On soccer culture in Montreal and beyond.
It’s September, and as always more has happened in the wonderful world of football since we started to get to know each other last month.
Alphonso Davies, the 19-year-old star from Edmonton became the first Canadian international to win a men’s UEFA Champions League Final. The best part of this story is he was born in a refugee camp in Ghana before moving to Canada when he was five, played for various Canadian youth teams and programs before getting into the National Senior Team Canada Squad. Bayern from the German Football League (Bundesliga) brought him from the Vancouver Whitecaps into the MLS two years ago and have helped him turn into the elite athlete we are starting to see. He represents everything that is great about being Canadian and his story has changed the game in this country forever. This is just the start of his exciting career.
The big news this month, transcending footie fandom, is that Mr. Lionel Messi would like to leave FC Barcelona after 20 years with the club. His original agreement with the club was handwritten on a napkin. If you want Mr. Messi to join your club of choice, you need to trigger a buy-out clause, which is set at $825-million CDN. This fee would be the biggest in the sport’s history and would be three times more than the $262-million paid by PSG to get their hands on Neymar a little while back. This is going to be a very wild story that will not go away any time soon — or until everyone gets what they want in this saga. Mr. Messi is also on a $45-million+ annual salary and I’m sure has other clauses like getting exclusively red M&Ms in a glass bowl in his locker on game days. I’m excited to see who wins this Loto/Messi circus.
Here at home, the Montreal Impact kicked off the new version of the regular MLS season by becoming the first Canadian professional sports team to play in front of fans since the COVID-19 pandemic locked things down in March. The crowd of 250 was the maximum capacity permitted inside Saputo Stadium under Quebec’s public-health guidelines. The stadium normally holds over 20,000 and it was an interesting sight on TV, but it was good to see things are moving forward. The plan is for all the Canadian teams to play each other a few times until teams can start to travel back and forth between Canada and the U.S.
The CPL (Canadian Premier League) has created the Island Games to get the season started and finished quickly. The season began with eight clubs at the start, and will work itself down to four clubs that will then advance to the second round for six matches, with the last two standing to play it out so that one will be crowned 2020 Canadian Premier League Champion on Sept. 6. It’s not exactly what this fledgling league wanted for its season.
On the social injustice and race front, things have not gotten much better but dialogue is still ongoing and the subject continues to dominate the sports world, for GOOD reason! The latest incident (as of press time in early September) was the shooting of Kenosha, Wisconsin Black man Jacob Blake seven times by police officers.This latest round of madness has pro-athletes refusing to play their respective sports until something is done. Taking a knee is not doing enough so greater action needs to be taken to get the higher-ups to take notice. Athletes from all major sports have said they will not play and games have been cancelled or postponed. As of when this was written, players in the NBA have returned to play but have convinced the league and the owners to turn their arenas into safe in-person voting centres. The athletes also demanded that the players, owners and the league itself immediately establish a Social Justice Coalition that will focus on voting in the upcoming U.S. election in November and push dialogue on reforming the police and justice system.
No matter what side of the pitch you’re on concerning politics and sports mixing, the fact that these athletes are standing up and using their visibility to help affect change is very powerful, and I for one am all for it.
The culture and the sport is very much alive in our city. Call it FOOTY, FOOTBALL, SOCCER or FUTBAL — it’s a sport that is bigger than the 90+minutes on the pitch.
Till next month.
“When people succeed, it is because of hard work. Luck has nothing to do with success.” — Diego Maradona
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