Intrepid reporters love to ask "edgy" questions to Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie about the club's lack of Canadian content, and it's getting a bit old.
It’s all becoming a bit tiresome.
“The Vancouver Whitecaps don’t have enough Canadians.”
“Coach, you didn’t play any Canadians tonight.”
“Toronto FC played five Canadians.”
Somehow lost in this “point the obvious out to head coach Martin Rennie” conversation is that the “most Canadian of Major League Soccer clubs,” Toronto FC, has lost all eight of its MLS matches.
No, Vancouver hasn’t played a Canadian-raised player at all this season in MLS. We get it.
But to listen to proponents of the “play Canadians no matter what” school of thought, you’d think points were awarded by the league based on nationality rather than merit…
COMMENTATOR: We’re all tied up at the end of the 90. As you know, the next stage will be crucial. The referee is signalling to his assistants and we’re all set for “nationality time.”
COLOUR GUY: People tell me soccer can be boring, but boy, soccer fan or not, there’s nothing in sport quite like “nationality time.” Nothing quite gets me going like judging the Canadian-ness of an individual.
COMMENTATOR: The fourth official has gathered the passports of both sides. Wait! There seems to be heated debate on the touchline!
COLOUR GUY: It looks like the officials are huddled around, looking at Alain Rochat.
COMMENTATOR: We go down to our pitchside reporter. Can you tell us what’s going on down there?
PITCHSIDE REPORTER: The argument seems to be swirling around Whitecaps defender Alain Rochat. As you know, he was born in Quebec but moved to Switzerland with his family at age two. Things took a twist when the fourth official asked Rochat himself if he “felt Canadian,” with the fullback simply shrugging his shoulders.
If it sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. And it’s getting tiresome. From what pool of qualified Canadians are the Whitecaps supposed to draw?
Will bringing a Canadian who has had success in Europe back to North America actually help develop the national soccer team?
No. It won’t. The only way to develop future soccer stars in Canada is to invest in youth development. And if you didn’t get the memo, the Whitecaps are doing that on a level surpassing most if not all professional clubs in MLS through their Residency program, which they’ve pumped millions into over the past few years.
The program is based on a European model and until recently was overseen by Richard Grootscholten, a Dutchman who was instrumental in the success of the Sparta Rotterdam youth system before coming to Vancouver.
If you want to evaluate the club’s contribution to the national program, don’t look at its first team. Look at the underage Canadian national sides, where the club regularly contributes its share of players (six of the 23 players named for the 2011 U-17 World Cup squad were Whitecaps Residency products, including captain Bryce Alderson).
The Canadian players Vancouver fans crave to support are on their way, but it’s not going to happen overnight. More Canadians will fail than succeed. It may take as long as half a decade to start fully seeing the benefits of the investment the club has made.
But when Canadians regularly start playing for this team, whether that’s 2017 or 2020, they’ll be there on merit, not because they were born in Vancouver, Calgary or Toronto.
And that’s what counts.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Goal.com Canada.