Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Team(s) Canada

When I used to TA an Intro Comm class at Brock University, I had to mark a lot of first-year papers. Whenever I would hand them back to students, I would tell them that if they weren't happy with their mark, wait 24 hours to calm down and articulate your thoughts in a less distressed state of mind.

This trick would lighten my office hours because students would hardly ever show up. It seemed they became less bothered with their grade 24 hours later and/or something more academically distressing would happen in the meantime. The ones who did come to me often had a valid point, like "you forgot to give me a grade" or "your writing is illegible, I don't know if this is a 7 or a 9" (it was a 4).

The point was: By having a cool period after receiving a grade, meant that the concerns that actually came to me we're legitimate, thought-out, and valid.

However, while that method may work well for university term papers, I have found out in my adulthood that it does not work as well for national team tournament exits.

Over the last month, both of Canada’s team—Women’s and Men’s—exited out of the World Cup and Gold Cup, respectively. And quite frankly, I am still not over it.

I thought I would be; I even intentionally waited to write this article until after both Cups were over so I would be. I thought that once both tournaments were completed, and a winner had been crowned, I would be able to write an articulate, thoughtful, moving piece. But instead, I'm just annoyed, disappointed, and full of grief.

Which is why I am turning to my own blog. 

Because I know I am not the only one. This was supposed to be our year, Sincy's year, Canada’s year, heck, even John Herdman’s year, and now it's not.

After both teams exited their cups, most people turned their attention back to euphoria of the Toronto Raptors winning the Championship, or to the Copa America, or the African Cup of Nations, or the CPL. They had either moved on or have become engrossed with other drama. Like most of my former students, they're the ones not going to complain at my office hours, because it's just not worth their time or energy.

If you're in that camp, I'd suggest to stop reading here; this article will just sound like dramatic whining. However, if you're like me, and still as equally gutted and emotionally invested in CanWNT/MNT, read on, because together we're going to work through The Five Stages of Canadian Soccer Grief.

Stage One: Denial.
It's pretty hard to be in denial with Canada's exits (unless of course, the titles are called back from the United States/Mexico and are somehow awarded to both Canadian teams instead…), but it easy to be in denial that we've just seen Christine Sinclair play in her last World Cup and Atiba Hutchinson play in his last international tournament for Canada. Sinclair, the Canadian Captain (nay, superhero), turned 36 during the tournament, meaning she'll be 40 come the next World Cup. Additionally, Hutchinson stated last year that this Gold Cup would be his final Canadian appearance.

A logical mind would come to the conclusion that both will be retired for their next big tournament, but logical minds have no place in football. Because I am pretty sure that both Sinclair and Hutchinson will play for Canada forever. And ever. And ever…

Stage Two: Anger.
There's a lot to be angry about with Canada’s dual exists, but it's difficult to direct that anger at just one person (or just one team). So let's not; instead, let's direct our anger at a machine.

VAR has been problematic in nearly every match during this World Cup and it's solely responsible for elevating, and then crashing, Canada’s hopes and dreams. From the overreliance on the technology to the changing of rules mid-tournament to not using it to call a VERY CLEAR HANDBALL ON THE UNITED STATES AGAINST FRANCE, Video Assisted Referee has been a headache all tournament and many have argued it should never have been used.

And as for VAR in the Gold Cup? Where was it?! I wanted it! How could you play a major tournament without it?! Since when do we rely on LAR (Live Action Referees) to make their own decisions?!

VAR, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

Stage Three: Bargaining.
… also known as, “what can I personally do to make the teams better?” Do you promise to watch every Canadian national game live, no matter what country they’re playing in? Do you swear that you’ll follow our youth teams religiously? Do you promise to never speak negatively of Owen Hargreaves, Teal Bunbury, and/or Sydney Leroux ever again? Say it with me now:

I, (fill in your own name), swear on the soccer gods that if Canada wins a title in their next tournament, I promise to never do the Dwayne-De-Rosario-cheque-signing celebration for my beer league team, ever again.

