Canadian Soccer Archive

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Turfgate: FIFA’s Valcke affirms that a men’s World Cup could be staged on turf

fifa-logoIn an interview/press release posted on FIFA.com, FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke said that a men’s World Cup played on artificial turf could be organized sooner rather than later.

More of Valcke’s statement:

“By the way, for many years now, any organizer of a FIFA event — irrespective of whether it be a men’s or women’s competition, including the men’s World Cup – has had the right to propose for the tournament to be played on artificial turf, provided that it is of the highest quality and the same playing surface is used for all venues and training sites. It could well be that sooner rather than later the men’s World Cup will also be played on artificial pitches. The Canadian Soccer Association proposed for the tournament to be played on artificial turf based on the fact that most sporting infrastructure in Canada is on artificial turf, primarily due to the extreme climate in the host country. It would be very difficult to ensure solid natural-grass pitches at all venues. As has already been explained, this is not a question of money, or of differences between men’s and women’s events, but it is a matter of the natural conditions in Canada: We want to guarantee consistent top-level playing conditions for all 24 teams during the event, both in the official stadiums and at the training sites. This has been the sole reason behind the decision to play on artificial turf from day one.”

This statement is an important one. While no doubt many will scoff at the notion of a men’s World Cup being played on turf — and will say that Valcke is simply playing politics — this statement from a top FIFA official carries weight. Why? The legal team representing the women’s players who are taking the CSA to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario claim that their clients are being asked to play their World Cup on turf, when it’s something FIFA would never ask of the men. But FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association can now say, “if it’s good enough for women, it’s good enough for men.”
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Canada’s blunders gift win to Japan at BC Place

Emily Zurrer

Emily Zurrer

“Yeah, if you don’t beat these tier-one teams going into the tournament, you go into it with the ‘what if?’ factor. And we don’t want that. We want to go in there confident, that we can beat these teams, that we can compete with the best teams in the world. We need to do that in the build-up over the next eight months. So, Japan is a big test for us, and we’re not going out there to tie. We are going out there to win the game(s).”

The quote comes from a one-on-one interview I did with Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott late last week, before Canada played its two-games series of friendlies with Japan in Edmonton and Vancouver. (The full interview will appear in the winter issue of Plastic Pitch.)

After a 3-0 loss to the World Cup champs in Edmonton on Saturday, the Canadians really needed some kind of result Tuesday in Vancouver. Canada has played the so-called “tier-one” teams through the year, and it hadn’t yet claimed a win against the likes of Germany, the Americans or Japan. More losses and that “what if?” factor Scott spoke about just grows and grows — and you’d begin to wonder if coach John Herdman’s plan to play the world’s top dogs in the lead-up to the Women’s World Cup was going to do more psychological damage than good.

On Saturday in Edmonton, the Canadians could only claim the sort-of moral victory of playing Japan pretty even for 40 minutes in a 3-0 loss.

On Tuesday at BC Place, the Japanese ran out a decidedly B squad, making nine changes to the starting lineup. Canada did very well to be tied 1-1, but, at about the 65-minute mark, the Japanese began bringing on the big guns, including midfield superstar Aya Miyama.

And the Japanese ended up with a 3-2 win, thanks to two terrible defensive mistakes by the Canadian centre backs. Right after Sophie Schmidt had brought Canada level at 2-2 in time added on, Emily Zurrer allowed her pocket to be picked by Japanese fullback Aya Saweshima, who then went in on keeper Stephanie Labbe and picked the corner for the winning goal.
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It’s oh so quiet: Japan trounces Canada in front of disappointing crowd

A photo of the, ahem, announced crowd of 9,654.

A photo of the, ahem, announced crowd of 9,654.

I hate writing soccer-attendance stories. They remind me of the times I used to have to lobby and lobby editors to give a soccer story a little more space, or any space at all.

So, just the writing this column is making me owly and growly.

On Saturday, the Women’s World Cup champions from Japan came to Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium to play the Canadian women’s national team. The friendly was announced months ago — and, outside of the rivalry with the Americans, is probably about as “tier one” a matchup as the Canadian Soccer Association could arrange.

The Japanese and Canadian players came out to see a heck of a lot of yellow and green empty seats. In a city that is hosting more Women’s World Cup games in 2015 than any other, a visit from the reigning champions of the world was greeted with indifference. A stadium that holds a little less than 60,000 welcomed an announced crowd of 9,654 who watched the Japanese march to a convincing 3-0 win. But, to the naked eye, it looked like the actual number of bums in seats was much lower than the announced attendance. Half of the stadium was closed to fans. Only 10 sections had fans in them, and they were maybe two-thirds full. Each of those sections has 45 rows, with 16 seats per row. That’s 10 X 45 X 16 = 7,200. And those sections were two-thirds full — so maybe, at best, 5,000 fans in the stadium.

Goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who hails from the area, saw the glass as being half full.

“I heard (before the game) that we had 8,000 sold,” she said. “So at first I was like, ‘huh,’ but, you know, looking at the stadium today, it looked pretty full on the west side. Of course, we always want more but a part of it is us putting on a good game. There were lots of exciting parts to this match. So, hopefully, they were happy and they will come back for the World Cup.”
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Desiree Scott is open to Notts County return after Women’s World Cup (PLASTIC PITCH preview)

Desiree Scott in Notts County colours

Desiree Scott in Notts County colours

(Look for the full Q and A with the Destroyer, Desiree Scott, in the winter issue of Plastic Pitch. Issue 4 should be out in December. For info on how to get Plastic Pitch, go to the end of this post).

Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott won’t be returning to pro soccer until after next year’s Women’s World Cup.

She’s committed to Canada’s eight-month training camp ahead of the Women’s World Cup, and she’s devoting her time to the national-team cause. That includes Saturday’s friendly against Japan at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium and the Oct. 28 rematch against the World Cup champs at Vancouver’s BC Place.

But, once the tournament ends, Scott says she will give a Notts County return some serious consideration. In 2014, Scott, who was one of the Canadian players in NWSL who had her salary paid by the Canadoan Soccer Association, decided to leave the U.S.-based league for England. She started 20 games for Notts County in England’s WSL — and certainly caused some waves by making the decision to leave NWSL for an English league that mixes part- and full-time players.

Still, if Notts County wants her back after the Women’s World Cup, chances are that she’ll listen.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said Friday. “Right now, my focus is on the World Cup. I will be full-time with the national-team leading up to that. But, after the World Cup, the options are open. But I did really enjoy it in England and, yes, I would go back. Right now, the plan is to be with the national team, full-time. We are devoted to World Cup prep; and hopefully to raise that trophy on July 5th. I will decide what to do (professionally) after that.”
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Canada vs. Japan: Hard to dislike the World Cup champs

Erin McLeod PHOTO BOB FRID/CANADA SOCCER

Erin McLeod PHOTO BOB FRID/CANADA SOCCER

Sure, when it comes to rivalries in women’s soccer, the Americans are at the top of the Canadian totem pole. They are the ones we, as Canadians, love to hate.

So, as the Canadians women’s national team gets set to face the World Cup champions from Japan twice in the coming week, you can’t expect there to be a war of words. Really, the series of friendlies sorta feels like we’re inviting a well-respected friend and the kids over for a playdate.

Canadian keeper Erin McLeod was at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Fieldhouse to help conduct a clinic for local minor soccer players and, after, she spoke of the challenge of playing the Japanese.

“They are so tactically disciplined, I think it will be a wonderful match for us,” said McLeod. “They are wonderful opponent, they are so well organized, we can’t afford any slip-ups for the entire 90.

“I think Japan reminds me of Germany. Germany is always so very organized and so is Japan. You saw in the World Cup, it was incredible what they did. It was after the tsunami and they really brought a nation together, so the spirit and the heart that team has, we won’t overlook it.”
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Teenage goalkeeper Kaiswatum promoted from academy to FCE roster

Christian Kaiswatum

Christian Kaiswatum

For the last several weeks, teenage goalkeeper Christian Kaiswatum had to keep a secret.

He knew that he was going to get promoted from the academy to the senior squad, but he just wasn’t quite sure when it would happen. And, he was surprised when the Eddies added him as a professional keeper right before the Oct. 6 NASL roster freeze. But, the deal wasn’t announced publicly, so Kaiswatum had to remain quiet.

Until Thursday, that is. The Eddies publicized the Kaiswatum deal; that the 1997-born keeper joins John Smits, Lance Parker and Tyson Farago in the rotation.

“I was a little surprised (about the deal),” said Kaiswatum. “They told me a couple of weeks in advance but I wasn’t expecting (to sign) so soon. I was expecting it later on.”
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Turfgate: Canadian Soccer Association will argue Ontario tribunal has no right to rule on Women’s World Cup venues in other provinces

fwwc2015_oe_4ct_lThe Canadian Soccer Association and its lawyers are prepared to argue that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has no jurisdiction to hear a complaint that the use of turf surfaces at the 2015 Women’s World Cup is an example of gender inequality.

