mitchellirons

rough notes

8. mls and soccer in canada

with 2 comments

8. soccer in canada.

I’m sitting down watching the inaugural game of the first Nutrilite Canadian Champions’ League Cup (Canadian Soccer Championship?) match, between Toronto FC and The Montreal Impact (or is that L’impact de Montréal?) on CBC Bold. Actually, I’m watching the match on the cbc.ca/sports website. In order to really keep an eye on the game, though I’ve had to reduce my mac’s screen resolution to 640×480 – and even then the window is perhaps three inches wide, at best.

Everything swirls and ebbs and flows with live steaming. The soccerball (football-ball?) has a definite tail that swaggers behind it – it reminds me of the ever-fascinating FoxPuck(tm) from the late 1990s, but lacking the fluorescent pinks and blues. These trails and shadows definitely turn my high-res screen into a low-res, murky picture tube. I’m sure if I were to mess around with the colours and make this screen resolve itself in black-and-white that I might be able to get a sense of what it was like to watch soccer (football?) (futbol?) on TV (telly?) back in the day.

(How cute. a sea gull is flying about in the space above the pitch)

Montreal has got some fancy new digs to play in. Its brand new Saputo Stadium (I’ve given up on linguistic existentialism now, I promise) only has 13000 seats, so it it still a little tiny compared to what the MLS would like to see in a soccer-specific-stadium, but I like just how close the fans can get to the field, and its something that might be emulated elsewhere (Van City, Seattle? I’m looking at you). The stands come within a few feet of the grass along the length of the pitch, which I’m accustomed to seeing, but that which is just so goddamn great that I’m compelled to tell the World about is the stands at the ends of the field – they come so close to the grass that the Team/Stage Management has erected netting over and above the nets themselves to protect the fans from stray balls (not nearly as dirty as we’d all like it to be, of course). Its reminiscent of some of the fields completely surrounded by fence in South America, and central and eastern Europe, except with a far more pleasant twist.

[at the Half: No Score. (or is that nil-nil?)]

I’m real impressed with this Toronto FC/MLS business and the way its turned the popularity of soccer on its head in Canada. Soccer has always been popular yes – there has been the CSL and Canadian teams in the NASL and the APSL and the USL etc etc, and it is the most popular amateur sport in Canada (yes, far more popular than Hockey – I’m sure the cost of gear and ice time might be a reason for this), but it has taken a combination of nurtured multicultural communities in the nation’s media centre as well as admission into a glitzy American corporation for it to take stride. Myself, it doesn’t matter if the banner the game is played under has leaves or stars in it – I’m just happy to watch an acceptable level of action (on the field and in the stands) in the late afternoon as opposed to turning on the TV on weekned mornings, which is necessary if one really wants to keep up with the FA Premiership. I’m simply too busy on a saturday morning to see what’s what. I’m sorry Liverpool, but most of the time you really are walking alone when it comes to coverage of your team and your league in North America.

I do wonder how far the Professional-Soccer-in-Canada-!!! business can go, though. We’re Canadian, so we typically don’t follow sport in a big way unless its either American, or is hockey or the CFL in the west. Of course, the USL teams in Montreal and Vancouver are rocking the socks in that league’s first division (and Vancouver has arguably the only real soccer-club-development-programme in North America, fielding amateur and professional teams of both sexes and at various skill levels in various leagues and divisions), but their admittance into the MLS is anything but assured. Both teams have garnered a lot of press, given the construction of stadiums (or plans, in the case of ‘Couver), but in the end the MLS remains an American league whose mandate comes from an international body based on national lines. The formation of the MLS essential to FIFA’s granting of the 1996 World Cup t USA Soccer. And the MLS’s mandate, historically and presently, is the development of an American soccer programme and an American soccer cultural product. Not Canadian, and not North American.

True, some leagues have teams from different countries in them (the FA and Cardiff; Monaco and France), but these truly are the exceptions to the rule. I’d be surprised if FIFA would like the MLS to co-opt the Canadian market for soccer rather than try to develop a Canadian professional and national league in its own right. I hardly think such a league would succeed, given our prediliction to follow Canadian sport only when said sport is in an American league, but it still seems odd that FIFA would not want one last kick at the can, especially given the success of Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps. FIFA stands for more than just the development of soccer as a game, after all. Like the IOC, FIFA stands for the development of a particular brand. The more people watching and playing soccer, the more successful FIFA can be. Organizations are like organisms, looking to only to survive. FIFA will thrive and survive with more and more people playing, watching, and buying into the romanticism of ‘the beautiful game’.

woops. this turned into an editorial.

Let me bring it back into the real world by getting back to live-streaming soccer on cbc.ca/sports. frankly, watching soccer online is an awful compromise. i’d much rather have access to “cbc bold” to see this game on my real tv, and i’m saddened all to hell that I don’t have TSN or Sportsnet to keep up with the pending Euro 2008, either. Perhaps I’ll sell another unborn child, this time to the Cable Company and Setanta sports and see what comes of it.

[last update. 52nd minute. Stefano Pesoli has just been red-carded and Mtl is down to ten men for the rest of the match. go reds.]

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Written by mitchellirons

May 27, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Posted in blog

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Conveniently, we’ll have our deluxe cable package until June 29–the day of the Euro 2008 final–if you want to come by the North End some time.

    John

    May 29, 2008 at 9:38 pm


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