January 29, 2009
For immediate release
The Voyageurs Demand Soccer Coaching Change
Time for Dale Mitchell to Go, Say Canadian Soccer Fans
The Voyageurs, Canada’s leading soccer supporters group, call on the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) to reconsider its decision to ratify Mr. Dale Mitchell as coach of the Canadian senior men’s soccer team.
Given the extremely poor results, substandard play and lack of leadership in the men's national program, the Voyageurs believe that Mr. Mitchell should be immediately relieved of his responsibilities.
The success of the men's national program – and with it, the development of elite soccer players to represent Canada – depends on the CSA's ability to respond to the flagrantly deficient situation within the men’s national team. This team has performed well below its potential ever since Mr. Mitchell was appointed coach in 2007, which we believe is linked to Mr. Mitchell's inability to inspire top performances from his players. Canada's recent result in attempting to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup (zero wins, two draws and four losses in our semi-final qualifying group, for just two points out of a possible 18) is unacceptable, given the calibre of elite players Canada currently enjoys. Mr. Mitchell’s overall record with the national men's team is three wins, five draws and eight losses, with two of those wins coming against CONCACAF minnow St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the preliminary round of World Cup qualifying. These results speak failure, and the lion’s share of that failure belongs to Mr. Mitchell.
The CSA must also take into consideration the unacceptable reluctance of Mr. Mitchell himself to openly assume his share of the responsibility. Mr. Mitchell has exacerbated his estrangement with the Canadian soccer community with unnecessary criticism of his players and disrespectful comments about Canadian fans, who have always unconditionally supported the team on the pitch.
As the passionate voice of Canadian soccer fans across the country and around the world, the Voyageurs are not so naive as to believe that Mr. Mitchell is the only party responsible for the disappointing results of the men's national team. We believe that individual players need to be called to task for their performance on the pitch during the recent World Cup qualifying campaign. As elite professionals, those putting on the Canada jersey have to understand that much more should and will be expected of them. We admire their 100% effort and commitment, but cannot respect those who decide to make weak excuses for poor results. The Voyageurs also believe that the CSA needs to show stronger leadership in taking Canadian soccer to the next level. We as fans have made a concerted effort to bolster our game-day support of all Canadian soccer teams, male and female and of all age groups, just as we support our local Canadian clubs. We are all in this together.
Yet the ultimate responsibility for team performance in top-level men’s soccer has always and will always belong to the coach and his technical staff. This is true in every serious soccer nation in the world. There are sufficient precedents from around the world to prove that Mr. Mitchell's current status is an aberration. He has not done his job and needs to go.
The Voyageurs ask that Mr. Mitchell's release be immediately followed by the opening of a rigorous hiring process to identify the best professional to lead our men's national program to international success. Canada deserves to give its best shot, and the time is now. After the abject failure of the recent World Cup qualifying campaign, and his previous failure with the winless and goalless Canadian Under-20 team at the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup (hosted by Canada), there can be no justification for the continuation of Mr. Mitchell in his current position.
The Voyageurs wish to make clear that Canadian fans have no personal agenda with Mr. Mitchell. We have admired his contributions and performances as a leading Canadian player and have recognized his past successes as a youth coach. Those fine moments, however, have faded. When it comes to the men's national team, it is time to look to a brighter future under someone else's leading light.
We reject any other solution on the part of CSA Board of Directors. The Voyageurs encourage the current president and his board to give first priority to the interests of Canadian national soccer, its players and its fans, and to ignore partisan interests, regional lobbies, personal agendas and extraneous motivations that have nothing to do with ensuring the long-sought success of our men's national program.
There can be no excuses. Nor can there be any other acceptable response from the Canadian Soccer Association. We call on the CSA to make the right decision, now.
From the CBC:
De Guzman rips into Canadian Soccer Association
Canadian midfielder Julian de Guzman blasted the Canadian Soccer Association on Thursday, saying it does not take the game seriously, and that is what led Canada's national team to play like "a bunch of amateurs" in its failed bid to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
De Guzman, a midfielder with Spanish club Deportivo La Coruna, told the Associated Press that Canada's national team would never succeed internationally until major changes are made.
He noted that the federation has only scheduled one friendly — against Cyprus on May 30 — in preparation for this July's Gold Cup, the CONCACAF region's championship tournament.
"They're not going in to win it," De Guzman said. "We're going to play one game in May to prepare for the Gold Cup? How real are you being trying to compete at a high level internationally?
"It feels like we're taking a step backwards. That's the feeling in the whole association. They lack knowledge about the present game."
CSA spokesman Richard Scott told the Canadian Press he preferred not to comment, although he did say the team will play more than one friendly before the Gold Cup.
When contacted by the Associated Press, Canadian team manager Morgan Quarry said he had no comment.
Canada, ranked No. 9 in the region and 86th overall, has already been eliminated from qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after a dismal performance left it last in its group behind Honduras, Mexico and Jamaica. It failed to win a match, earning only two draws in six matches.
"The players we have were good enough to make the World Cup, I don't care what anyone says," said de Guzman, who was selected as Canada's best player in 2008. "I heard statements from the coach [Dale Mitchell] where he said the team wasn't good enough … but this team for me was the best team … It was just the way he went about it — we went about it like a bunch of amateurs."
De Guzman, who has made 35 appearances for Canada and helped lead the team to the Gold Cup semifinals in 2007, said he would never refuse a call-up — even during his off-season break from playing in Europe.
He said he took great pride in playing for his country, although he feared that motivation would be absent at the Gold Cup unless some changes were made.
"You're not going to make everyone happy if you don't have a proper plan," the 27-year-old Toronto native said. "But if they're going to just go about it like amateurs and waste our time, then it doesn't really make it interesting for all the guys. We're not playing a provincial tournament here. This is a different level of football, and they're taking it like a provincial tournament."
De Guzman said he has voiced his concerns to the CSA but hasn't heard any response.
"I'm lost for ideas right now," he said. "I already gave all my ideas out, and they put them in their back pocket and sat on it."
This isn't going away any time soon.