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Association Football in Canada, by Untold’s Canadian Correspondent (which makes a certain sense)


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!

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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.


Recent Posts

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.

The anniversary files appear in full each day on the home page of Untold.  There is also an index to around 5000 anniversaries on the Arsenal History Society website.


26 comments to Association Football in Canada, by Untold’s Canadian Correspondent (which makes a certain sense)

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Don – one word – AWESOME !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Football in my country ? Also one word – ZILCH !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    If I were ever to come over to Toronto , I think that I could stay there for at least 2 months without having to pay a cent for bed , breakfast ,lunch , tea or dinner as there are so many of my relatives settled there .
    And I probably won’t have to stay in each house for more than a day !

  • Gord

    Don is not the only Canuck, he may be the most accomplished in terms of football. I used to live in Edmonton. I know of one Canuck on Untold who “hails” from a little north of that other city in Alberta. I am now living in Dawson Creek, BC. Which is where the Alaska Highway begins. When I first joined Untold, I was living in Grande Prairie. Grande Prairie and Dawson Creek are both part of the “Peace Region”, the watershed of the Peace River. About the size of Germany. England fits in Alberta 7 times.

    Oh, some people spell that one city “Grand Prairie” (missing an “e”). Grand Prairie is a city in Texas.

    Hails – there is a path from the eastern slopes of the Rockies heading east, that gets an inordinate number of hailstorms. There have some big insurance bills from hailstorms destroying all kinds of stuff. I believe this path is just north of Calgary (that other city).

    Football pitches on the Prairies are very much like parking lots. Very hard. Many players carry proper football shoes with them to every game, only to have to wear multi-studs when they realize that the ground is so hard, proper cleats don’t penetrate.

    All football participants make pilgrimages to BC for tournaments, either the Okanogan or the lower mainland (Vancouver). That being the only place in western Canada that gets enough rain so that the field is soft enough to wear proper football shoes.

  • Gord


    To say that in Canadjian is: AWESOME eh!

  • Usama Zaka

    Good read Don. Canada may not as good as other surrounding countries in football, but at least it is competitive, has a growing footballing structure and is making a name for itself. And also Canada is very competitive in other sports and athletics as well, so that helps them as well.

    Moving on, I am from Pakistan, but live in U.A.E. First I will talk about football and other sports in Pakistan.

    [Incoming Rant!] Pakistan’s national sport is Hockey. Pakistan is the country with the most number of Hockey World Cups (4). Pakistan was the unstoppable force in world hockey in 80s and early 90s. Since then politics, corruption, carelessness, financial ruin, zero grassroots development, etc.. has led to a ground breaking fall of hockey in Pakistan. The players are still competitive thanks to their love for the game but there is professional care, training, facilities and such needs provided by the Pakistan Hockey Board.

    Cricket is the most played, watched, talked about, cared for sport in Pakistan (as well as India). Pakistani cricket team in the 90s was also one of the most feared teams in cricketing history. This was not due to any good coaching, stable structure, good management or anything. It was mainly due to two things… Luck and an eruption of world class talent with players that are now considered legends of the game.

    Sadly with the increase of money in the sport… corruption and match-fixing became an active part of our cricket. Our team literally threw away the Cricket World Cup Final 1999 at Lord’s Cricket Ground against Australia, that match is still investigated by some for match-fixing.

    Now cricket in Pakistan is full politics, nepotism, unbelievable corruption, and severe lack of development at grassroots level. Millions play the game at domestic level. But there is little proper facilities, coaching, training and development of hidden gems. I could go on and on, but I think should stop here and talk about football in a follow up comment.

  • colario

    Why Arsenal don’t play in Canada.

    In Canada:

    50° Fahrenheit (10° C)
    · New Yorkers try to turn on the heat.
    · Canadians plant gardens.
    40° Fahrenheit (4.4° C)
    · Californians shiver uncontrollably.
    · Canadians Sunbathe.
    35° Fahrenheit (1.6° C)
    · Italian Cars won’t start
    · Canadians drive with the windows down
    32° Fahrenheit (0 ° C)
    · Distilled water freezes
    · Canadian water get thicker.
    0° Fahrenheit (-17.9° C)
    · New York City landlords finally turn on the heat.
    · Canadians have the last cookout of the season.
    -40° Fahrenheit (-40° C)
    · Hollywood disintegrates.
    · Canadians rent some videos.
    -60° Fahrenheit (-51° C)
    · Mt. St. Helens freezes.
    · Canadian Girl Guides sell cookies door-to-door.
    -100° Fahrenheit (-73° C)
    · Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
    · Canadians pull down their ear flaps.
    -173° Fahrenheit (-114° C)
    · Ethyl alcohol Freezes.
    · Canadians get frustrated when they can’t thaw the keg.
    -460° Fahrenheit (-273° C)
    · Absolute zero; all atomic motion stops.
    · Canadians start saying “cold, eh?”
    -500° Fahrenheit (-295° C)
    · Hell freezes over.
    · The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup.

