(In the spirit of continuing to bring SBI readers a diverse range of soccer news, we will now be offering The Canadian Soccer Corner, a weekly column on matters pertaining to Canadian soccer. Former SBI correspondent Duane Rollins, he of the excellent site The 24th Minute, is back in the SBI fold and will be providing us with a weekly look at the world of Canadian Soccer. Whether you are Canadian or American, the segment should be both informative and entertaining. Here is the first installment.)
By DUANE ROLLINS
There is something fitting about the naming of Paul Peschisolido as the manager of Burton Albion. After all, when a club’s been around for 59 years and has never had a sniff of the Football League, people tend to be dismissive of it. And such was always the case with Peschisolido – undersized, only around because he married well and way, way too Canadian to ever be worth paying attention to.
But yet he stuck around forever. Playing 15 years and 520 league and cup fixtures, he managed to score 137 goals, mostly in the Championship. All and all not a bad little career for a guy few ever gave much thought to.
In a way Peschisolido was the epitome of a Canadian player. He had to fight for everything he ever got and he never really gained any attention or respect for his accomplishments. He’s more known for marring Birmingham City’s managing director Karren Brady than anything he ever did on the pitch.
So it makes perfect sense that he would start his managerial career in a forgotten outpost. After all, no one important was going to give the little Canuck much of a chance.
But in a year that has been tough on Canadian soccer supporters, Pesch’s appointment is being viewed as significant. Not only will he be the first Canadian to ever manage in the Football League (former Millwall manager Jimmy Nichol was born in Hamilton, Ont., but did not spend any significant time in the country), but he’s a guy that was long associated with the ups and mostly downs of the Canadian national team. He bleeds maple syrup, or something like that.
Except maybe he doesn’t. Appearing on 5Live Football Daily, Peschisolido was asked what it meant to be the first Canadian manager. His answer was not what the nationalists wanted to hear.
"Well, I don't really feel Canadian anymore to be honest," he said without a hint of shame.
And really, how could you blame him? He’s lived in England his entire adult life, he’s married to a British woman and he makes his livelihood in the UK.
He probably doesn’t even like hockey anymore! Canada isn’t his home now. It’s just a place he visited occasionally to lose mind-boggling frustrating World Cup qualifying games to Trinidad and Tobago in front of mostly indifferent crowds.
But still, as a supporter of the game in Canada, there is something sad about hearing that. And it speaks to the challenge the northern most country in CONCACAF faces. Without a league to call our own, Canadians must leave the country at an early age if they have aspirations of playing professionally. In Pesch’s case he had to leave Canada after the Canadian Soccer League folded in 1992. He’s never really been back.
Things might be changing now. The TFC academy is up and running and the Vancouver Whitecaps have one of the best development programs in the region. But, it will be a while until Canadian fans see the results internationally.
In the meantime more players like Peschisolido (or Owen Hargreaves, or Jonathon deGuzman, or…) will end up feeling something other than Canadian. And that’s, no matter how understandable the reasons may be, a shame. After all, Canada needs guys like Peschisolido to hold onto a little of their hoser-ness if it is to ever get ahead.
Canada is an enigma in CONCACAF. It’s rich, interest in the sport is growing and hundreds of thousands of people play the sport. But yet the country struggles internationally. I will be exploring the issues that haunt the game in Canada – along with some of the things that are giving us Canucks hope – in a weekly Canadian column exclusive to SBI. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through my website The 24th Minute (www.24thminute.com).