Women of the World Cup shine despite Canada’s shameful plastic pitches

July 6, 2015 at 9:09 pm | Posted in General Football, Vancouver Whitecaps, World Cup Memories | 2 Comments
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The fact is we Canadians let the best women football players in the world down by making them play a World Cup on inferior plastic playing surfaces.

I am embarrassed as a Canadian that my country, a first world country, could not provide grass playing surfaces for the world’s best players. While the organization and attendance at the World Cup were top class, the playing surfaces were truly embarrassing, making this a much poorer World Cup to watch than the last one.

While Canada’s World Cup showed top class organization, the poor playing surfaces show we as Canadians are still in the stone age in footballing terms. All of those apologists for the plastic pitches, including the Canadian Soccer Association, demonstrated they simply don’t know football and don’t deserve to be in the positions they are in.

Many of the top players, like Abby Wambach, had the courage to launch a human rights lawsuit about it, but dropped it to play football instead. We owe them a debt of gratitude for that.

Abby Wambach got to have her cake and eat it too. She had the courage to expose the sexist attitudes that our plastic playing surfaces represented and then went on to win the trophy nonetheless. She proved she is a true champion and a courageous person who is willing to speak her mind. She spoke the truth: it is laughable to even suggest the Men’s World Cup would ever be played on plastic grass.

I got to take in two matches: USA v Nigeria and Canada v Switzerland. Both matches were played in front of more than 50,000 people. It was a spectacular affirmation of the greatness of women’s sport, and an affirmation of the greatness of the players, whose names and exploits we will not forget. I will never forget the sight of Japan’s Homare Sawa coming in as a sub in the final in her sixth world cup. Simply unforgettable.

Our Canadian team was knocked out earlier than we would have liked but is there any doubt they made us proud to be Canadian? I am grateful to them all, even to those who made errors. They all had the courage to pull the red jersey on to fight for our country in front of tens of thousands of people. Canadian girls,(and boys too, it turns out!), will remember this tournament and will strive to win a World Cup one day.

What a shame it is the tournament was not played on grass. It would have been better as a spectacle, the football would have been better, and the players would have felt better and played better. From watching this World Cup there is no doubt in my mind that Canada’s plastic playing surfaces held the players back from their best.

Thank God women footballers have been promised the next Women’s World Cup will be held on proper grass playing surfaces. The top women’s football tournament should never be held on plastic playing surfaces again.

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Off-field antics overshadow MLS All star game

August 6, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Posted in General Football, Whitecaps season 2014, World Cup Memories | 3 Comments
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The Major League Soccer All-star game version 2014 was truly a farce.

How could a team of MLS All-stars possibly compete with the mighty Bayern Munich from Germany? By making them play on crappy plastic grass in Portland, that is how. The plastic pitch slowed down Bayern’s squad so much that the MLS mongrels could actually compete with them and beat them 2-1. It was a far better result from last years game held on natural grass when Italy’s Roma clearly outclassed the MLS all-stars 3-1.

If ever a game showed how bad plastic pitches are, this was it. After watching most of Bayern’s players in the World Cup play magnificent football on natural grass surfaces, the contrast with watching them play on plastic grass could not have been more stark. Portland’s plastic surface slowed the Bayern squad down so they could not play. Had the game been played on a proper grass pitch we would have seen a radically different scoreline.

In any event the play on the pitch was nowhere near as good as the antics off of it. Bayern Coach Pep Guardiola took exception to reckless tackles by MLS hackers Osvaldo Alonso and Wil Johnson on Bayern players Shaquiri and Schweinsteiger. Guardiola went after the fourth official and the MLS All-Stars coach Caleb Porter on the sideline looking for a fight after the tackles.

The match commentators played dumb and queried whether there had been a pre-match agreement between Bayern and MLS to avoid such tackles. No kidding, fools, it was undoubtedly in the contract! Bayern would already be concerned about injuries from playing on plastic, and then the MLS players started hacking their players down as if it were a real game. No wonder Guardiola was pissed off.

Watching Guardiola wave off Porter’s attempt at a handshake was more entertaining than anything the players came up with in this match. Guardiola then began instructing his players not to exchange jerseys with the MLS players. Bayern’s assistant coaches also refused to shake Porter’s hand. Poor Porter looked a bit hurt and shocked by it all.

It was a culture clash between precious European soccer royalty and the rough and tumble North American MLS culture. I can hardly wait to read the comments of Bayern officials in the news tomorrow.