That’s because the HRTO is a provincial body, not a federal one. And, because five of the six venues for the Women’s World Cup are outside of the province of Ontario, the question is why the HRTO would hear the case in the first place. The final will be held at BC Place in Vancouver. More games will be held in Alberta — at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium — than any other host city. So why hear the case in Ontario?

Sean Hern, a lawyer with the Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP firm that’s representing the CSA, says it’s the legal question that his side will press at the tribunal. In a conference call held Wednesday, he said it is “unclear how tribunal would have jurisdiction over playing surfaces and stadiums in another province.”

In the minds of the CSA and its lawyers it’s “likely” that the HRTO does not have jurisdiction over what goes on in other provinces, and Hern says it’s a matter that will be argued.

A group of elite women’s players have applied to the HRTO to hear their pleas for the 2015 WWC to not be held on artificial turf. They claim it’s a second-class surface which causes more injuries than playing on grass. But the CSA claims that turf surfaces designated as FIFA two-star are first-class, and are allowed by the sport’s governing body.
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Canada frustrates Colombia for 74 wonderful minutes

Ricketts: Should have earned a penalty kick in the early going

Ricketts: Should have earned a penalty kick in the early going

I get the feeling that a lot of Canadian soccer pundits’ work is going to come off like a lot of bad high-school-newspaper sports reports.

We have nothing to be ashamed of!

We lost, but we held world-ranked No. 3 Colombia off the scoresheet for 74 minutes! Seventy-four!

Losing 1-0 was a great learning experience for our boys!

I’m not trying to be mean. But, after Tuesday’s friendly between Canada and Colombia in New Jersey passed the one-hour mark still tied 0-0, I had hopes of writing the most flowery narrative to describe a nil-nil draw since the dawn of time. So, after James Rodriguez caught the Canadians napping on a quickly taken free-kick that ended up in the back of the net, I had to fall back on the high-school-paper cliches.
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17-year-old Boakai’s call-up highlights Canada’s roster for Colombia friendly

14168703842_40586212e6_kCanadian national-team coach Benito Floro is going to give wunderkind Hanson Boakai the chance to play with the big boys.

Boakai won’t celebrate his 18th birthday till later in October, but he will be joining the Canadian national team for its friendly against Colombia at New Jersey’s Red Bull Arena on Oct. 14.

Boakai becomes the first playing member of FC Edmonton to be called up to the senior national side. The call-up comes just days after reports surfaced that the U.S. national team is set to summon Minnesota United’s Miguel Ibarra for its next camp. Ibarra was just named the NASL player of the month for September.

“It’s a compliment to our academy, it’s a compliment to our coaches, it’s compliment to his parents, it’s a compliment to everyone who has helped this young man develop,” said Boakai’s FC Edmonton coach, Colin Miller.

Miller said that Xtreme FC, Boakai’s youth soccer club, deserves massive credit for helping put this teenager on the national soccer map.

Boakai was an integral part of Canada’s squad at the most recent U-17 World Cup; he’s already working ahead of his age group, as he’s in the mix for the current U-20 Canadian squad.
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The elephant in the room: CFL is the forgotten partner in the Women’s World Cup turf-vs.-grass debate

imgresWhen it comes to the looming legal action against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association over the decision to stage next year’s Women’s World Cup on artificial turf surfaces, there are some rather large elephants in the room who are choosing to remain quiet.

And those are the Canadian Football League teams. They stand to have further disruption to their seasons if the owners of the multipurpose stadiums being used for the WWC would have to tear up the turf and lay down grass.

On Friday, a deadline imposed by the lawyers for U.S. star Abby Wambach and her cadre of anti-turf allies went by. All FIFA did to, ahem, mark the occasion was to publicly confirm that an independent company has been hired to ensure that all of the game and practice fields in the Canadian host cities will meet the highest standard for artificial surfaces (CLICK HERE). So, the next step would be for Wambach and co. to follow through on their threats and take the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA to task through a human-rights tribunal or, maybe, eventually to court.

Now, I’ve read through the legal briefs, and I’ve gone through a lot of the pro and con articles out there. But, one thing no one talks about, whether it’s from Wambach’s group or those who say we can lay down grass and then pull it up (CLICK HERE), is how it affects the other users of the stadiums.

There is definitely an arrogance out there amongst the anti-turf crowd; because the movement has been spurred outside of Canada, they have very little idea about the stadiums being used. They don’t seem to understand that these are shared, multipurpose facilities. In 2014, the Canadian Football League was quite accommodating, having the Edmonton Eskimos clear out of Commonwealth Stadium in order for U-20 Women’s World Cup matches to be played there. Next year, the sacrifices will be greater; the Ottawa RedBlacks, the Eskimos, the BC Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will all have their seasons affected.
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