The Canada national team is no longer a “national shame”

The Canada national team is no longer a “national shame”

The Canadian Football Federation took the best of what MLS and North American football offered to improve itself and have a more competitive environment in which to play (despite not having a championship). And now she aims to no longer be a Cinderella of world football

In August 2014 Canada occupied position number 122 in the Fifa ranking, in February 2021 it had risen up to 72nd, while today it is in position 41 at the World Cup. It is true that this ranking is not worth much: you can be at the top and look the same the World Cup from home, it still remains a good thermometer to measure the progress of the most innovative movements that are appearing in the football that counts.

Canada? As big as unknown

let’s be clear, current Canada is not exactly an unknown team but lives within the geopolitical limits of the nation it represents. Too big to ignore, too close to the United States to consider. Beyond the innate sympathy that a flag with a red maple leaf on a white background gives, hardly anyone mentions them even among the potential surprises in Qatar. Little is said about it, even too little, it’s okay to be a underdog but this national team deserves more respect.

In short, let’s not talk about the team that, in Mexico 1986, left no sign of its existence except in the almanacs: three games, zero points, zero goals scored and only one honorable defeat against France, Papin’s goal, to remember. The other two failures, both 2-0, against the USSR and Hungary, are so hidden in the numbers that only sport statisticians know them. In those years the team man was the goalkeeper Martino “Tino” Lettieri who had found his fortune, sporting and otherwise, in the North American Soccer League. His is one of the many stories of Italian emigrants who made it away from home without leaving too many traces. Like the rest the Nasl which had closed its doors, together with the dreams of those who had invested in it, in 1984. In short, at the time you couldn’t ask for more from a national team that didn’t even have the shred of a championship. Today instead Canada is a team with much stronger backs, they have been able to grow their talents, including the children of immigrants who are passionate about football, with a structure that speaks of modern football and that manages to field competitive players without having to chase them through the registry offices.

Pure socialist rationalism

A great success considering the Canadian championship is still something of an experiment – only since 2019 does the Canadian Premier League exist – while the best teams play in America.

It’s no surprise, Canadians are very pragmatic: it was necessary to maximize what one had and the creation of teams in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal gave vent to a passion that had been dormant for too long, with tangible results. The experts who spoke of pure socialist rationalism are right: the Ottawa Football Federation, in fact, has taken the best of what MLS offered to create better complexes and have a more competitive context in which to play. The stadiums have filled up, important players have arrived – the example of Bernardeschi and Insigne is still relevant today – and equally valid ones have grown. Suffice it to say that the most representative players of the national team are the result of these choices, such as Alphonso Davies who plays for Bayern Munich and Jonathan David who is protagonist with Lille.

From “national shame” to the rebirth signed by John Herman

Behind these stories is the commitment of those who truly believed in the rebirth of Canadian football. Victor Montagliani – entrepreneur of Abruzzo origins, sports manager as well as current president of Concacaf – probably read, years ago, with a spirit of revenge, the contemptuous words of the ‘Montreal Gazette’ which wrote, bluntly, that the national football team was “one of the few things the Canadian sporting world should be ashamed of”. It’s hard to blame your colleagues. The 1986 experience was so insufficient that it seemed like a homeopathic treatment for a movement that had to wait three decades before getting back on track.

Being prepared when the generation of new talent would start to emerge has been the mantra of recent years. Montagliani’s successor, Steve Reed, seized the opportunity and led the Canadian Football Federation in a choice that is more unique than rare, calling as coach the one who had been, from 2011 to 2017, the coach of the women’s team (bronze in London 2012 and Rio 2016). As unthinkable in European football, as effective for shaping a team that was being born. Said and done: this is how Englishman John Herdman demonstrated that the growth achieved in women’s football could also be replicated in the men’s field.

A dream come true, despite everyone’s skepticism. This time he is not aiming for the semi-finals, nor to enrich the (already rich) palmares of the expert captain Atiba Hutchinson, but he certainly wants to remain in the football that counts. In four years the World Cup will be played at home and there is no better opportunity to demonstrate that Canada will no longer be ignored.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top