Home MLS More MLS Before you tweet about a Canadian player, read this first

Before you tweet about a Canadian player, read this first


Some days, writing about Canadian soccer is depressing. Some days, I swear to myself “this is the last article about Canadian soccer I’ll ever write.”

Of course, that would make some of my harshest critics very happy indeed.

I’ve been very public about Issue 5 of Plastic Pitch. A group of great writers are working on stories about our relationship with the American soccer system. Is having Canadian pro teams mixed into the American system good for the our country’s development in the game? Has it actually hurt us?

Through the last few weeks, I’ve been working to get Canadian players to tell their stories. Many Canadian soccer writers hear the tales about aborted contracts, bizarre under-the-table deals, broken promises, fly-by-night agents and the like. But players, understandably, are worried about coming forward. They don’t want to be seen as bad eggs, dressing-room malcontents or selfish players.

But, finally, slowly, some players are coming forward. Until the stories have faces, the system won’t change. But in the process of putting stories to paper, you can’t help but get snowed under by it all. You wonder if supporting Canadian soccer is like plunging into an endless pit of hopelessness. You understand how the cards are stacked against our players. Those stories will be (at least partially) told in the next issue. It will be by far the most important thing we’ve done.

There is something I want to address, though. Something I’ve thought hard about in the process of doing these interviews. We’re in that part of the NASL and MLS silly season (and right near the closing of the transfer window). So, the message boards and Twitter are filled with jokes about the number of Canadian players on Unattached FC. Many fans wonder “why doesn’t player A try to join NASL Team X or MLS Team Y? Why doesn’t he take a chance to play halfway across the world?”

The problem is that most Canadian soccer fans see the players as single guys. They don’t see them as husbands or dads. They don’t see them trying to make their relationships work.

Luckily enough, I’ve become close to enough players to know when they’ve got married, when they’ve had a son or daughter. I wave to some of the moms and dads of the players at FC Edmonton matches. But, as every journalist would, we don’t write about their partners or kids unless they somehow impact the stories. And that’s super rare.

While working on the next Plastic Pitch, I spoke to a player who is a dad. We joked that playing soccer is a single man’s game; the stakes change once you have a child. That player could have played in the United States this season, but he would have had to leave his family behind. And the contract was just enough for a single guy to barely stay afloat — for a family man, it was out of the equation. He’d have nothing to show for it financially at the end of the season; no money to put away for his child.

I know players who play in Europe, then meet Mrs. Right. That impacts their decision on whether they want to come back to North America or not. And if the player does wants to come back, he has to consider how easy it will be for his wife/partner to get status so she can legally work and live in the state or province of choice.

I’ve seen players turn down deals because their wives make more money than they do; and asking her to leave her job so he can play three time zones on a non-guaranteed contract is downright unreasonable. I’ve seen other players in crazy long-distance relationships.

So, next time you wonder about the players on Unattached FC, ask yourselves these questions before you hit Twitter or the message boards.

• Is that player married? Does he have kids? Can he support a partner and kids on a minimum NASL or MLS salary?

• If he has a family, does a U.S. team pay for their health-care insurance?

• What’s the tax rate like where he’ll play? For example, if he’s making $50,000, how much is the government taking? What’s the cost of living in that city?

• Does his partner work? How good is that job? Is it better than anything the player could hope to make if he moved to another team? Based on the contract, would he have any money to put away/take home at the end of the season?

As one player told me, as a Canadian playing the game professionally, you need to ask yourself a lot of hard questions if you want to have a family.

Yes, these are the same questions we ask of ourselves when we consider if we should take a new job. So why is it that we don’t offer soccer players — who are by no means making big money in North America or in smaller European leagues or lower divisions — the same courtesy?

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  1. jamonty42

    January 30, 2015 at 10:10 am

    There is a maturity in what you are doing that hasn’t been discussed before and poses a serious amount of quality of life questions for footballers across Canada. It’s not unlike how NFL players have begun asking harder questions of the league about their own safety, the head injuries and security after the game is over and light have gone dark. These are after all people not gladiators.
    Also to this, I can think of the generation of players who came to Canada in the late70’s-early 80’s and chose to stay (Carl Valentine is one that comes to mind). We are rich as a footballing nation because of this type of immigration. During the late 80’s to early 2000s we did not have pro-soccer and this type of immigration did not happen.
    Now connect to your story what you wrote for Alberta Venture and how FCE has managed to attract international players because of the organization off the field with benefits like housing or jobs for spouses. I am thrilled to learn that both Fordyce and Watson spend the year in Edmonton and both their wives have found solid employment. These players are more than atheletes and we don’t rent them, they too are making life decisions and with thereby help foster soccer at a grassroots level.
    Now if only we could get this in order for the domestics also.
    Well done Steve. Looking forward to the next issue.

    • Steven Sandor

      January 30, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks! And, for those who haven’t read it, that Venture article is here: http://albertaventure.com/2015/01/fc-edmonton-nasl-tom-fath/

      But the point is, FC Edmonton has targeted players looking for life changes, not just a place to play for a year or two. Many of the internationals who have come to FCE are living in Edmonton full-time. And that means creating a culture where there families are welcomed, as well.

  2. Daniel

    January 30, 2015 at 6:06 am

    Great article Steve. I for one would love to see a minimum salary, but until the teams are financially viable themselves, it isn’t a subject I want to push too hard.

  3. Kahkakew Yawassanay

    January 29, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    Wow you are really scrambling to find credible stories to write about with such an uninteresting topic. Canadian players are rare because they lack so many requirements to be successful pros in any reputable league and attempting to gain pity for their situation garners them no further support or opportumities, all players, those with skills and the marginal and inferior Canucks all want the same thing. Families, homes and security which is obviously more difficult in the north american market particularly when you are not in the upper echelon of players but this struggle exists throughout the football world. I get it, you are trying to make work for yourself writing about a dull topic to increase awareness and support,,,,good luck but what Canucks need are owners like the Faths who are willing to lose millions annually trying to promote a pro club that uses mostly domestic players, a commendable but very hard sell here and really in the long run does not appear to be improving their product off and on the pitch domestically or internationally..if it is improving noticeably there would be a better situation where washed up has beens like De Ro and De Guzman would never be considered for the NT, it is pretty easy to understand that unattached players are not good enough or worth the investment to sign ergo why they are unattached! Drop them and spend your time and resources on younger less experienced players and focus on the future instead of a chronically unsuccessful embarrassing legacy.

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