If the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) gave the equivalent of a red card the other day when it suspended the Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF) over its ban on turbans, then the QSF just took their imaginary ball and went home.
On Tuesday night, at an emergency meeting called to address the CSA suspension, it all went wrong for Canadian soccer. What should have been a simple decision to reverse a ban preventing Sikh players from wearing turbans, was perverted for purposes that have nothing to do with soccer.
Instead of making a firm declaration on where it stood, the QSF, according to the Canadian Press, has decided to put a 10-day embargoon their decision. For what, it’s not yet known. But officials are playing it out like they need time to solve the problem.
QSF ban flash point for many issues
In the meantime, it’s clear that the Quebec Soccer ban on turbans has become a flash point for a number of issues.
It has, in one respect, become a rallying point for the separatist parts of Quebec — who have used it to light a fire under their constituents and inflame this mini-crisis.
It has, in another sense, become a discussion for the place of religion in sport — with either side shouting down the other over the need for absolute abolition or absolute acceptance.
And moreover, it has become a microcosm for all that has been wrong inCanadian soccer for the last 10 years.
Emboldened by the support of Quebec Premier Pauline Marois on Tuesday, the QSF has done the unthinkable, and left its ban on turbans flapping in the wind — and along with it — thousands of Canadian soccer players.
For some perspective though, this didn’t start out as the game of political football it has become. This whole scenario began as a result of the QSF wanting to send a message to the Canadian Soccer Association.
Recent changes to the Canadian soccer landscape have directly impacted the way the QSF is funded.
A big chunk of the Quebec Soccer funding comes from the province of Quebec. The province rewards the success of the QSF youth all-star and provincial teams with tiered funding. Essentially, the better the Quebec teams play against the rest of the country, the more money Quebec Soccer gets.
QSF funding in state of flux
With the CSA’s recent moves to eliminate some of those competitions — a progressive decision to change the way players are developed — the QSF found its funding formula in a state of flux. Quebec soccer suddenly didn’t have a clear understanding of how it was going to be able to receive money from the provincial coffers.
By taking the stance it did on the turbans, the Federation is laying an eager bet. The QSF was hoping to draw the CSA into a larger discussion on a number of issues, including the funding, with the politically difficult turban issue being held in reserve as its trump card.
The CSA, for its part, has been recently emboldened by its own governance reform, one that saw the organization centralize power. As part of that reform, the national body had tried to remove petty regionalism from its board by limiting the number of provincial representatives.
Willingness for change
Given the country’s willingness to make change on that soccer level, the CSA felt compelled to take aggressive action when the QSF bucked its instructions and the public outcry screamed as it did. The QSF was suspended, for as much as anything, as a show of force.
For those who have been following the drama that is Canadian soccer, and its reform process, this was supposed to be the first major sign that the CSA was turning a corner. Finally, the national governing body was going to show the bravado it needed to actually govern soccer in this country. Privately, officials were calling it a change in the tides.
Unfortunately, for all sides, their political manoeuvres largely backfired. Neither side budged, and now a much larger bird of political prey has swooped in and hijacked what should have been a relatively routine soccer dispute.
With the Parti Québécois now handling the QSF’s public relations — communications and media strategy are now being funneled through the province — this has clearly moved beyond the soccer realm and into something else entirely.
Sadly, none of it has had anything to do with the reality that this bumbling move by Quebec soccer and the CSA’s attempt to re-assert itself is now keeping young kids — with turbans and without — from enjoying the beautiful game.