Matthew McConnaughey Austin FC

Montreal rebrands, Austin FC ramps up & more big moves in soccer world

Football madness (both figurative and literal) is overtaking the globe as 2021 kicks off.

A month into 2021 and Donald Trump is on the golf course awaiting a second impeachment trial after trying to incite a civil war, uncle Joe Biden is in the White House, the world is in COVID lockdown and the transfer window is in full swing in Europe.

Kylian Mbappé is supposedly leaving PSG while Jessie Lingards is off to WestHam. Other players were all set to move over during the final days in January (in the most frantic fashion ever) and my beloved Frank Lampard was hung out to dry and fired at ChelseaFC, while his replacement was on a jet to London to replace him that very evening.

Olympique de Marseille kicks off 2021 with a riot

Big happenings: Top British player Harry Kane snapped both his ankles in the same match, and 300 Marseille supporters “violently attacked” officers at the training centre — there were 25 arrests, and 7 police officers were injured. There have been a number of protests in recent weeks by Marseille fans about the way the club is being run, on and off the pitch. We found out that Leo Messi will make around $862-million (Canadian) by the end of his four- year contract with Barca ending this June.

There are 18 games left to play in the Premier League with Manchester United and Manchester City (who didn’t lose one match last month) fighting it out for first and second place (at press time). 

Yep it’s February! 

Meanwhile, the MLS 2021 season kickoff is just around the corner, beginning on April 3, 2021. We’ll have 34 matches for each of the league’s 27 clubs. The regular season, barring any more world catastrophes, will end on Nov. 7. The MLS  Playoffs will start on Nov. 19 and the MLS CUP will be played on Dec. 11, 2021. Not to forget, with all the regular games, there will be an All Star Game, Canadian Championship and Concacaf Champions League tournaments as well. Clubs will be starting pre-season training as of Feb. 22. 

“In accordance with MLS health and safety protocols, players will be required to quarantine and conduct individual trainings upon reporting back to their clubs.”—MLS

Matthew McConaughey’s all in for Austin FC

This 26th season will feature the debut of the league’s 27th club, Austin FC. The Smoothster himself, Matthew McConaughey, is going to be all over football…. Alright, Alright, Alright! The League will also see the opening of two new soccer stadiums in Ohio this season for FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew SC, where Montreal’s other favourite net-minder, Mr. Evan Bush, will be playing this year.

The Club de Foot Montreal

Speaking of the MLS, Montreal had quite the January. The Montreal Impact transformed into le Club de Foot Montreal — new name, new logo and new beginnings. There is enough press on the matter to keep you reading all night long. Let’s just say the change did not go over well with fans but in the end, if the team wins, plays well this season and takes the time to properly integrate into the community — all over the city and province, even more than it has in the past — then I am sure all will be forgiven. Or maybe not, and if that’s the case, well you can always change again! Life is full of options.

Staying on the subject of Tiohtià:ke (Montreal,) in all this madness, don’t forget we are still waiting to hear when and whether Montreal can host some of the 2026 World Cup games coming to this side of the world. 2021 is the year that all gets sorted out. Will the province reverse course and commit the $100 million+ to this right now without the public turning on them? Who knows? Toronto & Edmonton are the other two cities in the running.

Lars Frederiksen of Rancid favours Millwall FC

Music and football have always co-existed in parallel. Part of the purpose of The 1st Half is to keep exposing this partnership and other great relationships between all things culture and the beautiful game. A perfect example of this style of relationship is with punk legend Lars Frederiksen, the guitarist from Rancid. He’s such a fan of the San Jose Earthquakes that he actually wrote the team’s anthem “Never Say Die.” His love of the game and music is apparent in all that he is. The lion on his guitar is homage to Millwall FC, a pro-club in Bermondsey, South East London, England, founded in 1885. Millwall compete in the EFL Championship, the second tier of English football, and are known for having some very solid, excitable, loud fans (to say it in PC fashion.)

Long live this beautiful mix: music on the pitch to match music to your ears!

Here’s hoping that February is a bit smoother than January and that we will have shaken off most of 2020’s heaviness. 

“Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string.” —Pelé

Check out The 1st Half podcast about soccer and football culture in Montreal and beyond here.

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