Congratulations! You (may) have personally guaranteed Canada success in the future!

Stage Four: Depression.
Once you realize that you aren’t solely responsible for the Canadian National teams (no matter what you promise), the depression creeps in; the realization that both Canadian teams fizzled out of their tournaments at basically the bat of an eye. Sinclair didn’t break the record, Alphonso Davies didn’t single-handedly make Canada blow up internationally, and (as of right now) Clare Rustad, Kaylyn Kyle, and Diana Matheson haven’t inked permanent analyst deals.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we get our hopes up? Why do we promise each other this is our year and then get crushed when it isn’t?

Everything is terrible and I am never watching soccer again. 

Stage Five: Acceptance.
Finally, we come to acceptance, but I don’t think it means what you think it means. I don’t think we should settle into acceptance of loss, rather we should revel in the acceptance of these teams. The questions I asked in depression? “Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we get our hopes up? Why do we promise each other this is our year and then get crushed when it isn’t?” They’re not rhetorical, the answers are pretty easy.

We “do this to ourselves” because we know our own greatness, even if our expectations haven’t caught up with our thoughts yet. We watch these teams because we love them and because we know they love us back. We follow them because we know that one day, one of our Les Rouges will hoist a trophy above his or her head.

And that’s what we have accepted: that we love our teams, no matter what. We’ve accepted that maybe not today (or in 2019 in general), but one day Canada will be champion of its confederation and of the world. We’ve accepted that these are our teams and where you go, we will follow.

As a TA, I was instructed to teach students to perform their best, with the ambition to then perform a little better the next time. If hours upon hours of holding office hours have taught me anything, it’s that the more that you show up, the better you perform.

We got this, Canada.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Future of Canadian Soccer

On April 27 2018, the future of soccer in Canada was unveiled. The event, long awaited
by all those involved, set in motion a new era for the sport in this country.

The day’s announcement promised a much needed revitalization to the
entrenched--yet too often ignored--Canadian soccer landscape. It also told of an
encouraging new generation; eager believers in the Beautiful Game who knew
they could impact the country for good.

A new wave has come and it’s here to stay.

And this wave just so happened to crash upon our shores on the same day that the
Canadian Premier League was officially launched. A charming coincidence to usher
in not just the next generation of Canadian soccer players, but the next generation of
soccer journalists.

You see, on April 27 2018, while the CPL was being announced, it was also announced
that Canada was training its next generation of soccer journalist: through the Nutmeg
Soccer Program in downtown Toronto.

Paul Beirne, CPL President, was happy to share the limelight with Nutmeg and did not
hesitate to speak out on its importance.

"I'm so proud for the enthusiasm of soccer in this country,” Beirne stated. “The passion
and insight from these Nutmeggers makes me excited about the future of the CPL. These
are the fans, players, and journalist that will soon come to represent the country.”

Passion and insight is right; though the kids of Nutmeg soccer range from the tender ages
of 6 to 12 years old, their love and smarts for the game is clear.

But let’s let their words (and pictures!) speak for themselves. As I present to you the
published works of Nutmeg Soccer.

Nutmeg Soccer:
Canada's Future Journalists

The Impact of Mo Salah Parts One and Two by Abdullah

The Fun and Importance of the Mexican National Team by Carlos

An Analysis of a Skipper by Denton

The Fundamentals of Dribbling by Devin

The Impact of Women in Soccer by Iris

Bradley: A Toronto FC Icon by Jamal

The Importance of Sports by Jessyka

The Impact of the No. 10 by Mauro

Messi's Barcelona by Michael

The Greatness of Grassroots Soccer by Nicholas

Rebuttal: The Coolness of Grassroots Soccer by Raymond

A Portrait of Pogba by Stuart

Paris Saint-Germain: the World's Team by Tyler

The Ballad of Gallos Blancos by Victoria

Football Poetry by Wei Jie

The Anatomy of a Footballer Parts One and Two by Wei Jun

Thank you Nutmeg Soccer for being our future. It looks bright ahead.