  • colario

    If my memory is correct then according to Bernard Joy in his book on Arsenal the Canadian FA did invite Arsenal to tour Canada.

    The C F A offered to pay for first class seats for directors but 2nd class seats for players. Arsenal refused the invitation for that reason.

    I know some Americans who are from Michigan which is just south of the boarder with Canada.
    They tell me it can be quite hot in summer and as cold as Canada in winter.

  • ARSENAL 13

    Hahahahahahahaha…Don awesome.

    Football in my country.. INDIA.

    Once in a while we get to hear of the legendary team that went to the world cup and were not allowed as we dint have shoes!!! Well thats all we get to hear about them ..

    It was all cricket. Then came IPL. MORE cricket!!!. Poor I league, Indian top division football league, no one cared. Yet there were ManCity like teams.

    Then some super rich people decided they liked football. They started ISL and got some legends to play here. Including our very own Freddie and Bobby. Also some bloke called Anelka.

    Random sports fans did take a little look at football, but then came kabaddi. People said efff football, we’ll watch kabaddi.

    Now, the pre requisites for the growth of football, coaches and referees, are nowhere in the required numbers for a large country like ours. Have I told you how difficult it is to get a level d license which makes you eligible to coach at grassroots??

    Steps are being taken. I am hopeful, let’s see where we go.

  • WalterBroeckx

    that was both very interesting and very funny… LOL I loved it !!!

  • Usama Zaka

    I don’t know where should I start talking about football in Pakistan….

    How would you react if I say that “Not a single football has been kicked in Pakistan in the last two years” Okay that was slightly exaggerated. Well the reality is that not one single game league has been played in any division of Pakistan in the last 18 months or so. Players have no pitches, facilities, equipment to train on, and no coaching at all to develop. We ranked 190th in world football… FFS 😡

    I have been to Lahore (my home city in Pakistan), and have traveled more 50% of it during my vacations last year, and I have not come across a single football pitch/ground/, not even two goal posts.

    Over last 2 or 3 years the corrupt FIFA has been funding PFF (Pakistan Football Federation) in exchange for PFF’s full support of FIFA’s top men. The funding was good enough for investing in at least the national team or the domestic leagues. But here’s what happened, you guessed it right, the PFF’s president Faisal Saleh Hayat and his goons ate it up, without little to non-existent investment in football in Pakistan and these people are still doing that in full flow. There is so much corruption to talk about that my fingers might burn off while typing.

    People in Pakistan have passion for football. Manny Pakistani footballers who want to make careers and live a decent life out of football leave Pakistan. Right now there many Pakistani players that have migrated to Norway, Sweeden and Denmark and are playing good football in 1st and lover divisions. And most of them become nationals of that specific country by applying for a local citizenship.

    The website for the Pakistan Football Federation has been under construction for nearly 2 years. 😀

    Pakistan Football Federation Website

    Below are some links highlighting the recent turmoil of football in Pakistan.

    FIFA and Pakistani football both caught offside

    It’s time to investigate Pakistan football’s corruption scandals

    Corruption in Pakistan Football

    Domestic players with nowhere to train

    FIFA provide PFF financial aid

    Football turmoil — sport the only victim

  • Matt Clarke

    Thanks Don,
    A very interesting read and, I hope, the start of a whole series from across the footballing world.

    One grumble though…it’s Canadia. Canadia.

  • Gord

    Oh, another thing Brickfields. Toronto is spelled: C, e, n, t, r, e, a space, o, f, another space, t, h, e, yet another space, U, n, i, v, e, r, s, e.

    I once drove “over the hump” to Toronto. At White River, Ontario is a sign something to the effect that it was the coldest place in Canada at -64F. (I think that place has something to do with Winnie the Pooh as well.)

    I have walked to school when at the house (300m up in elevation?) it is -48C (-54F), it was -54C at school (-65F), and two outlying communities 20 miles away (different directions) it was -64C (-83F). I had to walk, because the buses don’t run below -40. This was Dawson Creek, in the 1970’s.

    I think there are places in the Yukon, probably in the vicinity of Mount Logan, which occasionally see colder than -64C. The northern hemisphere record is someplace in Siberia.

    The Antarctic is significantly colder.

    Oh, Canada has mosquitos. Other places in the world have mosquitos. Some of them carry diseases like malaria, yellow fever and zika. Mosquitos in Canada carry motor homes. The government is rumoured to have been trying to get them to apply for licenses and to carry transponders so that airplanes have less worry about running into them.

