Home Global Game Europe Tabla’s move to Barcelona is met with a collective Canadian “meh”

Tabla’s move to Barcelona is met with a collective Canadian “meh”


So, a Canadian player makes the move from an MLS team to Barcelona, and the collective response from this country is…


On Thursday, the Montreal Impact announced that the transfer of Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla to Barcelona for an undisclosed fee. Now, of course, the cynic will point out that Tabla, like any young player, will start at Barcelona B. But, in terms of optics, it won’t matter if he starts with Barcelona X or Y or Z. He’s wearing that blue and red strip, and that means there’s a chance, for La Liga glory, right?

But, judging by the lukewarm reaction this has received in Canadian soccer circles so far, it’s fair to say that the football followers in this country — the people who have dispatched the likes of Owen Hargreaves and Asmir Begovic into their own emotional black holes — have already given up on Tabla ever wearing Canada red again. It feels like Barcelona just signed some phenom from some other country.

Eleven months ago, Tabla — who was Canada’s U-20 player of the year in 2016 and was previously part of Canada’s national U-17 squad — refused coach Rob Gale’s invite to join the Canadian squad for the CONCACAF U-20 Championships. Of course, that began a firestorm of message-board discussions that the player wasn’t going to play for Canada ever again. The Canadian U-20s were already terribly shorthanded due to a rash of injuries, and Tabla was sorely missed as the team failed to qualify for the U-20 World Cup. Since then, Tabla has yet to appear for Canada at any age level — though, to be fair, Canada hadn’t had a lot of camps over the past several months.

Canada Soccer has updated Tabla’s profile on its website; it now states that his club is “Barcelona B.” But there hasn’t been press release or even a tweet from the Canada Soccer account; though time was taken to tweet out that CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani had met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the united U.S./Canada/Mexico World Cup bid, and to wish women’s national teamer Allysha Chapman a happy birthday.

Now, Tabla has yet to put on a of Cote d’Ivoire jersey, but it’s clear that we as Canadians have decided we’re not going to make the emotional investment in the kid. We’re not going to hope that he rises through the Barca ranks. We’re not going to pray that some of the Barca influence, along with the kid’s unmistakable natural talent, comes back in some way to the Canadian national team.

So, on a day when Tabla goes to Barca, we’re all, at best, lukewarm. We’ve already said our goodbyes to the kid — 11 months ago. It’s not fair, because, well, he still is a Canada-eligible player for the moment, but it’s clear we’re not emotionally ready to put much hope in this kid playing for our program again. So, if, somehow, new men’s national-team coach John Herdman can convince this kid to come to a Canadian camp, we’ll all be shocked and awed.

But, for now, what could be one of the biggest soccer deals to ever involve a Canadian player is, at best, shrug-worthy news in this country.

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  1. TwoSidesToAStory

    January 25, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    This young man should be a Canadian soccer success story.

    A kid who came through the community club system, scouted by his hometown pro club, treated well at every stage, identified early by Canada Soccer, got carded by sport Canada, etc….

    Unfortunately, Joey Saputo signed Didier Drogba and that was the beginning of the end for the Ballou story for Canada.

    He will never play for Canada, unless for some reason Cote D’Ivoire decide they don’t rate him.

    You can’t point to almost anything Canada Soccer did wrong other than maybe cap him against Dominica when he was 16.

    This one will sting but not because of any incompetence in Ottawa. This was a player who chose that Canada doesn’t further his personal ambitions to the extent that being under Drogba’s wing does. Unfortunate but true

  2. Ralph

    January 25, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    I gave up on hope a long time ago. Not just for Tabla but for all players who are MNT eligible. I decided I would just have fun watching them play club soccer and if they chose Canada then great but if they don’t then “NEXT”.

    I am still of the opinion that having 3 top level teams who can afford excellent 12-18 academies is the most important item. Throw in SigmaFC & Erin Mills with the occasional wonder and we have a decent developing pool. It is a numbers game and if we can develop more here and they have opportunities here (MLS, NASL, USL, CPL (if/when it happens) there will be fewer going over seas at age 12-16 and then jumping ship (JDG2).

    I really think we turned the corner with Tesho. Since then we’ve added some holdouts and increased our depth at pretty much every position.

    So as far as Tabla is concerned I wish him the best, want him to play for Canada but if he doesn’t then we’ll have others soon.

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