In general, I am deeply proud of being a Canadian. Among many, many other things, it makes my job easier working with Europeans. Most countries accept advice from a non-neighbour in a way that they would feel uneasy from another European. So Germans do not mind receiving comments from a Canadian, in the same way they might mind from a Belgian, Greek or Italian.
However, today an article crossed my desk which shows such a cringing spiritual colonialism from Canadian officials it is difficult not to be ashamed of them.
Right, Americans and Europeans, please do not laugh too hard at what I am about to write, but here is the story:
Three years ago, there was a fixed match in the third-tier of Canadian soccer. A tiny game in a tiny stadium in Trois-Riveres, Quebec. The same gang of Croatian criminals who fixed matches across Europe arranged the game. We know this because last year, the German police successfully convicted the gang – the main leaders stood up in open court and admitted that they had fixed games across a number of different countries.
The German police made the documentation available to other police forces. Every other nation, except Canada, began their own investigation. The Canadians did not. Nor did the Canadian soccer officials do anything. For eighteen months, no sporting official in this country took any effective action to pursue the fixers in this country. They sat in this odd attitude (Head in the sand? Ears, eyes, mouth blocked – to hear, see or speak no evil? You chose the best metaphor.) They continued to do this despite plenty of newspaper columns and media attention to the issue. Whenever I was on the radio I would issue specific and public challenges for them to do something about this case. In fact, it was such common knowledge that the insult of the fans to the various teams often reflected how much fixing they thought was going on in the league.
Last month, former colleagues at CBC Television, got hold of the transcripts from the German police of the intercepted calls. It was a good documentary, but sadly, in their enthusiasm they over-sold their own involvement claiming in their media releases that this was a new story that they were ‘exposing’ for the first time. This allowed the sports officials to claim it was news to them, and that they would take action.
Now they have – through an excellent article by Ben Rycroft, the man almost-single-handedly responsible for making sure the scandal did not fade away – announced that they have decided what to do.
This is where the American, African, Asian and European readers should prepare to laugh. Canadians, lets just hold our heads in shame. The Canadian Soccer Association action to ‘combat corruption’ is to go to Zurich to ask Sepp Blatter and the rest of FIFA what they should do!
No, no, I am not making this up. That officials of a purported sovereign country would consider taking advice from foreigners on how to deal with an internal action is extraordinary: that there are soccer officials anywhere in the world who would think that going to FIFA to inquire about how to fight corruption is unbelievable. This is FIFA we are speaking about – the same institution that is bringing in outsiders to investigate wide-spread bribery and convictions of fraud by many of its top executives. The organization that this year got rid of its former integrity officer. The organization that made the world laugh at its last World Cup decision by giving the games to Qatar, etc, etc, etc.
Right, you may (if you are still not laughing too hard) ask what could Canadian soccer officials do to stop fixing?
There is actually a pretty easy answer – phone the police. Their number is usually in the phone book – or on-line – or … (look here I may as well give it you – 911, but do mention the crime is now over-eighteen months old when the operator answers).
If the police give you some nonsense about being outside the jurisdiction (police talk for, “I am too lazy to do anything.”) then go find another police force. There are at least five Canadian police forces that could legally take action on this crime: the Toronto Police Force, the Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP, the Surete du Quebec and the Trois-Rivieres Police. There are probably a few other agencies but that will do for a start.
Cher Amis de France,
Demain, mes pensées sur les circonstances du Handball à Montpellier.