    Canada Geese are also a significant worry for airplanes, and people playing football. If you get hit by a goose turd from 10,000m; it is going to hurt.

  • That was wonderful as well as funny, loved it Don, thanks.

  • colario

    Hi Gord if you were born in Edmonton UK then it is possible you would be a spuds supporter as they would probably be your nearest club.

    This google Map link refers.,-0.0980012,13z?hl=ro

    Edmonton was in the county of Middlesex. The county was a small county surrounding north London.

    When London’s boundary was enlarged so Middlesex lost its identity.

    Sometime ago I read an article about a Canadian writer who hails from Edmonton. That very day I read the article so I met some one from Canada and unbelievably he was from Edmonton!

  • omgarsenal

    Glad you liked it……and it isn’t true that all Canadians finish their sentences with ¨eh¨ but rather on occasion (usually when reading about FIFa or watching the spuds) with WTF!!! Now to answer some points raised by fellow Canucks and others:

    1)Colario….when I worked in Mexico and the temperature dropped to 10oC in February one year, every Mexican was dressed like an Inuit(Eskimo) but I was wearing short-sleeved shirts and sunbathing in my string bikini. I have the photos to prove it!
    2) Gord…..I think those mosquitos from Nunavut have migrated to my town; Sainte Marguerite du lac Masson and are currently trying to uproot the town hall….good riddance I say.
    3)I once got hit by a Canada goose bomb while officiating and after I shot the little bugger, it tasted very good with fresh beaver tail and seal meat!
    4)If I ever get to the UK again to meet Tony and Walter,BG and the rest of the UA motley crew, I promise to bring some maple syrup, my pet Moose Arsene, and at least one beaver (and I don’t mean my spouse!!!). I hear that British Airways offers a package deal for people like me?

  • Pat

    Thanks Don and everybody for spiriting us off so enjoyably for a little while into the wide world!

    Now I feel like I’ve actually been to Canada.

    I recently found these three Canadian songs – The Shining Birch Tree, The Log Driver’s Waltz, and The Little Black Fly. They’re all on You Tube, and they’re great.

  • Gord

    Log Driver’s Waltz? The National Film Board of Canada version? I think I remember seeing that on TV as a child.

    The other two don’t ring a bell with me.

    Hinterland Who’s Who was another thing I remember on TV as a child.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Thank you , you crazy Canuks for a real good laugh .And very enjoyable and witty guips from the rest of the regulars .

    Is it true that games and other outdoor activity have been called off when those geese migrate/ return due to their numbers and the ferocity of their droppings ? Do you have an alarm system to warn the populace of this ‘incoming’ ?

    I imagine that it would be something like this recent storm in Myammar –

    Or hailing fish in Thailand –

    Aren’t you glad that Albatrosses and other large birds don’t really fancy your weather !
    In the meantime have there been any funny ‘intrusions’ by wild animals during games ? Or by passing Inuit sledges ?

  • Gord

    I would think the most likely interruptions would be lightning and/or hail. A swarm of bees or wasps might be possible (ball hits nest, player goes to retrieve ball, …). Domesticated animals seem most likely (cats, dogs). Squirrels seem the most common of the wild animals. I think the most likely encounters with wild animals might be because the animal is diseased, rabies or mange seem the most likely to me. Squirrels I think can get rabies. Mange might cause a coyote to interrupt.

    The tendency of birds to cross areas at the same speed as other “animals” using the area puts them at risk. People run at 20 mpg or so, the ball can travel at 50-60 mph, so getting hit by a ball is quite likely. You are probably talking sparrows, starlings, pigeons.

    For bigger animals, I would think the most likely is livestock: cows, sheep, …. The only other wild animal I seen mention of, was a marten (small member of the weasel family).

    I think the only real hazard to people, is if the animal is diseased. Or allergy in the case of bee/wasp stings.

    I think the most likely things falling out of the sky is hail. Waterspouts lifting water animals (fish, amphibians) and then depositing them doesn’t seem likely. I’ve heard of “swarms” of spiders parachuting in Australia, but I’ve never read of a similar phenomenon in Canada. I think the most likely bird droppings scenario is maybe starlings, they can flock in large numbers.

  • Gord

    think way down on the likelihood list would be encounters with deer or elk, rutting season the problem. Males blinded by sex, possessing antlers.

    I think the biggest hazard, at least in western Canada of such a situation, is some idiot has a gun and brings it out to deal with the situation. The only people I would want to bring a gun out, are police sharpshooters or military marksman (Princess Pat’s snipers). I don’t think most people are anywhere near as accurate with a gun as they think they are.

