It was supposed to be a fairy tale fixture—the Canadian Championship final that everyone was waiting for.
A mouthwatering contest that set the stage for a footballing upset of David & Goliath proportions, and one that could unequivocally rubber stamp the legitimacy of the Canadian Premier League (CanPL).
Instead, it has turned into a bit of sh*tshow and, as yet, a no-show as well. As all the drama we were expecting to see is being played out on social media rather than on the pitch.
Over the weekend, Forge owner Bob Young released an open letter to the Canadian footballing community, decrying his team’s continued inability to train. And to compound matters even further, a recent COVID-19 outbreak at training camp has sent TFC home as well.
On yesterday’s Waking the Red Weekly presented by Footy Talks, Jeffrey P. Nesker picked up the threads of what’s proving to be an increasingly complex and confusing story:
“That letter rubbed me the wrong way because weren’t Forge one of those early perks enjoying teams? Remember when the CanPL was selecting CONCACAF berths based on who had signed the paperwork first? Where were the open letters then?”
“Also, it’s CONCACAF, and when has CONCACAF ever been fair? When has the Champions League ever been a fair tournament? I mean MLS sides normally come in ice-cold to face Liga MX sides that are always midway through their season. This illusion of fairness is already flawed logic. Fair and CONCACAF are mutually exclusive terms.”
“And then, it’s a pandemic. I mean you couldn’t have scripted it better. There were so many people complaining about Forge’s inability to train as the rationale behind whether or not they would be able to be competitive in this game. And now TFC can’t train. So, we’re right back to square one.”
What are the reasons behind Forge FC’s inability to train, especially considering that, prior to the recent COVID outbreak, TFC had been back on the training pitch for several weeks?
Mitchell Tierney puts the discrepancy down to MLSE’s proof of concept and Forge’s relative inexperience in handling the multiple logistical factors involved in a creating a training camp ‘bubble’:
“It could come down to the plan TFC laid out versus the plan Forge laid out. I mean if you’re MLSE first off you have a lot more people in your organisation who can take care of these things and you have proof of concept.”
“You can be like look at what we did with the Leafs, look at what we’ve done with the Raptors. There’s been minimal outbreaks for both of those teams. We’ve already had success doing this so we’ll follow the same protocols with TFC returning to training, and maybe that’s one thing that can convince the Canadian Government versus we don’t know what Forge FC looks like.”
For Michael Singh, Forge FC aren’t only hampered by a lack of logistical experience but also by a lack of finance—and potentially public interest. While TFC have the resources to support their playing squad throughout quarantine, Forge and many of its players would struggle to meet the financial demands of a ‘bubble’:
“The first rule that I was taught in journalism school is ‘follow the money.’ If you do that, you’ll find that it’s tough to consider Forge FC a top class professional team when some of their players are getting paid below minimum wage. It’s tough to ask players that are reserves for Forge to commit to a full quarantine ‘don’t go anywhere, don’t do anything else’ type of camp for a month if they’re making less than a living wage.”
“And it’s also about how big your brand is, how far that reaches and how important that public interest is. For me, Toronto FC are at the top of the charts in terms of people hoping to see this club get back to training. Forge FC comes a little bit below that. One day, I hope to see them on that same level, but we’re not there yet, in terms of payments and in terms of how big that club is. So have they been brushed aside? Yes. Is it fair? Perhaps not.”
And the final piece of the puzzle is when the fixture could actually be scheduled. Even if both teams were cleared to train tomorrow, TFC’s calendar is stacked, and Forge would be facing one of North America’s strongest sides with little more than a week to prepare.
For Singh, it raises serious questions about Canada Soccer’s approach to the fixture in general:
“We’re ten days away from that potential March 20 spot. Does Forge FC even have enough time to prepare for that match? That’s tough! I understand why Forge FC fans are upset. I understand why Forge FC is upset. And yeah sure it’s unfair, but anyway that you spin this, it’s tough.”
“How long has Canada Soccer known that this match was supposed to be played in the first quarter of 2021? They waited till the very last second to sort of squeeze this match out, when hypothetically it could have been done in February or January or even last year. It wouldn’t have been easy, but it could have been done. And just like us with school projects or whatever, you wait till the last minute and sometimes you just get screwed over.”
For Nesker, however depleted, unprepared and unprofessional it’s going to be, the Canadian Championship is a sorry saga that needs a swift resolution for all parties:
“Sometimes you just gotta take that C-, because seriously, it’s looking like this is going to be a game between Chris Armas’ coaching staff and Bob Young and his kids right? And at this point I’ll take it!”
“Just play it. It doesn’t mean as much as it should. But maybe when everything returns to normal we can have any actual match in front of fans for bragging rights. And then Bob’s your uncle right? It’s proving increasingly difficult to get angry about a match that is seemingly impossible to play.”
What are your thoughts on the Canadian Championship sh*tshow? Do you think Forge has been treated unfairly? Was Bob Young right to take it to Twitter? And how would you like to see the fixture go ahead?
For everything TFC, check out the full episode of this week’s Waking the Red Weekly now, also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify! Kindly like, rate, and subscribe!