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Thursday 24 May 2012

Bringing the Game into Disrepute

    Martin Rennie’s post-match comments moments after last night’s second leg of the Voyageur’s Cup Final ended, those insinuating something sinister behind the selection of an Ontario-based referee for the match, were unseemly to say the least.

    Most likely his intention was to deflect blame away from the players and himself in light of the underwhelming performance and the defensive mindset of his selections. Toronto was there to be had and in both legs Vancouver began with the intention of locking down the midfield and not conceding; only bringing on talented and dangerous play-maker Davide Chiumiento in the later stages of the contest.

    To deflect is a common enough ploy in professional sports but was it really necessary to swipe at the integrity of the competition?

    Canadian soccer is rife with difficulties, both past and present, but accusations of bias and non-sporting intentions is a touch beyond the pale.

    Up to this point Rennie has carried himself - and been portrayed in the media - as calm, cool, and collected; methodical, logical, and precise. Was this simply an emotional slip? A glimpse behind the curtain? A fiery Scot behind the manicured persona? If so, that is fine, he is human after-all, but if it was more than that, there may be a problem.

    Such outbursts, claims of outside forces, are a regular occurrence in sport, especially in the heat of the moment. That he reiterated those comments later in a more professional press-conference setting – albeit somewhat led into the rephrasing by the particular line of questioning - is perhaps the most troubling aspect. Had they been left to die on the touchlines as the steam of the battle dissipated they could be chalked off as simple emotion.

    They echoed those expressed by Teitur Thordarson after last year’s final when the second leg was abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch and a continuing lightning storm. The abandonment prompted a reference to the previously-agreed-upon competition rules, which stated that any match abandoned would be restarted from the beginning upon resumption, thereby negating the one-goal lead Vancouver had accrued to that point.

    Vancouver was adamant the match should have continued, despite the accumulated pools of water on the pitch and the risk to the safety and well-being of players and fans alike; everyone else felt otherwise.

    When the rescheduled match was finally played Vancouver again took the lead, before succumbing to a further two goals from Toronto to lose that particular match and the championship.

    Does Vancouver really believe that there are shadow-forces conspiring against them? Does having Toronto in the competition somehow serve Canada better? Or is it just that it gets lonely when one stands alone against the results and they must somehow rationalize that feeling?

    For a second-straight year and third time in four, Vancouver have sullied Toronto’s victory by crying foul at the end. To express frustration is one thing, but to make accusations is another.

    One aspect of entering a competition in good faith is that the club must submit to the rulings of those in charge of proceedings. Any problems should be dealt with through official channels, not through barbed comments directed at the microphone.

    To be fair, most of the rest of the talk, from Rennie and from several players, did not further explore this theme and hit on the disappointment at not achieving the goal, not performing up to their level, not seizing the trophy that was briefly displayed within their grasp, and using this set-back to spur on the remainder of the season.

    Will anything further be done about these loose statements? Unlikely; time has a way of softening harsh words, but one thing is certain.

    Each year this competition grows in stature and intrigue, next year’s will be a doozy.

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