The Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) recently announced that former Canada women’s national team head coach, John Herdman, will be taking the reigns of the men’s programme. Herdman not only will be the coach of the national team but men’s national director for all age groups age 14 and above.
At the very top of the Association we now are led by two men, Steve Reed and Herdman, who have never played a game of professional football in their lives. The latter has only been an international manager since 2006 and never led at club level where most international coaches cut their teeth in the day to day running of a football club.
I delved a bit more into the detail on the make-up of the CSA Board of Directors and to my utter astonishment, I couldn’t find one member who had actually played a game of professional football and some who had no amateur football experience whatsoever. The Football Association of England has a Board of Directors with very minimal experience playing in the professional game however, their actual football experience is vast. The German Football Board has esteemed former national team player and World Cup winner Oliver Bierhoff as their General Manager. In most national programmes there is a consultation process with experienced football minds when making critical decisions such as who will be the figurehead. In Canada, a country historically so inept in all aspects of the game, we have minimal to zero actual football knowledge making decisions that will shape the future of our institution.
Former national team coach Octavio Zambrano was reportedly fired because of administrative issues such as being late for meetings and his inability to implement a coherent top to bottom development plan. If true, what baffles me most is how the CSA actually decided to appoint Zambrano in the first place. You would think a telephone call to a reference would uncover issues such as persistent tardiness. If you want someone to incorporate a development plan, wouldn’t you look at past successes and failures as a judging factor? In addition, why would the Board want so many meetings with Zambrano anyway? Why not let the football man do the football 'stuff' and the suits stick to business 'stuff'? The pieces just don't fit to me.
Of course the Association did their due diligence in this part of the process; after all, I’m sure one of their core competencies is corporate decision making. What they didn’t expect was the fiery Ecuadorian to flip Canada Soccer on it’s head and start to make some headway and in turn disrupting the comfort zone which the CSA has lived under for eons. While watching the 2017 Gold Cup I actually felt the team was hungry and were developing a philosophy. Zambrano unleashed Alfonso Davies who was an utter revelation. The team did well to reach the quarter-final after years of pitiful performances. They drew with World Cup qualifier Costa Rica and Honduras before being ousted by finalist Jamaica – it was a solid showing considering our poor football history. The programme seemed to be going places. My assumption is that Zambrano wanted to disprupt the nature of the beast and the accountants and consultants who sit on the Board didn’t want their feathers ruffled.
Herdman is a safe bet. His boyish good looks and corporate nature will make him a strong fit. His inspirational and educated motivational techniques have already made him a hit with his bosses. I wish him the best as he seems a good man. However, what I truly believe is that this programme really needed a fire lit under them. Unfortunately, when it happened they couldn’t handle the heat.