April 27, 2018

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Don't Read the Comments

Any writer, amateur or seasonal, knows the one golden rule: do not read the comments.

It is the initial advice fresh faced authors are told after they file their first piece and it is the mantra that veterans remind themselves of daily, regardless of how many years into the business.

Comments mean anarchy. For the most part (besides breach of publication policies) anyone can write anything; it is very hard for most writers to see their carefully crafted prose being torn apart by an anonymous reader who does not seem to grasp basic English grammar.

Ego aside, it is even harder for a writer to then not engage with these comments, in spite the need they may feel to defend their work, clarify a point, or just blatantly ask, “Did you read the article beyond the headline?”

It is just easier to not read the comments. Or, so this writer thought.

Recently I wrote an article for The Guardian on Shauna Hunt and her reaction to being a victim of an on-air “fuck her right in the pussy” bomb. The article was fairly straight forward, explaining why telling someone “fuck her right in the pussy” is wrong and demonstrated a broader picture of how women are often subjected to humiliation and degradation at football stadiums.

Until I actually read a few comments and realized maybe the issue wasn’t as straight forward as I though. That, despite all the advice I had been ever given, all the warnings I had been told, and all the common sense in my head, maybe there was more to my article than just my written thoughts.

So, I broke the golden rule and read the comments.

At first, like any writer, I was sickened by people’s reaction and annoyed that they did not immediately find me brilliant. But after combing through a few submissions, I started to realize that most people still did not understand the points I had made, but seemed to genuinely want to. I found there was a lot of questions asked and a lot of good discussion happening, even if I did not necessarily agree with all that was being said.

The point of the original article was to explain why “fuck her right in the pussy” is not an acceptable thing to say to anyone, ever. And, furthermore, why events like that a football stadiums make an unwelcoming atmosphere. People – both readers and those who have asked me directly – still seem to have a lot of similar questions and comments.

So, I am going to address those comments.

“Fuck” and “pussy” are just words.
They are just words, but a very big part of language is that words carrying meaning. There’s a reason why you would not say “fuck” and “pussy” in front of a three year old, because those words carry powerful significance. Semantics are important, “fuck” does not have the same connotation as “making love” or even “sex,” the same way “pussy” does not have the same connotation as “vagina.” “Fuck her right in the pussy” is deliberately to provoke because of the agreement of what those words stand for and represent. Those specific words are used because they are known to get a reaction. And that sentence is said for the sole purpose of provoking a response.  

They weren’t saying it to Shauna Hunt (or other reporters), they’re saying it to the camera.
Regardless of who their “intended audience” was, it is still a sexist, violent, and abusive comment directed at women, about women.  Just because people find it funny, does not make it any less defendable.

Men get it too and sometimes women say it.
Again, that does not make it any less disrespectful or humiliating. And, men too can be demeaned to abusive comments towards woman. Just like how women can also say sexist comments, even about their own sex.

People need to grow a thicker skin.
No, people need to learn how their language will affect others. Hunt told the men that she found their comments humiliating and offensive, and they continued to justify – and worse – defend them. All actions have consequences and just because you think it will have one consequences (having five seconds of fame while interrupting a broadcast), it may have another (violating a person’s right to feel safe and respected).

How dare someone say that on Mother’s Day to a woman!
This comment has been said a lot, as the events took place on Mother’s Day. However, it is important to not just think of women as mothers, daughters, sisters, etc.; rather, think of them as just regular ol’people. Women are beyond just the roles they play to men, a person should not be degrade because they are a human being, not because they are someone’s sister.

It was at a football stadium, isn’t it kind of expected?
That is the main problem: it is, but it shouldn’t be. People believe being in a football stadium entitles carte blanche behaviour. Whether sexist, racist, or just plain mean, it’s okay because it’s “part of the atmosphere.” We need to start changing, now. Being in a football stadium does not give up basic societal norms. A person would not yell “fuck her right in the pussy” on the bus, in a cafĂ©, or at the grocery store, why would you do it at a game? 