Brazilian football apocalypse stuns the World

July 8, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2014, World Cup Memories | 5 Comments
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I have been watching World Cups since 1982 and, because it is my nature, I have always supported the underdogs. That meant I typically cheered against Brazil. I watched them beat Scotland, the USSR, New Zealand and Argentina convincingly in Spain 1982; Brazil were so good the matches seemed almost unfair. In Mexico 1986 they were astonishingly good again but got beaten in the quarter final by France in a penalty shootout. The master of those Brazil squads was Socrates, one of the greatest midfielders ever to grace a football pitch. Socrates put the joy of football above all else, even winning. He was a great artist. Before he died recently, Socrates bemoaned the lack of beauty in the Brazilian national team’s performances. He must be rolling over in his grave tonight.

In spite of the beauty of the Brazilian team of those earlier World Cups the Brazilian football leaders decided to abandon the Joga Bonito for a more pragmatic approach before the 1990 World Cup. In Italia 90 they modestly won their way through the group stage with boring but hard working performances. They were lambasted by the press back home for their conservative approach. In the round of sixteen they drew arch rivals Argentina, and, stung by the bad press back home, threw everything they had at Argentina. They had chance after chance but could not score. They were beaten 1-0 by a relatively prosaic Argentina side which featured Maradona and Canneggia.

Even though Brazil won two more World Cups in 1994 and 2002, the magical team play of the 1970, 1982 and 1986 teams never really resurfaced. While they had brilliant individual players, they never played beautifully as a team like before.

The Brazilian side of 2014 were under so much pressure to succeed they fell apart. The indomitable fortress Brazil was made of eggshells. The loss of two starters, Neymar Jr and Thiago Silva was enough to rattle the team so badly they lost 7-1 to a rampant German side.

I found the match to be shocking and profoundly sad. I had hoped to see a classic competitive match but instead witnessed the downfall and humiliation of a once proud footballing nation. Brazil has lost it’s footballing soul. I can’t imagine how Brazilians themselves must feel. The grief of Brazilians may well turn to anger. Heads will roll in Brazil because of this, well beyond the world of football. Rather than celebrating victory, the Brazilian people will rue the enormous cost of staging this year’s World Cup.

In many respects, the sad downfall of the Brazilian national team feels like the death of football itself as we know it.

Brazilian desperation beats Spanish tika-taka in Confederations Cup final

June 30, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Posted in General Football, World Cup Memories | 2 Comments

Today’s Confederation’s Cup final may have seen the end of the Spanish reign at the top of the football world. Brazil beat Spain 3-0. It was an extraordinary final, and it was clear that both teams were keen to win. Today, however, the Brazilian will to win was greater than the Spanish.

The Confederation’s Cup is supposed to be a mere appetizer for the following year’s FIFA World Cup, (which is to be held in Brazil), a chance for the host nation to get its logistics and technology right. It was clear Brazil were desperate to win this final in any event.

Part of Brazil’s desperation arises from the past, and part from the present. From the past, Brazil is desperate to atone for losing the World Cup it lost at home to Uruguay in 1950 by winning next year’s World Cup; from the present, it needed to end the Confederations Cup tournament on a positive note given the massive protests in Brazil which have condemned the large expenditure of public money going to the World Cup and the Olympics, while ordinary Brazilians fail to see any benefit.

Poor Spain was no match for this emotional cocktail. Spain attempted to play its usual cool “tika-taka” style, keeping possession and slicing through the other team with short passes and smart off the ball running. For the first time in a long time, we saw a team that was well able to cope with Spain’s style of play, frustrating it until it was thoroughly beaten.

Brazil’s eleven refused to stand back and watch Spain play with their mouths agape as most teams do; they harried Spain and forced them to give up possession, and what is more, they could read Spain and anticipate what they were going to do. Finally, a team has figured out how to stop them. This could spell the end of the Spanish dominance in football, and Spain will have to get back to the drawing board if they wish to go down as the greatest team in history by winning two consecutive World Cups as well as two consecutive European Nations Cups.

Brazil won today by playing a direct and open style of football, putting the Spanish defence under intense pressure with tremendous speed, especially from Neymar. Though Spain had the ball more than Brazil did, Brazil were able to attack Spain’s goal in a quick, relentless fashion, forcing Spain to get into card trouble with professional fouls.

Brazil have achieved what they wanted from this tournament, not just by winning it, but by winning it in the manner they did. The atmosphere in the Maracana Stadium was incredible; it was filled with 70,000 passionate fans. The Spanish team looked intimidated, and by the second half they played the match in a cold and technical way, devoid of any real passion. They were stunned by the crowd and the Brazilian will to win. Brazil have sent a message to the football world: nothing less than winning the World Cup next year will do, and the team (if not the nation) is united to win it.

Today Brazil struck fear into the hearts of the world’s national football teams travelling there next summer. They must all now know it will take a miracle to beat Brazil in next year’s World Cup.

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