| Farting in the breeze
Chris Vaughan Griffiths
Nanaimo, BC, Nov. 28, 2006
When I was nine I was fortunate to be picked for the Welsh national schoolboy trials. I'm not Welsh, although I lived in northern Wales for four years and much later, adopted the distinctly Welsh name of my stepfather. I actually have a thousand years of English coursing through my viens but on that first day of trials I was as much a Welshman as Ryan Giggs. Not nearly as talented as Giggsy I wasn't good enough to reach the third round of trials but for one glorious week I had a dream intact... if I played well, if I played hard, if I played with heart, I might very well be playing for my country (or adopted country in this case). When I was nine I couldn't imagine a grander thing than to put on the national jersey and carry the hopes of an entire nation. Today I'm 42 and I still can't imagine a grander thing than putting on the jersey of my country, though, forgive me Ryan, that would be the Lions, not the Dragons.
Pride and privilege
Where I come from playing for your country is an honour and a privilege not to be squandered. Playing for your country is a rare opportunity that only the few are blessed with. Where I come from, in my heart that is, putting on the national colours is reaffirmation that one is good, very, very good, and by virtue of, good enough to be charged with defending the honour and pride of one's national hopes, dreams, the works.
I believe nomatter what the sport that if you are called, you should serve. Now I don't actually follow that belief through regarding being drafted for the armed forces but I do think that if it's not likely to get you killed somewhere in Bush's personal playground, you have an obligation to meet the call to arms. I find it repulsive when a player, male, female, English, Ugandan, whatever, shirks that call. Much like Tomasz Radzinski advising Frank Yallop that he's got better things to do than play for Canada or gifted marvels like Giggs, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes all refusing to wear the colours of Wales, Ireland and England respectively, for whatever damned reason they had on the day.
Interject the most pathetic phrase in football... "Today, Paul Scholes announced his retirement from international play". What the !@#$ is that! Self-imposed retirement is not an option. You'll retire Mr. Scholes when your Queen tells you it's time to retire. Until that day you cherish every bloody opportunity you have to wear your country's colours, as if it literally were your last. And when you hit the field you'll play like it's the only 90 minutes of football left in the universe.
Hooper the Harrasser
Enter a woman so blissfully unaware of the privilege of playing for one's country that almost single-handedly she was vibrantly willing to tear off not just her jersey but rather the entire squad's. Charmaine Hooper, timeless, ageless, talentless, senseless Hooper... ready at a moment's notice to rip the laces off Canada's boots if she can't have more of this and more of that. Hooper... a soccer player... yes, but clearly not a footballer.
The veteran captain Hooper was charged in the past with leading Canada to the goal line but at two critical junctures prior to international tournaments, in 2003 and 2005, she chose instead to lead Canada to the picket line. She should have wanted to play for Canada at all cost but chose rather to ruin Canada's World Cup hopes if her costs weren't met.
Back in 2003 she got a pay-packet compromise which in hindsight proved a mistake (NEVER BARGAIN WITH HOSTAGE TAKERS) 'cause two years later she was back for more, then, only months passed she was publicly denouncing her fellow Canadians who chose to play club championship finals (W-League) rather than an international friendly (vs. USA), to be topped most recently by her lawsuit against the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), only days prior to Canada heading off to the Peace Queen Cup in Korea.
A great many talents
Hooper has a talent for bad timing and for making an awful lot of noise. Hooper has a talent for being, frankly, a bit of a bitch and a lot self-absorbed. Hooper has a very nasty talent for abusing her position in the Canadian scheme of things, and as a role model, well, she hasn't been one. Hooper has a talent for screwing her country when she knows it will do the most damage but what she doesn't have is enough raw talent on the actual playing field to warrant her holier-than-thou attitude.
Point being, if she were a brilliant player, maybe Canada's best hope of reaching whatever final, then we, Canada, could put up with a little of her ceaseless crap – the price we pay for what she can offer the team! But she's simply not a great player. A good one, yes, but by no measure world-class in either ethic or skill.
The fact that she was dropped from the striker's role in year's past is an indication that even coach Even Pellerud knew she was sub-standard compared to the talent rising around her. She only learned to head the ball in her mid-thirties! She remains an arm-flailing, slightly dirty and bullish player. She wins most balls by virtue of such not by great skill and when dropped back into defense she's proved an absolute nightmare, even more chaotic than Kara Lang. In 2005 Hooper was the single-most-dangerous threat in Canada's 18-yard box!
Why Hooper has been given the leverage in the past to cause such mayhem off-field remains a mystery to me. Other than the 'living legend' misnomer that both the CSA and the bandwagon media have impressed upon us all, Hooper has no redeeming qualities that could justify Canada, the CSA nor you and me, putting up with her three, count them, three, boycotts of our beloved national team and/or its coaching staff.
For me personally one boycott is enough thank you very much. If I were Pellerud in 2003 Hooper would never have put on the big red jersey again, ever. There are, after all, hundreds if not thousands of very talented young women coast-to-coast who would die for the same opportunities that were gifted Hooper. Young women who likely would take pride in representing their country even if the money weren't great or the whole system weren't running like a well-oiled machine. Young women who actually understand and believe that wearing the jersey is an unparalleled honour, not a playground for self-serving aspirations.
Is the CSA a mess? Of course it is. It appears it always has been. Just like the Italian FA or the English FA or countless other national associations, there's an awful lot of off-field crap going on that we could all live without but unfortunately will endure regardless.
Were Ottawa players given a bias nod for W-League competition when New Jersey players (incl. Hooper) were denied... sure, somewhat, it could be seen that way if you believe the CSA's advance notice rule was applied unfairly, or is itself by nature, unfair.
Is there a connection between the CSA, the national team, Pellerud's bedroom and Greg Kerfoot's wallet and the Whitecaps dressing room? There certainly is and it may even be a major conflict of interest if you believe it's wrong that a private entrepreneur would desire a few guarantees for a multi-thousand-dollar investment and committment that no-one else was willing or able to make on behalf of our national team.
Has Pellerud crossed the line 'ordering,' then denying 'ordering' Sharolta Nonen to cancel contracts and move to Vancouver? It appears his own emails to Nonen should be enough to hang him beside Hooper. He likely should be stopped, fired, pickled and deported – whatever it takes to get him out of our national program but the bottom line remains intact and should not be lost admist it all, namely, that Hooper just doesn't know when to shut the !@#$ up and play football.
I simply don't care what Hooper's beef is because fixing 'the system' is not Hooper's concern. Publicly condemning her coaches and teammates is not Hooper's privilege. What I care about is that she had the chance to play football but instead chose to play politics, not just with her coach, teammates and national FA but also with our team, our game, and the hopes and dreams of likely tens of thousands of maple-covered fans. Sure, the entire institution is a mess but Hooper's job is not to put the CSA house in order but rather to put the ball in the back of someones' net, or keep it out of ours.
These days Hooper appears a little pre-occupied to do either job effectively and in the end, her near complete lack of reverence for wearing the jersey, her disrespect to teammates, her public condemnation of all things CSA, is as destructive a force as any mentioned above including Pellerud's antiquated thump & run strategy. It's taken about four years for Pellerud to realise his system is largely innapropriate and I really do hope it doesn't take nearly as long for this country to realise that nomatter what her concerns, Hooper's strategy is also completely innappropriate, and if she's going to insist on sinking Pellerud's ship, like a good captain, she should go down with her admiral.
© 2006 World Football Pages/Chris Vaughan Griffiths