Opinion Column

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME: Ottawa Fury FC makes some major signings

By Phil Cottrell, Daily Observer

Generic soccer photo

Generic soccer photo

Following the departure of a significant number of players from last year's squad, the new head coach of Ottawa Fury FC has been a busy boy. As an aside, and in reflection, the significant success of the team last year had, as could be expected, the effect of making the players attractive targets for other clubs who came knocking, and who can blame a player for moving if it means more money for him and his family.

Paul Dalglish, the head coach of the Fury, has made some recent major signings which, at least on paper, look pretty interesting and quite impressive.

Canadian International Kyle Porter has joined the squad. He is a versatile forward/defender who brings North American Soccer League (NASL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) experience to Ottawa and joins Fury FC from the Atlanta Silverbacks. Porter, 25, is a versatile player who should be a threat for Fury FC on the right side and hopefully will provide the club with ample depth at several positions this season.

Ottawa Fury FC have also signed defenders Onua Thomas Obasi and Rich Balchan pending ITC (international transfer) approval. Obasi comes to Fury FC after helping the Rochester Rhinos to the United Soccer League (USL) Championship. USL, is the third tier of soccer in North America after MLS (Division 1) and NASL (division 2). Balchan has both MLS and NASL experience.

Also signed up is Northern Irish International and former New York Red Bulls midfielder Jonny Steele. Steele brings a wealth of MLS and NASL experience to the Nation's Capital and a touch of familiarity having played under Paul Dalglish in Tampa Bay and alongside Paulo Junior ( a key Fury player ) at Real Salt Lake.

Steele, 29, is an attacking midfielder who has certainly proven himself in North American soccer circles.

The club earlier announced the signing of former Derby County player James Bailey. The English midfielder has played in England's Championship Division (Derby County), English League One (Coventry City, Crewe Alexandra, Barnsley) and English League Two (Coventry City). Bailey joins the club from the Indian Super League club FC Pune City. As usual and as in all cases, as per club policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Added to the squad is Jamaican speedster Dennis Chin, versatile American defender/midfielder Lance Rozeboom and Brazilian defender Fernando Timbo, both pending international transfer approval.

One very interesting, quite exciting and very recent signing (although it is referred to as a pre-signing) is that of former Liverpool midfielder and Real Madrid youth product Gerardo Bruna. Hopefully we will get more news on this youngster later.

Finally, Fury FC have extended the contracts of Brazilians Rafael Alves and Paulo Junior. The duo both played vital roles in Ottawa's Fall Season Championship and run to the Soccer Bowl and both are set to remain in Fury colours for the next two seasons.

Soccer makes a major mark here in Canada

In 2015, the top seven one-day attendances for any stadium competitions in Canada were all soccer matches, with the top-two the CONCACAF ( Central, North American and Caribbean conference) Champions League Final in Montréal (61,004) and the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 quarter-final in Vancouver (54,027). This was a record for a Canadian national team match of any sport on home soil.

The FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 drew a record 1,353,506 cumulative spectators over 52 matches, with an average of 26,539 per match. The average attendance for the games that Canada played in was 48,380 with three of the matches over 50,000. In fact, world wide more than 750 million television viewers watched the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015, as FIFA's flagship women's competition delivered all-time record viewing figures that underlined the global success of the event in a breakthrough year for women's football.

In 52 matches, the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 also set provincial soccer attendance records in four of the six provinces: 54,027 in British Columbia; 53,058 in Alberta (featuring the Christine Sinclair penalty goal); 32,716 in Manitoba; and 13,138 in New Brunswick.

In CONCACAF Champions League club competition, the Montreal Impact's three championship stage matches drew attendances of 38,104 for the quarter-finals (with an ear splitting thunderous applause on Cam Porter series-winning goal), 33,675 for the semifinals and 61,004 for the grand final. In Major League Soccer, 51 matches in Canada drew more than one million cumulative spectators (1,048,254) for an average of 20,554 per home match in either Montréal, Toronto, or Vancouver. Toronto FC had the fourth-highest attendance in the league with an average of 23,451 per match, including a season best 30,266 for an all-Canadian clash against Montréal. Then in the MLS playoffs, Vancouver drew 27,837 for their home conference semifinals on Nov. 8.

In the NASL, our own Ottawa Fury FC set an NASL post-season attendance record with 9,346 spectators, although that was bettered in the final in New York.

Following the regular club season, Canadian supporters helped on our men's team, by acting as Canada's 12th man at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers home match in Vancouver on Nov. 13, with a critical 1-0 victory against Honduras. That home win drew 20,108 fans, a record for the Canadian Men's National Team in British Columbia. These are numbers you may not read about from our so called 'sports' columnists.

However, in the bad news department

FIFA managed to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons as their dirty laundry was aired for all to see with horrendous tales of corruption and greed. It is a black eye for the game, although that being said, it has not filtered down to the playing level. For the top clubs all the way down to the little kids and their parents, it is game on as usual.

The whole FIFA organization needs one massive clean up. Seize its assets, liquidate all of them and start afresh. I would not be disappointed to see a non-soccer person take over, although that is pretty unlikely as currently it seems that the front runner for the job is Sheikh Salmen Bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa (I do hope that he shortens his name), who is president of the Asian Football Federation, cousin of the King of Bahrain, and fan of Manchester United from his days of studying accountancy in England.

Regardless of whatever happens this could possibly be a turning point to more positive days ahead for FIFA. But please make it all transparent in the future. Tell us where the money goes and no more skeletons in the closet for goodness' sake. It is a sad situation indeed though, and many of us have lost all respect for FIFA, but then, personally, I don't hold many of some of these international sports organizations in high regard anyway. That list includes the International Olympic Committee (ICO), and track and field to name one area, and let's not even get into the international organizations for cycling, swimming or some of the other individual sports. Even the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) very recently fired three of its top senior people.

And now there is a big match fixing issue with top level tennis. Frankly, some of the major North American sports leagues do themselves no favours when they ignore mounting concussion evidence for example. As fans, we have to somehow keep enjoying our sport, whatever sport it is, despite all the negativity that can sometimes surround it. That's tough sometimes.

Sports stars of 2015

It was interesting to see in a recent National Post newspaper, two soccer players mentioned in a feature of top athletes of 2015. Kadehisha Buchann, the 20 year old central defensive sensation from Brampton was mentioned. Awarded FIFA's Young Player Award from the Women's World Cup, she even got her face on a postage stamp. Also mentioned was Sebastian Giovinco, the diminutive Italian who plays for Toronto FC and was instrumental in getting TFC into the playoffs for the first time in the team's history. He was also named the league's most valuable player.

Never marry a football fan

That is the message from Australia, where according to a letter in a magazine that has gone viral online, a mother discovered two years too late that the "unique and romantic" name Lanesra that her husband picked for their daughter, was his football team Arsenal of the English Premier League spelled backwards.

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, support local soccer! If you have any comments on the beautiful game please contact me at cottrell@nrtco.net or call 613-587-4856.