The Beautiful Game

By Phil Cottrell, Daily Observer

Soccer player Alex Morgan at the 2013 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A.

Soccer player Alex Morgan at the 2013 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A.

Thousands of kilometres away, playing in the heat and being cruelly ignored by our so-called sports media, Canada's men's U-17 team is on a tough road as they chase history at the 2015 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship that is now underway in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

CONCACAF is the conference comprising North and Central American countries plus all those in the Caribbean. In their first game, after an early scare, the Canadians quickly found their feet and picked up a valuable three points to beat the Caribbean champions, Haiti 3-1. In the second match they also came behind against Costa Rica to win 3-2.

Canada has shown resilience and character each time and fully deserves to be tied for first place in Group B in this competition with Mexico who will be their ultimate test. They also have to play St. Lucia and Panama.

Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition

She looks every inch a Bond girl, reclining in the surf on a Caribbean beach. She has a physique that 007 himself would probably kill for.

"It's important to accept your body for what God gave you," Alex Morgan, star of the United States women's soccer team, told CNN in a phone interview, as she talks about her career and the importance of being comfortable in your own skin, whatever shape you are. Football's answer to Ursula Andress, the 25-year-old Morgan has posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Twice. Check it out . . I'm going to!

See these tattoos and think of world poverty

Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he removed his shirt after scoring against Caen recently in a bid to draw attention to world famine by displaying his new tattoos.

"When I took my shirt off everybody asked what these new tattoos were. I had 15 removable tattoos on my body, they are the names of real people who are suffering from hunger in the world," Ibrahimovic stated.

Social media went crazy. The Swede said he agreed to the venture to raise awareness for the United Nations' World Food Program, which fights against hunger worldwide.

Cyprus Cup

This is an important tournament for women's soccer and is a precursor to the Women's World cup to be played later this year here in Canada. We last won the tournament in 2011, however since then a lot of nations have improved their women's program significantly. The Canadian squad features a lot of young players for this tournament. Our women have made a good start with a 2-0 win over Scotland in the opening game earlier this week.

Amway Cup

The Amway Cup is the competition for the top Canadian Pro soccer team. It is contested each year between the three Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs i.e. Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Also included in the Amway Cup competition are the two North American Soccer League (NASL) clubs, namely Ottawa Fury FC and Edmonton FC. Matches for the cup will start in late April with Edmonton visiting Ottawa. The winner in 2014 was the Montreal Impact.

Montreal Impact and the CONCACAF champion's cup

The CONCACAF Champions League is the annual continental club soccer competition organized by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) since 1962 for the top football clubs in the region. It is the most prestigious international club competition in North American soccer. The winner of the CONCACAF champions league qualifies for the FIFA (International Football Association) club world cup.

As winners of the 2014 Amway Cup the Montreal Impact are playing in this this competition. The Impact became the first Canadian team to earn a result on Mexican soil in the knockout phase, with a 2-2 draw last week against Pachuca. The matches are a home-and-away series and so it was on Wednesday of this week that the return match was played in Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Now the Montreal Impact, despite winning the Amway Cup had a horrible MLS season last year, and this has reflected currently in poor season ticket sales and season ticket renewals so far for 2015. Nevertheless, Montrealers love international competition as they played in front of 38,000 fans in the Big O in the return leg.

The Impact needed only a draw to get through to the semifinals of the competition, but their play was unimaginative and they found themselves at the end of regulation time down 1-0 after earlier conceding an unnecessary penalty. It seemed that they would be exiting the competition, but then in the final minute of injury time, midfield substitute Calum Mallace sent a beautiful ball up to substitute forward Cameron Porter who beat his defender and sent the ball past the Pacha goalkeeper. The 38,000 fans went crazy and the Impact qualified for the semi finals. Talk about an exciting and dramatic finish.

The ugly face of racism and how to deal with it effectively

After a small group of Chelsea fans were filmed singing a racist chant and preventing a black man from boarding the Paris Métro recently, Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA tweeted "I condemn the actions of a small group of Chelsea fans in Paris. There is no place for racism in football!" Perhaps he is forgetting the time he said "there is no racism" in the game during an interview in 2011.

Both French police and Scotland Yard Police, however, are treating this incident very seriously: officers in Paris have launched an investigation into crimes of racial violence on public transport, and Scotland Yard has studied footage to identify those involved. Chelsea have unreservedly apologized to Souleymane S, the man who was verbally abused by Chelsea fans and has offered to invite him and his family to a match at Chelsea's home field, Stamford Bridge. Souleymane S has declined the invite, stating it is too early to go to a football match, but he is open to meeting with club officials.

"We feel ashamed but maybe we shouldn't because I refuse to be connected with these people," said José Mourinho, the Club's flamboyant manager. Chelsea have suspended a total of five fans so far while the investigation is ongoing. If sufficient evidence in uncovered, they all could be banned from Stamford Bridge for life, as indeed these knuckleheads should be.


November 2014: "Steven Pressley is here for the long-term, it is about the youth academy, the infrastructure and Steven is part of our long-term plans "¦ There is one other point I would like to mention: change. The club is historically short-terminist, we've had more managers than you've had hot lunches . . . but we have to keep a long-term vision" - Tim Fisher, the chairman of English Club Coventry makes it clear that the club's manager Steven Pressley will be at the helm for a long time to come.

February 2015: "Thanks to Steven for his efforts over the last two years ... Neil MacFarlane and Dave Hockaday have been placed in temporary charge." So, that long-term vision? . . .it lasted three months!

Opening game for Toronto

Toronto FC will open its ninth season in club history today, Saturday, March 7 in Vancouver against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, at 6 p.m, ET on TSN. It will mark the ninth consecutive year the team will open the season on the road and the sixth time the club will open on the West coast. For its home opener, Toronto FC will host the Houston Dynamo on Sunday, May 10 at 5 p.m.(TSN). The Reds (TFC) hold an all-time record of 5-3-0 (five wins, three losses and zero ties) in home openers.

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 worldwide, 3.5 billion and counting! Also, remember . . . support local soccer! If you have any comments on the beautiful game please contact me at or call 613-587-4856.

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