For most supporters, when a player from your club is chosen to represent the national squad, there is a sense of accomplishment — even pride.
For, in most countries, how the national team goes, so does the sport.
A perfect example is in the U.S. — exposure for soccer is at an all-time high after its national team shocked its way into the Confederations Cup final against Brazil.
Despite the loss to the South American giants in the final, just making it that far has the U.S. media broadly painting that success as a reflection on the health of their game.
But in Canada, the same cannot be said.
The sport here is at its healthiest in a generation. The emergence of professional clubs has the most widely played recreational sport fast approaching a tipping point into mainstream sportsdom — and it recently has had little or nothing to do with the success, or lack thereof, by our national teams.
Not only do few club supporters take pride in seeing one of their players off to represent Canada at international competitions, but they even display a level of annoyance and frustration when it happens.
A “well, how many games are they going to miss?” attitude pervades Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto — which is hit particularly hard by player loss each year.
The club vs. country debate — which centres on where players and fans should place their priorities — is quickly being shoved aside by the passionate support of club soccer and there is a real danger in that.
For a country to do well, it needs to have the support of the clubs to facilitate it. Word that TFC has put significant pressure on the Canadian Soccer Association to not draw so heavily from its player pool is troubling.
More troubling is that the CSA seems to have bowed to that wish. Dwayne De Rosario (who declined an invite), Adrian Serioux, Jim Brennan and Nana Attakora-Gyan will not join Canada for this summer’s Gold Cup — one competition where Canada has done well.
If soccer is ever going to cross over into the mainstream culture here, the national team needs to win international competitions — the U.S. success demonstrates that. And presently, the national team can’t do that if the clubs are only interested in winning domestic competitions.
– Watch Ben Rycroft on the It’s Called Football show every Monday at metronews.ca;