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For football fans, it’s the best of times and the worst of times
We seem to have entered a golden age for Canadian soccer. The women’s national team are Olympic champions for the first time after their thrilling shootout victory in the gold medal match in Tokyo. Today, Olympic heroines Jessie Fleming, Ashley Lawrence and Christine Sinclair were nominated for the Ballon d’Or for World Player of the Year. Meanwhile, the men’s squad increasingly looks like they are reaching the World Cup for the first time in three and a half decades.
Last night’s 1-1 draw in Mexico City by the men was huge. In sport you will sometimes hear a tie described as a “moral victory”, and that certainly applies here. Canada, ranked 51st in the world, faced the No. 9 team in their own stadium and came away with a point. Not just any stadium either, but the dreaded Estadio Azteca – located 7,200 feet above sea level and filled with notoriously hostile Mexican supporters known to literally throw bags of pee at opposing players and scream at them. unspeakable insults (of course, last night’s game was briefly suspended due to homophobic chants from the crowd). Mexico rarely loses, or even settles for a draw, there. When Jonathan Osorio scored the equalizer in the 42nd minute on a precise pass from young superstar Alphonso Davies, it was a Canadian’s first goal against Mexico in Azteca in 41 years – the same time since Canada had left that torture chamber with anything. but a loss. The Canadians have been outscored 16-0 in their last four visits.
But this is a new Canadian men’s national team. Led by Davies and brilliant forward Jonathan David – already superstars at the age of 20 and 21, respectively – Canada is entering the final round of regional qualifying for the Men’s World Cup for the first time in addition to two decades. And not just by playing, but by flourishing. In four of its 14 games at this point, Canada finds itself alone in third place with a one-win record and three draws. The top three teams qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while the fourth-place team can still participate by winning an intercontinental play-off. Another big sign: Canada’s road games against the region’s top two teams – Mexico and the United States, 13th in the standings – are already over, with Canada winning a draw in both. Canada also defeated 65th El Salvador 3-0 at home. The only result you can’t feel good about so far has been a 1-1 draw at home against 63rd Honduras.
The next game will be another away game, against Jamaica, 59th, Sunday at 6 p.m. ET, followed by a home date against Panama, number 68, Wednesday in Toronto. In the November window, Canada will host Costa Rica on November 12 and Mexico on November 15 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, where cold weather could play in favor of the home side. Yes, it’s still early days, but it’s hard not to be excited and optimistic about Canada’s chances of securing a surprise World Cup berth right now.
And yet, it’s hard to feel unbridled joy at the sport at a time when so much darkness has descended on the National Women’s Soccer League. If you haven’t followed the avalanche of devastating news over the past week, here’s a recap:
Last week, The Athletic published an article by Meg Linehan in which two former NWSL players accused coach Paul Riley of multiple cases of sexual coercion and various other forms of harassment. Sinead Farrelly alleges that Riley forced her into having sex that weighed so heavily on her that she ultimately suffered from a mental / emotional breakdown which prevented her from playing. Both Farrelly and Mana Shim allege that Riley sent them scary photos of himself and made them kiss. Farrelly, Shim and several others who played under Riley on the Portland Thorns from 2014 to 2015 say he also made inappropriate comments about their weight and sexual orientation. Shim filed a complaint with the Thorns front office after the 2015 season and, after an investigation by the team, his contract was not renewed. But he is soon hired by another team. Farrelly and Shim say that when they asked the NWSL for a new investigation into Riley’s behavior earlier this year (Farrelly’s allegations were not part of the 2015 Thorns investigation), Commissioner Lisa Baird told them that the case was closed.
