Dale Mitchell is the new man in charge of the Canadian men's soccer team. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Soccer: John F. Molinaro
Mitchell's legs cut out from him by Canadian soccer officials
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2007
Something is rotten in Canadian soccer and the smell is coming from Ottawa, home of the Canadian Soccer Association.
Dale Mitchell was given the responsibility of helping Canada qualify for the 2010 World Cup when the CSA officially named him the new coach of the national men's soccer team on Thursday.
Mitchell, 49, is generally regarded as one of the best forwards Canada has ever produced. Aside from stints with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers of the North American Soccer League, he also played 55 games for the Canadian national team from 1980 to 1993, including one game at the 1986 World Cup, and still ranks as Canada's all-time leading scorer with 19 goals.
After retiring in 1994, the Canadian Soccer Hall of Famer turned to coaching. Mitchell has been in charge of Canada's under-20 side since 2002 and he's guided the team to the world youth championships in 2003 (when Canada reached the quarter-finals) and 2005, and will take over the reins of the senior team after this summer's U-20 World Cup.
Toronto FC captain and national team veteran Jim Brennan applauded the hiring of Mitchell.
"He's worked with a lot of young guys, he's worked with the older guys, so he knows everybody. Whereas if you get a [foreign-born] manager in, it takes time for him to see what everybody is about, where Dale has that first-hand knowledge," Brennan told CBC Sports Online.
A passionate advocate for Canadian soccer, Mitchell has the credentials and his appointment makes perfect sense.
But the bungling manner in which he was hired speaks volumes about the farcical nature of the CSA and its lack of vision.
Canada had been without a coach since Frank Yallop left the job last June to become coach of Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy. The CSA conducted a search to fill the vacancy and narrowed its short list to Mitchell, under-17 coach Stephen Hart, Brazilian Rene Simoes (who led Jamaica to the 1998 World Cup) and Argentine legend Ozzie Ardiles before announcing its decision on Thursday.
CSA president Colin Linford told reporters in a conference call this week that he presented all four candidates to the CSA board for approval, but that the board wanted to hire a Canadian coach. Linford also went to great lengths to deny recent media reports that pegged Simoes as his No. 1 choice and that the board vetoed his nomination of the Brazilian.
Now follow me on this one.
If the board was so intent on selecting a Canadian coach, why didn't it mention that to Linford before he started his search? Why would the board wait until Linford presented his four choices 11 months later to tell him he shouldn't have even bothered talking to foreign candidates?
Either the members of the CSA board are that stupid, or they made the decision late in the game to consider hiring only a Canadian coach.
More than likely what really happened was the board balked at Simoes' salary demands (reported to be in the range of $500,000) and decided to save some money and pick Mitchell, who now comes off looking like their second choice.
Linford denied any such suggestion, but it's hard to believe that he needed 11 months to figure out he should pick Mitchell, who was the obvious choice.
What's even more disturbing is the CSA doesn't realize it is setting up Mitchell to fail.
During the same conference call, CBC Sports Online asked Linford why it took so long to find a new coach, pointing out that the CONCACAF Gold Cup is a little over three weeks away.
Did the CSA not see the Gold Cup as an opportunity to build some momentum for a national program that has been lacking in direction? Is the Gold Cup not a chance for a team ranked No. 94 in the current FIFA rankings, sandwiched between Lithuania and Kuwait, to improve? Does the CSA not understand the correlation between a strong showing at the Gold Cup and qualification for the 2010 World Cup?
Apparently not, as Linford essentially shrugged off the importance of the CONCACAF tournament, stating qualification for the 2010 World Cup was Canada's top priority and that the CSA was putting all its eggs in that basket.
Again, follow me for a moment.
Can you imagine the uproar the Italian FA would have caused if it took 11 months to name a replacement for Marcello Lippi after he stepped down as manager following last year's World Cup triumph? Or if the FA so brazenly blew off Euro 2008, saying it wasn't important and had little bearing on Italy's chances of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup?
True, Italy recovered from its disastrous showing at Euro 2004, when it didn't make it out of the group stage, to win its fourth World Cup in 2006. But then, Italy had players the calibre of Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Del Piero to call upon.
Mitchell has no such luxury.
Nor does Mitchell have the chance to play many competitive games ahead of the World Cup qualifiers, which is why the Gold Cup is so important.
With the current custodians of soccer in this country demonstrating such a feeble understanding of the game and a fundamental lack of leadership, is it any wonder Canada hasn't qualified for a World Cup in 21 years?
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