Canada World Cup Qatar

Cheering for Canada at the World Cup doesn’t mean cheering for Qatar

PLUS a look back at a banner season for CF Montréal, which has sent eight players to Canada Soccer training camp ahead of the World Cup, and more Premier League drama.

November is all about the World Cup — no matter your thoughts on the designated location. But before we get into the biggest sporting event in the world, watched by millions upon millions, let’s review what went down at the end of October.

CF Montréal was eliminated from the 2022 MLS Cup playoffs, losing 3–1 to New York City FC at Stade Saputo, in the Eastern Conference semifinal round. Maximiliano Moralez and Talles Magno scored for New York, while Djordje Mihailovic scored for Montreal late in the game. Coach Wilfried Nancy had this to say about their run: “We always believed that we could do something good. We would have liked to go further and continue the adventure. Little by little we have earned the respect of the league this season. Montreal is recognized today because of what we do. But we must also not forget that New York City are champions.” CFM and Team Canada’s Alistair Johnston returned with the following words: “It was tough. Having played what we considered our best half of football this season but going into halftime 2–0 down was difficult. We’re disappointed. New York is a good team. They picked their moments. We could have been more decisive. It’s a bummer because we have a special group. The support of the crowd was unbelievable. We felt we had the group to lift a trophy. It was nice to see. We’re not just a team worth cheering for. We’re an exciting team that everyone can get behind.”  

Montreal had a powerful season and it was great to see the widespread excitement in the city during this most recent playoff run, all while smashing club records. Next year, the CFM will go through another transition and transformation. The team will have a new look, as some players are already scheduled to leave or are out of contract (except for Captain Samuel Piette who is already locked in for next season.) Also, the team will change the logo (yet again,) replacing the short-lived and divisive snowflake.

Bonus: Eight CFM players have been called up to Canada’s national team training camp ahead of the World Cup! Namely Zachary Brault-Guillard, Alistair Johnston, Kamal Miller, Joel Waterman, Mathieu Choinière, Ismaël Koné, Samuel Piette and James Pantemis.

A lot to get excited about, Montrealers!

In the English Premier League, VAR (Video Assisted Referee) continues to create chaos in matches and seems to be getting worse. Rules and how rules are applied seem to not line up with officiating, the rule book and the matches themselves. More than ever, coaches, players and media are complaining. We can only wonder if changes are on the horizon for this digital component of the beautiful game.  

Aston Villa have appointed Unai Emery as manager, following the sacking of footballing legend Steven Gerrard. Former Arsenal boss Emery, who had been in charge of Spanish Club Villarreal, takes over at Villa on Nov. 1.
Villa have paid a $6-million buyout fee to Villarreal for the 50-year-old manager.

The Premier League itself will go on break for the World Cup as of Nov. 13, and will return Dec. 26. This is one of my favourite days in football. The big Boxing Day fixture list always sees all 20 teams battle it out at 10 a.m. EST. Getting together with other football fans after the seasonal holidays is something special.  

At press time, the Premier League table, sees Arsenal still in first place with Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United rounding out the top four. In the Champions League, we got a better look at who will be moving on and who will be heading to the Europa League (the younger, less attractive sibling of the Champions League.)  

The next stages and round of 16 will have a live draw on Nov. 7 in Switzerland. Teams that have qualified thus far are: Bayern, Benfica, ChelseaFC, Club Brugge, Dortmund, Inter Milan, Liverpool, Manchester City, Napoli, PSG, Porto and Real Madrid. No team can face another team from the same National association. Clubs cannot face opponents they met during the group stage either.  

To date, the most exciting games to look for during the first week of November, before the break, are all match-ups in Group D. The results as they stand mean that as of right now, all four teams in that group could still go through. For my Spurs-loving brothers and sisters, this means that Tottenham simply cannot afford to lose against French side Marseille. Because of how the final day fixtures work, if Tottenham get a point, they are bound to qualify for the last 16. However, if they don’t, they won’t. Marseille will go above them if they win and the same will apply to whomever wins the match between Sporting and Eintracht Frankfurt. If Tottenham loses and the other game ends in a draw, three teams will have eight points and second place would be decided by results in matches involving them all. 

The World Cup is happening in Qatar, Nov. 20 to Dec. 18

There are many elements to address surrounding World Cup 2022. This edition of the tournament is controversial, as many others have been in the past. The Australian National team has released a collective statement against Qatar’s human rights record, becoming the first 2022 World Cup team to do so. The video message criticizes the World Cup hosts’ treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQIA2+ people. Football Australia also released a statement saying: “The suffering” felt by workers and their families caused by the tournament “cannot be ignored.” The video calls for “effective remedy” for migrant workers and the decriminalization of same-sex relationships. The 16 Australia players involved in the video, including captain Mat Ryan, are all saying:

“Addressing these issues is not easy, and we do not have all the answers. We stand with FIFPro, the Building and Wood Workers International and the International Trade Union Confederation, seeking to embed reforms and establish a lasting legacy in Qatar. With that expressed, Australia will continue to play at the tournament in Qatar. This must include establishing a migrant resource centre, effective remedy for those who have been denied their rights, and the decriminalization of all same-sex relationships. These are the basic rights that should be afforded to all and will ensure continued progress in Qatar and a legacy that goes well beyond the final whistle of the 2022 Fifa World Cup.”  

These subjects are on the lips and minds of everyone and are difficult to broach. I myself was not sure what I was going to do, since the majority of my business is wrapped up in football. There is no simple solution or answer but it is good to keep it in the media and on everyone’s minds as the tournament gets off the ground. Talking about it is important, but at a certain point, actions speak louder than words.  

Canada is headed to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar

For the casual football fan and hardcore Canadian supporter, important matches to look out for and get involved with are as follows:  

Canada v Belgium, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2 p.m. EST

Canada v Croatia, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2 p.m. EST 

Canada v Morocco, Thursday Dec. 1, 10 a.m. EST 

It just does not get more exciting than this for Canadian football fans. Pub Burgundy Lion, (home of football in Montreal, and, full disclosure, co-owned by yours truly) will once again be hosting the usual football events, with the added bonus of securing the Home of Football title for Team England once again. For the first time in the Lion’s 13-year history, we’ll be hosting three official Canada viewing parties with Team Canada beer partner Carlsberg.  

Enjoy the ride and be kind.

“In football (soccer), the result is an impostor. You can do things really, really well but not win. There’s something greater than the result, more lasting – a legacy.”

—Xavi, Spain international

This article was originally published in the November 2022 issue of Cult MTL.

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