The Agony of Defeat

I’m speechless. Well that shouldn’t matter, it’s a blog so I’m typing, but what can I say?

8-1.

8-1.

8-1.

It doesn’t seem real. Maybe if I go to sleep I’ll wake up and the game won’t have happened yet. Canada will be about to play Honduras and we’ll still be in the running for the World Cup.

No. I feel it like a punch to my stomach. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the players. I am proud of them, I thought they had some great moments over the qualification and were even improving over the six matches I saw them play. They had played so strong on defence, that was my least concern, I was worried that they would have trouble scoring today without so many forwards. Today came from out of the blue.

What I am happiest about is the way soccer has received so much more attention over the last few years, and in part this was due to the way the men’s and women’s national teams had played. I worry that this will be a reason to turn away from a sport that we just don’t compete at. My own hope was never the World Cup – that would have been too much of a leap for the program, but a chance in the hex would have kept the interest going for another year. Now it’s back to square one, and a three year wait before qualification begins.

Positives from this campaign:

– Teamwork: Considering the team I saw against St. Lucia back when this all began, the team isn’t even comparable. Back then there were missed passes, no coordination and too many long balls.

– Solid, solid defense (okay today notwithstanding): In all the games I saw over the last two years they only allowed one goal at home – to St. Lucia. Including the friendly against the US (okay considering their recent form maybe that isn’t such a wild accomplishment).

– Aggression: Canada was thrown off by Honduras’ chippy play, flopping and general annoying behavior. Against Panama, Canada gave it as good as it got. (without the flopping) If we want to play with the big boys we’ve got to act like the big boys.

-Fan support: Each game grew the crowd. From 10,000 fans for the game against St. Lucia (far too many of whom were cheering for St. Lucia) to 18,700 fans when we played Cuba (with only a few scattered Cuban fans). It got loud. It became a home field advantage.

What we still need:

-Goals: can never have enough of those.

– A few more years to develop players: This was why the attention was so important – to keep the next generation of players interested.

– Still more fan support: I dream of the day when they have to move the games to BC Place (yeah, I’ll miss them), we need our own Aztca Stadium (Mexico’s national stadium), but BMO will work until then.

-Discipline: Two bad red cards over the campaign was too many. Yes Occean’s was ridiculous, but we’ll never get a break with CONCACAF refs so we have walk that line even more carefully.

What hurts isn’t that we’re out, that was inevitable. What hurts is both the way that we went out and that I think we could/should have made the hex. Being a Canadian soccer fan means cheering for another country in the big tournaments, but it was nice for a while to be able to cheer for my country.

 

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Vend it Like Beckham

If there is one player who has blurred the line between being a player and being a commodity, it is David Beckham. He is a poster for soccer, but also a billboard for advertisers to hang their products off of. He was a good player (we’ll talk in past tense as his languishing in MLS is really a form of easing into retirement), but never that amazing superstar that was clearly the best player of his time. Yet he turned his ability to take a wicked free kick into a marketer’s dream. I mean he had a movie named after him where he only had a cameo.

Even more amazingly, he has maintained that marketing allure long after his most productive on-field days are behind him. His move to North America served as a marketing tool both to attract MLS fans (how many LA Galaxy jerseys had you seen before he signed?), but also worked to market the league to aging European stars as a place to play out their golden years without the hassle of being  recognized everywhere they went.

Beyond the soccer though, he has always been a mannequin to put new hairstyles, clothes, and men’s care products on. He is synonymous with metrosexuality, and that will be his career once he finally hangs up his cleats. Now he literally is a mannequin – or at least represented in a larger than life statue that has adorned H&M stores around North America (and dare I say worldwide?). We first met silver Becks while on vacation in New York in August, I read that he would be promoting his new line of clothing with these statues at H&M’s midtown Manhattan stores, so since we were in town…

I love the pose, the picture of him in the background smoldering, and the idea that this is all to sell some undies. So I though of course New York would get these statues, but not little old Canada. Oh how wrong I was…

Silver Beck’s Canadian Tour

So now the global brand is hawking his (under)wears in Canada, or at least the larger than life silver version of him is.

P.S. – I will give him credit for some comfortable underwear.