  • Menace

    Arsenal 13 – You missed out the greatest teams in world sport for many decades by not mentioning Indian Hockey. India was unassailable until the rules including playing surface started to be altered to suit the European physique. India won the Olympics continuously till the mid 1960s. The wonderful wrist work & dribbling skills were no longer part of the game which is now all about hit & stop.

  • ARSENAL 13

    @ Menace,

    Yeah, I did. The thing with hockey is that we failed to adapt. Hence the fall. The skills are still there. These kids (a very few now) learn to play the game with little to no infrastructure. Rough uneven grounds without turf. They are highly skilled/ technical players. But cant match the pace and physicality of the modern game.

    Add to that wide spread corruption in sports bodies, its hard on players/athletes.

    And to our surprise, we found out that Hockey is not the national game of India!! We dont have a national game. Our school textbooks thought us a bunch of lies!! hahaha

  • Pete

    I like Canada a lot.

    Been to Nanaimo (Vancouver Island is beautiful and unspoilt), Toronto (CN Tower!) and Nova Scotia (cool and damp) (and changed planes in Montreal but I’m not sure that really counts?).

    Many Canadian friends and a few relatives.

  • Gord

    Places to visit (hopefully others can add).

    I have not been to all.

    The west coast (aka the wet coast) gets a lot of rain. Victoria (on Vancouver Island) is leeward, and hence gets a little less rain than Vancouver. If you like gardens, Butchart Gardens (on the Island) and Minter Garden (near Vancouver). On Vancouver Island, Port Alberni is probably worth a visit. It is on the windward side, facing the might of the Pacific.

    Further north on the coast, I would say Prince Rupert and Stewart. Stewart is more or less at the southernmost extension of Alaska into North America. You might as well jump across the border into Hyder, Alaska and get Hyderized. Lots of USA citizens talk about travelling to all 50 states. But, they don’t go to Anchorage or Fairbanks in Alaska, they go to Hyder. Saves a LOT of miles or kilometers.

    Inland a bit, the Okanogan Valley system. We grow a lot of fruit there. Desert-like (temperatures at Osoyoos can get above 40), with big lakes at the valley bottoms. I believe the bottoms of some of these lakes are below sealevel.

    Almost in Alberta, we have Dawson Creek, BC. Where the Alaska Highway (to Fairbanks) begins. Originally, the highway was very crooked. In part (possibly hearsay) to keep the Japanese from bombing significant lengths of highway. Some of the original road was corduroyed (built on top of logs). Liard hot springs. You can jump off to places related to the Yukon gold rush from the Alaska Highway. There are gold rush areas in BC, in the Cariboo and near the south end of the Okanongan. The deposits in the far south (Tulameen and Similkameen Rivers) had diamonds, which the prospectors didn’t know about. They flushed them all out to sea.

    Near Jasper Alberta, is Mount Edith Cavell. Just another mountain. Near Calgary, is the Big Rock Brewery. The Big Rock, is a chunk of Mount Edith Cavell the glaciers carried away. A little further on that generic trajectory, you come across the Cypress Hills (on the border of Alberta/Saskatchewan). The glaciers did not go over the Cypress Hills, too high (or something).

    Alberta has some badlands, and these are near Drumheller. We also have a good dinosaur museum in Drumheller. The best Alberta badlands are at Writing on Stone. But, the badlands of North Dakota and South Dakota are much more extensive. Another Alberta place in the south, is Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump.

    Also ran: Waterton Lakes and the Prince of Wales Hotel. Some place in the NE corner of Alberta, possibly extending into NW Saskatchewan, is the largest non-manmade structure fabricated on Earth. A whole bunch of beavers have a huge dam running through this area, that can be seen from space. Also up in this region, is where Whooping Cranes breed (Ft. Smith?). Don’t confuse the Whooping Crane for the equally large mosquito.

    This is getting long, time for a break.

    Point for Pete. Nova Scotia is full of people from the UK. At Cape Breton, is a distillery that makes an alcohol spirit from the same ingredients, and in the same manner as single malt Scotch.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Having played most of my formative football in Canada I can only say that there is great appetite for the game here but there is an overall lack of expertise (read qualified coaches). The relatively spread out population makes travel expensive and a 6 month winter doesn’t help either. My first coach in the 1970s actually had us playing a 2-3-5. Who knew?

    This is one sport where our proximity to the US actuallly hinders us, IMO. I think we should develop a couple of regional leagues centred around Canadian metropolitan hubs with a cup competition a la England instead of having the ubiquitous playoffs. Instead of having professional teams in the American MLS and modelled after them (with no feeder pyramid of amateurs), we should develop complete clubs as in the rest of the world.

    Interest in the Premier League and La Liga is growing by leaps and bounds. Ice hockey is still king but its prohibitive price tage means that football is actually more popular at the younger age groups but there is a huge drop off in participation around the age of 14 largely due to the lack of coaches.