soccer football Canada Montreal England Afghanistan World Cup

Football gets festive and Canada gets ready for the year of the World Cup

PLUS Women players from Afghanistan get evacuated by a NYC rabbi, Kim Kardashian and Leeds United.

Well friends, it’s almost the end of 2021. I, for one, will be glad to see it vanish from my mind.

To those reading over this past year, to those who have supported me and our favourite culture publication Cult MTL, a BIG thank you & happy holidays.

Manchester United Christmas
A Manchester United Christmas

Now to some footie jabber.

What can we say about the goings-on in the beautiful game over these past month? To start, the Premier League have agreed to a new six-year rights deal in the United States with NBC Sports. The agreement is worth more than £2-billion ($2.7-billion USD,) well over double the previous deal, and will run until 2028. The deal covers all 380 matches throughout the season, and also includes Spanish-language coverage.

“Interest in the Premier League is going from strength to strength and it is great to see the growing global demand to watch our matches and engage with the league.”

—Premier League CEO Richard Masters
Ralf Rangnick

Staying with the PL, my beloved boys in Blue, Chelsea F.C. are at the head of the table at the time this article was typed and Manchester United, finally, after the longest, “will they or won’t they,” fired their long-time coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. O.G.S. was officially removed as head coach on the morning of Nov. 21 and was briefly replaced by another former Man. United player, Michael Carrick, who was a member of Solskjaer’s coaching staff. Carrick has now handed the reins over to German coach Ralf Rangnick.

On an environmentally conscious note, at the end of November 2021, Brentford F.C. announced they will wear their 2021–22 home kit again next season in an attempt to be more sustainable and save fans money. Some Premier League Clubs release three new kits each season and they are not cheap.

“We believe in football being affordable for our fans and are aware of the need for the game to become more focused on sustainability. When we discussed the idea, everyone at the club was fully behind it. We also think this is a step in the right direction to help the environment a little. It can only be good to reduce kit cycles.”

—Brentford Football Club CEO Jon Varney

With the League coming to a close Dec. 19, the next big day for English Football addicts will be Boxing Day, Dec. 26, one of the best days in football, with all but two teams playing that day after a little break. Games start at 7:30 a.m., with the last kick-off at 3 p.m. You can bet that Pub Burgundy Lion, the home of football in Montreal (in my biased opinion as the co-owner of the place), will be knee-deep in pints and pancakes and ready for it all. Personally, I will have my robe, slippers and seat ready to go for the events of the day.

On a national note, the Canadian men’s national team did the business, as they say, winning big games and impressing the entire country on their way to try and qualify for the 2022 World Cup, happening Dec. 2022. Canada played a pair of crucial games at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium in front of 48,000 home fans and under heaps (and heaps) of snow, against Costa Rica and Mexico. Canada took both  those games 1–0 v Costa Rica and 2–1 v Mexico. After this window, four of Canada’s final six matches are away from home, with big road trips to Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Panama. Proper football fans cannot even begin to tell you how wild it would be if Canada made the 2022 World Cup. You can see next year’s World Cup as a warm-up to one in 2026 when it comes to this side of the pond and Canada gets a spot automatically for being a host nation.

To end on an even more positive note, members of Afghanistan’s Women’s Youth Development soccer team arrived in Britain towards the end of November after being flown from Pakistan with the help of a New York rabbi, a U.K. soccer club and Kim Kardashian. (I swear it’s not a bad bar joke.) A plane carrying more than 30 teenage players and their families, about 130 people in all, landed at Stansted Airport near London. The Afghans spent a few days in quarantine before starting new lives in England. English Premier League Club Leeds United has offered to support the players.

Happy NEW YEAR! See you in 2022.

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

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