Before we go anywhere with this post take a minute and read the latest blog from former Canadian International Tam Nsaliwa here.
Now that you have read his rant, I feel that it is certainly something worth drawing some further attention to. He raises a number of points that many of us will have a very strong reaction to. It is his main point though, a very strong critique of Canada, that has the most value for us. It has value because he is right. For soccer to reach another level in Canada the end result has to become all that matters. As fans we would just be lying to ourselves if we actually said we would rather have a team with squeaky clean track records than make the World Cup. The fact of the matter is that to an individual we would all be willing to overlook character flaws in any of the National team players if that player was helping Canada find success.
So why does Tam even feel the need to make this case even though a number of years ago he renounced his Canadian citizenship? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that he only ever received 13 caps for Canada despite playing at some very strong clubs in Europe including AEK Athens. Tam was forced to the fringe of the Canadian squad by former managers, including Paul James, and in the end when forced to choose international games over club games, he made the choice to give up his Canadian citizenship so that he could have an easier time getting work in the EU. Nsaliwa is not necessarily a player who deserted Canada, but instead is a player who may feel that in some ways Canada deserted him.
So that is where I personally feel his blogged rant is coming from. It is coming from a player who spent many years dealing with a level of frustration that Canadian managers saw perceived character issues with him, and that kept him away from the national team. The issue of whether or not he was a talented enough defensive midfielder to consistently get calls to Canada when the likes of Julian De Guzman and Patrice Bernier were already in the squad is not relevant to this at all. It makes no difference to his point that Canada has been putting winning second, or even lower, for far to long.
When you get past all the asides that his blog goes on and the discussion of players who have nothing to do with Canada you get to him making a point that we can't afford to ignore. You get to a question that I think we all need to ask ourselves. Is winning the most important thing, or for that matter is it the only thing that matters when it comes to professional sports? Or, can we as fans, players, and coaches in this country afford to put character over results?
It is certainly a hard question to answer. Ideally we could all be like Barcelona and have several players who are at the top of the world in terms of talent and avoid the negative attention that follows so many of their peers. We don't live in an ideal world. We live in Canada, a country that struggles to get results more often than not and far too often we end up crying foul when we feel that we have been done wrong. Is there a way for Canada to put winning first and still be a team of players that the next generation can look up to? Of course there is, just like a kid in England can still look up to Wayne Rooney. No matter the character of a player off the field what is going to matter at the end of the day is what they do on the field and how many games they help that team win.
That is the point I take away from Nsaliwa's blog and it is a point that is very important. Much more important then a lot of what mr. James had to say about players like Tam in "Cracked Open".