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Canada prepares the “building blocks” for World Cup 2026

fifa-logoA couple of days ago, Canadian Soccer Association General Secretary Peter Montopoli was at Edmonton’s City Hall and was asked about a possible bid for the 2026 World Cup.

Montopoli described the hosting of the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup and the 2015 Women’s World Cup as “building blocks” towards a bid for 2026; and, he noted that, in July of 2015, Canada can boast that it’s hosted all the major tournaments except for the biggest one of them all.

Montopoli was in Edmonton for the announcement of the city as the host of the opening ceremonies and first game of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, so he was right to feel bullish.

There’s no doubt that there is a section of FIFA voters who are enamoured with Canada; despite the fact we don’t have the on-field profile of CONCACAF neighbours Mexico and the United States, we offer stability and certainty, without the American bluster that seems to turn so many international voters off (see: IOC vote and Chicago, 2014 Olympics, U.S. World Cup bid, 2022).
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Edmonton and Vancouver the big winners out of Women’s World Cup announcement

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(L-R) Richard Starke, Stephen Mandel, Peter Montopoli and John Herdman at Edmonton’s City Hall., Thursday.

In 2002, Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium welcomed more than 45,000 fans for the final of the then-named FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship. It still stands as the high-water mark for attendance at a women’s youth match.

Eleven years later, and that achievement still resonates with FIFA. On Thursday, the Organizing Committee for the 2015 Women’s World Cup announced that Commonwealth would host the June 6 opening ceremonies and Canada’s first two group-stage matches. Canada’s third Group A match would be played in Montreal.

The final is set for BC Place in Vancouver. If Canada finishes first in Group A, it will advance to a round of 16 match in Vancouver. If it advances, the quarterfinal will go in Vancouver. If Canada wins that match, it advances to a Canada Day semifinal at Commonwealth and, hopefully, the final, July 5 at B.C. Place.

The third-place game is set for Edmonton. The Alberta capital will host more matches (11) than any other host city.
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Occean suspension must be served over “official” matches, not friendlies: FIFA

Olivier Occean

There looks to be some confusion out there in regards to FIFA’s decision to suspend Olivier Occean for six matches.

FIFA made the decision back in November of 2012 that the Canadian striker would be suspended for six games, but didn’t make it official until Monday. Occean was sent off in a 3-0 win over Cuba Oct. 12 at BMO Field, and was found guilty of verbally abusing an official.

Occean was unavailable for the 8-1 loss to Honduras that ousted Canada from the World Cup, so was considered to have served the first game of the suspension then.

The question is, do Canada’s friendlies count as matches against the remaining five games?
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Why we’re all to blame when it comes to match-fixing

My grandfather, Andras Kosztandy, left, with the Hungarian delegation at Wembley Stadium, 1948 Olympics. Had he been alive for the match-fixing scandal, it would have broken his heart.

As the editor and proprietor of The 11, I do my best to keep make sure this website doesn’t get called a blog. To me, the best blogs out there are personal, where there’s no real separation between the writer and website itself. One is an expression of the other.

With The 11, I’ve strived to make it read more like a tradtional print magazine; incorporating a lot of writers, covering the games, players and issues surrounding the game as honestly as possible. Yes, there is passion in what we do — but it’s measured by our journalistic instincts. Bloggers often work free of those restraints.

But, over the last few months, what began as a simply gnawing feeling in my gut has grown into a full-blown case of cynicism. And rather than try to hide it, I am going to become a blogger and share a lot of myself with you.

And it has to do with the ugly issue of match-fixing. From a tainted 2009 game in the Canadian Soccer League — a league which itself admits has $185 million gambled on it in a year — to the busting of the Croat ring led by Ante Sapina, to the new Europoli investigation which suggest 680 games have been tampered with, from World Cup qualifiers to Champions League matches. In an article that appeared on ESPN’s site last week, writer Brett Forrest made this stunning statement about the upcoming Gold Cup. “Over coffee in a cafe in one of Singapore’s shopping districts, a prolific fixer explained to me that he had already arranged to rig the entirety of this July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup in the U.S. He wouldn’t touch the championship game, he said, because that wouldn’t be right.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Women’s World Cup 2015 logo unveiled

Christine Sinclair walked onto the field at BC Place, cheered on by her national-teammates and minor girls’ soccer players from across Metro Vancouver.

She placed the ball on the point white maple leaf placed on the BC Place turf, then shot the ball into an open goal. Fireworks ensued, and the logo for the 2015 Women’s World Cup was unveiled.

It was the highlight of Friday’s short-and-sweet ceremony which saw the Canadian Soccer Association lift the curtain on the logo. And it gave Sinclair yet another chance to shine in the Canadian spotlight.

