Opinion Column

COLUMN: San Antonio is the reigning NASL champions

By Phil Cottrell, Daily Observer

Generic soccer photo

Generic soccer photo

On a cold and misty night at Toyota Field, the San Antonio Scorpions reached the top of the North American Soccer League (NASL ) mountain and raised the Soccer Bowl trophy for the first time in their history with a 2-1 win over a determined Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

As a league the NASL is developing well. Any team on any given day could be the champion as there really is a significant degree of parity.

2015 will see the Jacksonville Armada join the league (and they have already sold a pile of season tickets). In 2016 the Virginia Cavalry will join as well as Oklahoma City FC and additionally there is a possibility of a Los Angeles franchise being added. On a longer list are San Francisco, Dallas and Hartford and possibly more than one Canadian club to join Ottawa and FC Edmonton. (Hamilton maybe?) Many question whether the quality will suffer from rapid expansion. But many also, who are with the league, believe that the international talent pool is big enough to handle more teams. Right now this league includes players from 44 countries, including 23 from the Caribbean.

The only concern is Atlanta. The Silverbacks are the current NASL team, but Major League Soccer (MLS), which is division 1 soccer in North America, will be putting a team in Atlanta in 2017, which in turn could cause problems for the existing NASL franchise.

MLS Playoffs

Meanwhile in MLS or North American Division 1 soccer, the semifinals two-leg payoffs see the Los Angeles Galaxie leading the Seattle Sounders by 1-0 in the west, with New York trailing New England in the Eastern conference by two goals to one. The final will be played on Dec. 7.

Women's world cup will be played on artificial turf

Despite the threat of a lawsuit from international female soccer players, there is no Plan B beyond playing the 2015 Women's World Cup of soccer on artificial turf. A group of the top female soccer players has threatened to file a lawsuit over the turf, saying it is discrimination since men would never play their World Cup on artificial turf. In response, FIFA has retained an independent consultant to examine the playing surface at venues in Ottawa, Moncton, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Euro Qualifiers

Euro is the second biggest soccer competition in the world after the World Cup. The difference is that it features only European nations. It is held every four years in between the World Cup years.

Euro 2016 will be held in France. There are 59 teams broken down into nine groups. The top two and the best third-placed side qualify. The other eight third-placed teams play off for four spots. The last recent round of matches produced some very interesting results.

There was drama in the Italy versus Croatia game, which was suspended for 10 minutes as flares rained down in the field. Nearly 20 Croatian fans were ejected from the game. The game ended in a 1-1 tie with Croatia really looking the better of the two sides.

There was a huge result for little Malta who drew 1-1 with Bulgaria. Meanwhile the Netherlands showed their class as they downed Latvia 6-0 and Iceland narrowly lost to the Czech Republic 2-1. It was also a good result for Wales who drew with Belgium, who have some great players but don't seem to come together as a national team. Austria beat Russia 1-0, Montenegro drew with Sweden 1-1, Scotland beat the Republic of Ireland 1-1 in a bruising and aggressive game"¦.if moves kick it. England continued their unbeaten form wining 3-0 against Slovenia with Rooney making his 100th appearance for England. Perhaps the biggest upset was the Faroe Island beating Greece in Athens 1-0. The Faroe Islands enjoyed their finest hour in their international history while Greek football fell to its knees. This would be rather similar to the Pembroke Lumber Kings beating the Montreal Canadiens in open Cup play"¦.although unfortunately we do not have open cup play here in hockey. A 1-0 win in Athens for the Faroe Islands is comfortably their greatest victory on the world stage, but the lack of success in that particular qualifying group piles on the misery for the Greece. Already down and under fire after losing at home to Northern Ireland, it could not have been a worse result. The Greek coach Claudio Ranieri has been indefinitely suspended.

Flanders Field Soccer match

UK Government Ministers are working on plans to commemorate the anniversary of the Christmas truce during the First World War with a football match on the battlefields of Flanders.

This coming Christmas will mark the centenary of when the guns fell silent and British and German troops emerged from the trenches and played football in no man's land.

The British Government is talking to the Football Association and the National Children's Football Alliance about how the 1914 matches can be remembered.

Winter Olympics date will not be moved

The 2022 Winter Olympics will remain in the traditional February time slot and will not be moved to make way for a rescheduled World Cup in Qatar according the head of the world's national Olympic committees.

FIFA is currently considering moving the World Cup to avoid the summer heat in Qatar, including a possible shift to January-February -- a period that would clash with the Olympics.

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, president of the Association of National Olympic Committees, said the Winter Games arrangements are already locked in and the onus is on the World Cup to avoid clashing with the Olympics rather than the other way around. Good.

Not a member of the FIFA Fan Club

Gary Lineker is a former English International and FIFA makes him want to throw up!

"Sepp Blatter has run it like a dictatorship for so long and he comes out with so much nonsense "¦ you have to be careful what you say, but the corruption is just "¦ yuk." Not very eloquent, but quite true.

Return football to its roots

When Leipzig entered Union Berlin's Alte Försterei stadium at a recent match, they were greeted with 15 minutes of silence from the 20,000 spectators, clad almost entirely in black. With permission from Union's management, fans had handed out black plastic ponchos at the gates, along with a pamphlet headlined, "Football culture is dying in Leipzig - Union is alive".

"Today's opponent embodies everything that we at Union don't want from football", it read. "A marketing product pushed by financial interests, players with euro signs in their eyes, supported by brainwashed consumers in the stands who have never heard anything of fan ownership."

A banner inside the stadium stated: "Football needs workers' participation, loyalty, standing terraces, emotion, financial fair play, tradition, transparency, passion, history, independence."

And they have a point. We are too far gone here in North America though.

Quotes

"There is nothing wrong with the manager "¦ I spoke with Uwe on Friday and I told him I was 100% behind him. He needs support from everyone, and he will get it" - Wigan owner Dave Whelan gives his support to manager Uwe Rösler on Nov. 9.

"Something is clearly not working "¦ Therefore, I have now come to the reluctant conclusion that for the long term good of the club, we need a change" - Wigan owner Dave Whelan, after sacking manager Uwe Rösler on Nov. 13.

A limerick and geography lesson

There was a goalkeeper called Walter

Who played on the island of Malta.

But his kicks were so long

And the wind was so strong,

That the ball ended up in Gibraltar!

Remember, whatever your sport, to win the game is great, to play the game is greater, but to love the game is the greatest of all. And the greatest game is played by over 250 million players in 200 countries. So, be part of the soccer fan base world wide, 3.5 billion and counting!Also, remember . . . support local soccer! If you have any comments on the beautiful game please contact me at cottrell@nrtco.net or call 613-587-4856613-587-4856.


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