London, UK—Kevin De Bruyne and Mo Salah at Chelsea, Gerald Pique and Paul Pogba at Man Utd: just a few examples of a familiar cautionary tale. World football is full of these easy-to-miss moments—when big clubs (inexplicably) let go players of that, each in their own way, go on to define the modern game.
In the last year, we’ve seen a similar trend off the pitch as well. In the UK, Clive Tyldsey spoke out on twitter about losing his commentary role for ITV, and a reshuffle of BBC pundits also hit the headlines.
But Kristian Jack’s shocking departure from TSN stands out—not just because of what KJ has brought to the game, but also because of the timing of the decision.
From the outside at least, it’s also a decision that epitomizes a two-fold failure on the part of Canadian media: to support Canada’s growing footballing reputation on the one hand, and to support one of its most vocal advocates on the other.
Here in the UK, the media is on a daily frenzied hunt for anything football related. And UK players making waves in foreign leagues would be back-page news in a flash. The problem is that we don’t have those players, and we don’t have that news. Jude Bellingham and Jordan Sancho are plying their trades respectably at Borussia Dortmund.
But Canada is in a unique position. The country can lay claim to arguably the world’s hottest talent in Champions League-winning Alphonso Davies, not to mention the Ligue 1 topping Jonathan David at Lille and Atiba Hutchinson for Besiktas in Turkey.
The whole footballing world is watching these players, and at the very least is starting to understand their commercial value and significance. The whole footballing world that is—except Canadian media. In what amounts to an enormous strategic oversight, decision-makers are somehow failing to recognize how Davies in particular could become as prominent as Michael Jordan for a new generation of sports fans.
How many teenagers have waltzed into the Bayern Munich first team and single handedly redefined a playing position in the process? And how many have done so from a country where football isn’t even the major sport? Something like this is very rare and likely has never happened before; there’s never been a story like it.
Perhaps that’s precisely why Canadian media lacks the necessary frame of reference to appreciate what’s happening. Maybe that’s why decision-makers are not picking up on the significance of what could amount to a golden generation of players.
But that’s also precisely why someone like KJ is so important. Not only because he was able to raise the level of conversation around the game and boost Canada’s footballing IQ in general, but also because he was uniquely placed to connect Canada to the wider footballing world, and vice versa.
With a World Cup on home soil only five years away and Euro 2020 right around the corner, and with the global profile of Davies and David only set to rise, Canada soccer is on course with a once-in-a-lifetime date with destiny.
Will the country take the opportunity that players, pundits and fans are striving for—to step up onto the world stage, and stand head and shoulders amongst the finest teams in the game?
Will it invest in and support the nascent growth of fandom and talent both on and off the pitch?
Or will the greatest chance Canada ever had to boost its footballing reputation pass by with little or nothing to show, through a lack of interest and/or understanding from sports media companies?
KJ went out with class because he’s a class guy. He made the studio a class-room—educating fans and enriching the game for all. Whatever he does next will be just as successful. But whether Canadian football will be without him is, for now at least, very much in doubt.