup is better than steroids in enhancing our less polite side so watch out world…here we come!!!
Hopefully some fellow UA followers will feel motivated to tell us about what transpires in their countries for Football and other things.
- The curious case of the Theo Walcott.
- Strikers: the second Arsenal gamble of Summer 2015 (and will we buy this summer?)
- Using a refereeing system based on Calciopoli – implications and press reaction.
From the anniversary files
31 May 1947: George Allison resigned, ending a 37 year association with the club. His final act was to write his autobiography: Allison Calling (a title which makes reference to his long-term work as a radio commentator). In the book Allison’s description of Henry Norris (who Allison knew from 1910 onwards) and his style of work contrasts starkly with Knighton’s, and calls into question many of Knighton’s assertions. Ludicrously it is Knighton’s book, written 22 years after he left the club but published within weeks of the Allison book, which is used as the prime source of Arsenal history by many writers. Allison, like Chapman before him and Whittaker after him, won two league titles and the FA Cup.