In Athletic’s story, Riley has called the majority of the allegations against him “completely false.” Nonetheless, he was fired by Courage last Thursday. Coaches for the Utah Royals and Washington Spirit have also been removed from their posts in the past year or so for allegedly making inappropriate comments or verbally assaulting players. But Riley’s dismissal appears to have sparked a long-awaited toll for the NWSL. The next day Commissioner Baird resigned and that weekend’s games were called off as the players condemned the league for ignoring their complaints about the abusive behavior of the coaches. When games resumed this week, the players met in midfield and tied their arms in the sixth minute – representing the six years they say it took for the allegations made by Farrelly , Shim and others against the coaches be heard. On the same day, Portland agreed to its players’ request that the team’s general manager be put on administrative leave for not doing enough about the allegations against Riley years ago. The Washington CEO also resigned this week. Canadian national team captain Christine Sinclair, who plays for Portland, called the league’s failure to protect its players “unacceptable.” The NWSL is currently the subject of an investigation by FIFA, US Soccer and an independent investigation commissioned by the league.
At the root of all these problems is the power structure of the NWSL, which can be very unfavorable to the players. As Linehan details in his story, three-quarters of them earn less than US $ 31,000 a year, and they are often concerned that the Nine Year League will collapse at any time. This makes it very difficult to stand up to a top trainer like Riley, who has the power to make or break careers that are already dangerously short.
For a long time, players seemed to have no choice but to accept the toxic environments this power structure can create. But now they finally feel empowered to take matters into their own hands to help build the league they deserve. Obviously, no one else was going to do it. This is the purpose of the walkout, the protests in the middle of the field and the demands. The players want to have their say (a “seat at the table”, as the Thorns put it their statement) in the way their league is run and how they are treated at work. It is now clear that their safety and well-being depend on it. No one can ignore them anymore.
Canada’s top tennis players are ready to play on the court at prestigious Indian Wells. The four highest-ranked Canadian players in singles – No. 7 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and No. 8 Denis Shapovalov in the men, No. 16 Bianca Andreescu and No. 23 in the women Leylah Fernandez – all earned passes to the first round. for what some tennis fans call “the fifth Grand Slam”. Unranked Canadian Vasek Pospisil joined them in the second round with a victory over American JJ Wolf last night, and will now face Shapovalov on Saturday. Auger-Aliassime will also meet an unranked opponent in the second round. Fernandez, who is playing for the first time since her superb run to the US Open final last month, will face unranked Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet tonight at 11 p.m. ET or later. Andreescu, who won Indian Wells in 2019 and is still the defending champion as last year’s event was called off, will face unranked American Alison Riske tomorrow. If you missed our preview of Indian Wells earlier this week, read here what’s at stake for the top Canadians.
The WNBA final kicks off on Sunday. The game will be finalized tonight at 9 p.m. ET when the No.2 Las Vegas Aces and No.5 Phoenix Mercury play the decisive fifth game of their semi-final series. Las Vegas forced the rubber game with a 93-67 blowout on Wednesday night that saw Phoenix lose custody Kia Nurse (the only Canadian remaining in the playoffs) to a knee injury in the first minute. She was ruled out for the season with an ACL tear. The winner will face the No. 6 seed Chicago Sky in the final, which begins Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Chicago survived two singles playoff games before toppling the seeded Connecticut Sun in four semifinal games. Two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker, 35, is still going strong for Chicago, averaging 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game in the playoffs for her hometown team.
This weekend on CBC Sports
Here are the live events you can watch on TV and online:
Beach Volleyball – World Tour Finals: Defending world champions Canada Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes completed a perfect 4-0 round robin today to win their group and advance directly to the women’s semi-finals. These start at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, and you can also stream the quarter-finals starting at 8:30 a.m. ET. The final will take place Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET. Watch them all as part of CBC Sports’ live coverage of the women’s and men’s tournaments here. The On the way to the Olympic Games the show on Saturdays at 2 p.m. ET on CBC TV also features the World Tour Finals.
Junior Hockey – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies vs Shawinigan Cataractes: The second of six Canadian Hockey League games broadcast on CBC television this season features the defending Memorial Cup champions. Rouyn-Noranda won it in 2019 before the tournament was canceled for the next two years due to the pandemic. The Huskies are off to a 2-1-0 start to the QMJHL season, while Shawinigan suffered two shootout losses. Watch the game live Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on CBC TV, the CBC Gem streaming service, the CBC Sports app or CBCSports.ca.
You are aware. Have a good long weekend. I’m talking to you on Tuesday.