Five other composite emblems were launched in the other host cities: Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton.
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Sinclair and Herdman not on the FIFA awards shortlist: Let the punishment continue

Christine Sinclair and John Herdman received their REAL punishment from FIFA today.

Christine Sinclair

Sinclair, who set a new Canadian national-team record for goals in a season and led the women’s Olympic tournament in scoring, did not make Thursday’s shortlist for the women’s Ballon D’Or. Americans Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach were on the list as was Marta, the Brazilian who carries a wonderful reputation but was, in soccer terms, anonymous in 2012.

John Herdman was the coach who inherited a Canadian team that finished point-less at the 2011 World Cup, and transformed them into bronze-medal unit that has us all wondering how far the team can go in the next World Cup. He didn’t appear on the shortlist for women’s-team coach of the year.

Two very deserving candidates. Both should have been automatic choices for the FIFA shortlists.

But, in FIFA’s eyes — they are both controversial figures. And if there is one thing we have learned about FIFA, black sheep rarely get recognized.
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Hassli a finalist for FIFA goal of the year

Eric Hassli: No longer a Whitecap, but nominated for one of his greatest Vancouver moments

Eric Hassli’s wonder goal from the 2012 Amway Canadian Championship has put him on an exclusive list with the likes of Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao.

The Toronto FC striker is on the short list for the Ferenc Puskas Award, which FIFA awards for the best goal scored in 2012, anywhere in the world. Messi is nominated. Falcao is nominated. And Hassli is also on the list, for his May 16 goal that gave the Vancouver Whitecaps a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final.

(Toronto FC would go on to win the second leg, and Hassli would later be traded to Toronto, so there’s plenty of irony about this goal, too).

After being nominated for an ESPY in 2011 for his audacious long-range-goal-while-shuffling-away-from-goal tally against the Seattle Sounders, Hassli once again showed his penchant for the spectacular in May. He allowed a long cross to sail past his torso, then whipped his right leg through the ball and smashed the volley into the top corner of the Toronto FC goal. The goal set BC Place alight. What made the goal special is that it wasn’t an easy cross to handle; it was hit with decent velocity, but wasn’t high enough for Hassli to strike with his head.
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Women’s World Cup: Edmonton debates Commonwealth funding

Edmonton City Council debated a proposed $10.7 million upgrade to Commonwealth Stadium for the Women’s World Cup — but did not vote on allocating money towards the project.

There were more questions than answers at the council meeting. Councillors wanted to know why the new $10.7 million plan was presented to them as one large package, rather than portioned into “need to have” and “nice to have” components. They wanted to know what FIFA requires of World Cup hosts.

And they were told the only necessary item was a $1.5 million upgrade to provide the four dressing rooms and doping control facilities as required by FIFA. The new plan would see the CFL visitors dressing room converted into two dressing rooms and additional rooms to be found in the facility’s existing space.

The dressing room for the CFL Eskimos was not part of the proposal, and Mayor Stephen Mandel told reporters that he wants to know why it can’t be used. If the Eskimos simply don’t want to share, he said he “has no sympathy” for that position. “Do they have a game that night?” he said in a scrum with reporters.
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Ballon D’Or vote will show what international community thinks about Sinclair’s suspension

Christine Sinclair

When the results of voting for FIFA’s women’s player of the year is revealed in staged, first Nov. 29 then Jan. 7, it will be a referendum of sorts. We will all get a better sense of how the international community regards Christine Sinclair’s suspension and fine for her critique of Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen following the Olympic women’s soccer semifinal.

Sinclair is on the long list for women’s player of the year. Her coach, John Herdman, is up for FIFA World Coach of the Year for Women’s Football. Shortlists will be announced at the end of November, with the winners being named Jan. 7.

That Sinclair has been nominated is no surprise; she set a new Canadian women’s team record for goals in a calendar year. She led the Olympic tournament in goals.

Her strikes against: No domestic success, as the WPS pulled the plug and she didn’t find work anywhere else, putting preparation for the Olympics at the top of the priority list.

Oh, and there’s the suspension.
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Sinclair accepts FIFA suspension with the air of Nellie McClung

Christine Sinclair… Hard for her to say she’s sorry

Christine Sinclair will accept the four-match suspension handed down by FIFA to the women’s program star player. But, Sinclair was still defiant when she spoke to the media Monday.

It was suffragist Nellie McClung who uttered one of the most famous lines in Canadian history: “Never retract, never explain, never apologize — get the thing done and let them howl.”
That statement could apply to Sinclair.

“I don’t regret what I said,” said Sinclair.

“It was a very intense time, I was very emotional, I wouldn’t want to change it.”
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