It was a harmless prank.
It is not harmless if a person feels threaten by what is happening. Most language used at a football match (“fuck her right in the pussy,” aside) is meant to degrade and humiliate, as that is part of the competition side of sports. However, when it also degrades and humiliates the human spirit, we need to re-examine our use of language.

I don’t know what I would do if this happened to me.
Women should not have to be apprehension about verbal abuse; but they are, and that is the problem. A football stadium should be a safe space for healthy competition, not a minefield for woman hoping that today will not be the day that are verbally abused.

This has happened to me. Thank you for talking about it.
Like most things, it takes one person to stand up and talk about an issue to get the ball rolling. As a woman, I can empathize with Shauna Hunt; as a human being, I applaud her. A person should never feel like they can’t speak out if felt degraded or humiliated, same goes for a person should never make anyone feel like they are being degraded or humiliated.

Regardless of how much we wish “fuck her right in the pussy” was nothing more than a harmless, now-colloquial saying, it’s not. It’s sexist, chauvinistic, and downright hateful towards women. This, and other phrases meant to disgrace, demean, and demoralize women need to end.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Full 15

Podcast update: it's a go.

I have been scrambling all weekend to figure out the ins-and-outs of making a podcast (research was intensively short), looking through open source recording programs, recruiting (/informing that he will be) a producer, talking to prospective guests, making a strategic plan, and coming up with a theme song.

I am still working on that last one.

Anyway, after much effort, little sleep, and tons of questions (including: would this be worth to Kickstart?*) we are ready to get started.

With that, I am pleased to introduce to you:

The Full 15

Named by the dashing Jeremy St. Louis from beIN Sports, the pod will be 15 minute chats with people in the industry telling stories that they would not normally get to.

Whether it be tales from the trenches, upcoming or side projects, personal (and probably unpopular) views, or a soliloquy about an unheard of, third division club in a low-FIFA ranking country, guests will get a chance to talk about what they want to, and not just the word-capped topic usually assigned.

Guests will included journalists, players, coaches, and those on the business side of things. Anyone I can wrangle (/trick) into coming on.

Which leads me to announce the first guest of the show: the Mussi Volanti Opinionista himself, Dov Schiavone.

Without giving too much away before the podcast, let me give you a quick introduction to Guest #1.

Dov is the Editor of Forza Italian Football and has/is contributed/ing to STV Sport, Goal, Metro UK, BBC Radio 5, AFP, and BT Sport among others (he's not answering any of my messages, so I just used his Twitter bio).

Dov and I have been all over Italy (nothing south of Napoli) to watch matches—including the likes of Udinese, Milan, Rome, Lazio, Napoli, Inter, Torino, Atalanta, we recently became certified Guinness pourers in Dublin, and one weekend, we walked from Italy to Slovenia because we legitimately had nothing better to do.

He also once seriously injured me during a Take That dance party.

Dublin in December, the man loves selfies

You can look forward to the pod being posted closer to the end of the month and then weekly; I am still sorting out the technical aspects of things and waiting on my producer before I can officially air episode one (that, and we haven’t recorded it yet).

I am grateful for everyone who expressed interest and for those who are willing to give me 15 minutes of their time, stories, and thoughts.

If you want to get in touch with the podcast or want to be a guest on a future show, please don’t hesitate to email us at:

Thanks guys, happy 2015!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Podcast

I've decided to do a weekly soccer podcast. 

Very short, 15 minutes tops, different guest every week, different topic every week, general questions, tailored questions, and (almost certainly) poor production. 

Get in touch if you're interested and can stand speaking to me for 15 minutes (plus injury time). 

I am still working on a name and a recording schedule, but there is an interest and for that I am grateful. Right now, I am looking for the pod to be therapy for people in the industry, but we will see how it evolves. 

Or, dissolves, whichevs.

Tell your friends.

 15 Minutes with a Face Like This