So. Now what?

We’ve all been through dry spells. But they’re ultimately tolerable because they can’t be conclusively predicted, and because — theoretically, at least — they could end at any time. Well, the end of the World Cup is worse than any sexual dry spell — you know exactly when the drought will begin, and you know it definitely won’t rain for another four years.

So stock up on beer and Kleenex, footie fans — it’s gonna be a long 48 months.

If you believe that, then you’ve fallen into the mainstream media trap, wherein soccer really only “exists”, in any meaningful way, for a month every four years. Since you’re visiting this site, I’m guessing you know otherwise: there’s always plenty of soccer to be had. It may not carry the same importance or level of skill as a World Cup matchup — but if, as many writers have commented, a goal in soccer is like an orgasm, then we all know full well that beggars can’t be choosers.

Now that I’ve sufficiently and irredeemably mixed some ridiculous metaphors, I feel obliged to offer some variety of World Cup recap (as per my job description as “two-bit hack”), as well as a bit of a look forward.

Best (insert something here): No point, really. Best-of lists are made for TV, so that producers are justified in trotting out bunches of quick clips that have no connection to each other. And why do you want to read my favourite list, anyway? You surely have your own. But. Again, as a two-bit hack, I’m contractually obligated to proceed. So.

Italy-Slovakia stands out as one of the games of the tourney, both for the frantic final half hour, and the shocking result. Another group-stage standout (and yes, I’m serious) was Greece-Nigeria: an early red card for the Nigerians, and two teams (both knowing they don’t really have any business getting out of the round-robin) playing with abject desperation. Perhaps I’d notice all of its faults on second viewing, but I really did like it the first time.

I can’t not mention the opener, South Africa-Mexico — the atmosphere and uptempo spirit of the game gave us grandiose hopes for the tournament (which were nearly dashed in the following days, only to be revived as the tourney progressed). England-Germany was a classic — or a first-half classic, at least, when it seemed like the two heavyweights really would slug it out for 90 minutes (and, of course, Lampard’s non-goal will hopefully serve as the final straw to enact change within FIFA in regards to technology).

And then there are two sequences that will forever be seared into the memories of soccer fans — the rapid succession of penalty kicks in the Spain-Paraguay match, and the Luis Suarez handball that denied Africa its first-ever berth in the semi-finals, in the dying seconds of the Uruguay-Ghana quarter-final.

Biggest pile-of-shit games: Three easy choices here. England-Algeria, Paraguay-Japan, Brazil-Portugal.

Mark-out moment: To borrow some old wrestling terminology, there were was one moment that stood above all in getting me — a neutral in this tournament — to viscerally react. That moment was, sigh, Landon Donovan’s last-minute winner against Algeria, to send the USA into the Round of 16. Based on the fan-reaction videos I obsessively watched in the aftermath, I know that I wasn’t alone. I’ve already spilled many words on my reasoning for wishing the Yanks well in this tournament, so suffice to say, seeing that goal go in temporarily allowed me to dream some big dreams as a North American soccer fan.

Whether or not they’ll come to fruition is yet to be seen. Which brings us to…

What’s next? Preparation for 2014, of course. Actually, what am I saying? Preparations for 2014 began in Canada last year, when our 2010 hopes were dashed. Those plans were really only solidified when Stephen Hart had the “interim” tag removed from his head coach, but here we are. Hart has reaffirmed that everything he’s doing with the men’s national team is connected to the goal of qualifying for Brazil 2014.

As it should be.

We saw the power the World Cup can have in Canada over the past month. We saw unprecedented levels of media attention and coverage, and seemingly unprecedented levels of excitement, despite our country’s absence from the tournament. I’m not even going to bother wandering onto the national identity minefield, as I’ve already blown myself to bit on that one enough times.

But I will say that, regardless of how we may have reacted during the just-finished World Cup, it behooves us as Canadians to support our national team. That doesn’t mean asking the cursory “hey, why aren’t we in the World Cup?” question on a quadrennial basis. It means attending games, asking broadcasters to cover away games, buying merchandise and putting pressure on the Canadian Soccer Association to meet its stated goals of better governance and better results for our men’s national team.

Because it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the World Cup as “the world’s tournament” once every four years. Kick your feet up, relax, think of it as some grand show put on by “someone else”… maybe pick a team to cheer for and get slightly emotionally invested in their results.

But imagine if it was your team out there. Our team. A squad on that grand stage, wearing our colours, representing our country, and (hopefully) repaying us for the faith we placed in them.

The sit-back-and-relax option is much easier, I’ll admit. But when Canada gets back to the World Cup… it will be so, so much more gratifying.

It won’t happen without effort, though.

Therefore, to answer my own question (“Now what?”) — now we work towards the next one. See you in Brazil!

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8 Responses to “So. Now what?”

  1. Kevin Smith Says:

    I think if Canada makes it, most fans here who wear the colours of another country would not make a choice between the two, but would choose both*

    Why not wear a Canada shirt while draping, for example, a Brazil flag over your shoulders? Or vice versa. I think most footy fans would be cheering for their regular, but hoping that Canada does as well as possible (hopefully without playing against their regular team).
    And frankly, I think that’s fair. I changed my allegiances as the tournament went and teams dropped out, while other teams played boring footy. So if Canada gets there, they’ll be my #1, but once they’re gone, I’m not going to stop watching. For Canadian fans of other countries, they’ll probably cheer for both until one (or both) is out.

    *if the two teams play each other, I have no idea what they will do.

    • Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone should adopt Canada as their only focus. I watched and enjoyed the tournament immensely, as I usually do even though I’ve never seen Canada participate in one.

      It’s a weird chicken-and-egg situation with support and success. I dunno which comes first, but we haven’t had much of either over the past 25 years, so why not start with the support, and see if the success follows?

  2. just heard you on the radio in winnipeg. you sounded great.

    • Thanks Marc. Did the piece include all of my rambling about the Voyageurs?

      • Oh yeah.

        But don’t worry, you sounded very coherent.

        And you didn’t use any profanity; you’re certainly growing as a journalist.

  3. Hey alright! It’s rare a Voyageur can talk coherently about footy or the National Teams without being profane at least once. Squizz, you gone done us proud, boy.

    • Thanks. It’s also rare that I can talk coherently, and without profanity, about anything — so all the stars really must have aligned for this one.

  4. Dear Squizz,
    My name is Nadir Shirazi I am a Masters Student in Adult Education
    at the University of Toronto, as well as an avid CANADIAN SOCCER fan.
    I really would love to connect with you as I am doing a Masters Thesis on
    the role of Canadian identity and soccer if Canada were to make it to the World Cup. I am looking at the relationship between the Grassroots of soccer i.e the passionate soccer playing and watching public and their relationship to Team Canada. I am hoping to use my project to leverage the very support you have been talking about for the CSA, and the Canadian team. Please send me an e-mail nadirshirazi@gmail.com
    Sites like yours are a key focal point who focus on Canada beyond just the World Cup, and that group from my research is quietly growing.

    Great posts please keep it up. Its time to stop pointing fingers for whats wrong and support Stephen Hart and yes even the CSA.

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