Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani has a lot on his plate these days.
He’s just helped launch reforms at FIFA and helped vote in Gianni Infantino as the global soccer body's new FIFA president, part of a push to bring credibility to an organization long beset by corruption.
Now he sets his sights on fixing the same corruption that’s pervaded CONCACAF as he looks to be voted president of the confederation in May.
In an interview with Yahoo Canada Sports, Montagliani said he believes better days are ahead for FIFA under Infantino. Despite being a soccer insider, he's someone who will bring some respect to the organization, Montagliani added, after years of shady dealings under Sepp Blatter that have spectacularly come to light in recent years.
“Leading up to the vote it was like any other election. People were talking to people, trying to ask people to vote one way or another but I think the mood after was different,” Montagliani said. “For the first time, I think people walked out there with a lot of hope. It wasn’t just because Infantino won, it was also the way Sheikh Salman and Prince Ali, namely, handled themselves in defeat.”
Montagliani now hopes to sort things out closer to home in the confederation where Canada’s teams play. With the last three CONCACAF presidents in Jack Warner, Jeffrey Webb and Alfredo Hawit all leaving the job due to indictments, the bar to live up to isn’t that high. Montagliani pulled no punches when talking about the disgrace that has been heaped on the regional governing body.
“I would set the tone from the top from an integrity standpoint. I’m somebody that’s been front and centre with the reforms. I obviously would ensure that they’re implemented and sustainable,” he said. “(I would) bring the integrity and respect back — not even bring it back. Just bring it to CONCACAF. I’m not sure it was ever there.”
With every vote in the region holding one vote in this election, the power could lie in the numerous but geographically tiny Caribbean nations. If they chose to band together and rally behind a single candidate, they hold a lot of sway.
Montagliani said he doesn’t believe the notion that the Caribbean countries will always band together in self-interest. They're just as interested in having an organization that isn’t in the headlines only because administrators are in handcuffs.
“It’s not about just giving people money. It’s not about giving them a fish. It’s about teaching them how to fish.”
Closer to home, the potential Canadian professional league has moved out of the land of whispers and rumour and it seems that groundwork is actually being laid behind the scenes. By the end of this year, Montagliani said significant steps forward could be taken toward something that hasn't existed in almost a quarter-century in this country: a league we could call our own.
“In terms of timelines, I think in the next three to six months we’re in the process of developing an actual business plan for this entity,” Montagliani said, adding that at this time he wouldn’t name any of the other principals the CSA is working with. “I think our goal was always to be in a position by the end of this year to be able to make some sort of announcement and say this is where we are, and this is where we’re going forward with it.
"The next six months is very critical because up until now it’s all positive, but now the rubber hits the road in the next four to six months.”
While CONCACAF has a number of competitive teams on the men’s side, the women’s events still feature some lopsided scores with the occasional surprise that really isn’t an indication of growing parity in the region. Especially in this region, closer games will draw more interest and grow the game. Montagliani feels the bigger nations need to collaborate with smaller nations to spur growth.
“Sharing best practices, sharing resources that have the knowledge and the awareness to implement programs to help the growth of the women’s game,” Montagliani said, pointing out that growth can happen quickly given the right circumstances – for example, with Japan, rapidly growing from afterthoughts to World Cup champions in 2011.
Montagliani also touched on a possible 2026 World Cup bid, saying more details will likely emerge after the election of a new CONCACAF president in May and ensuing executive meetings.
"I think whether it’s us or the U.S. or Mexico or anybody who’s thinking about it ... right now, that file is not even on the corner of a desk. It’s going to come to the forefront quite quickly, but I think it will be, if not this May then I think by September," he said. "If it’s not the first executive meeting, it will be the second and we’ll get some information coming out of there saying ‘here are the rules of engagement, here’s the game and here are critical timelines.’ And then that’s when wheels will start to get in motion."
Japan out of women’s Olympic soccer
Canada’s women’s team knows their possible opponents after the European and Asian Confederations finished up their Olympic qualifying tournaments and there will be one shocking team not participating in Brazil. 2011 World Cup champion Japan, finalists at both the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Cup, crashed out of a qualifying tournament they hosted after losses to Australia and China — both of those teams earning Rio berths. The draw for the Olympic competition takes place April 14 at the Maracana in Brazil and with Japan – a team Canada’s been unable to beat in three previous three meetings – won’t be a factor.
W17s face long odds in qualifying for World Cup
Canada faces long odds in qualifying for the 2016 FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup after a shocking 2-1 loss to Haiti left them in second place in their group at the 2016 CONCACAF women’s U-17 championship in Grenada.
On Monday, Canada was leading by only a single goal late and their inability to put the Haitians away was exposed when they conceded twice in three minutes and will now face the unenviable task of playing the Americans for a spot in the final, as well as that World Cup berth.
“I think it is going to be a great game," said Bev Priestman, Canada U-17 Coach. "We develop players to play in these games. It is going to be a great battle, Canada-USA, as it always is. We are really excited to play it.”
Canada is the only CONCACAF team to have qualified for all four previous U-17 World Cups.
MNT to play friendly against Azerbaijan
With a pair of daunting World Cup qualifiers against Mexico in the immediate future, Canada is planning its preparations for the decisive qualifiers in September as they announced on Thursday that they’ll play a friendly on June 3. No venue for the game was given but the Canadian Soccer Association release said it would come after a camp in Austria, so one would imagine that it would take place in that part of the world. Azerbaijan is ranked No. 112 compared to Canada’s 87.
With Canada not expected to get much in the way of points this month, those September games are all the more critical. They include a return to the site of the 8-1 debacle in 2012 at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula on Sept. 2 and a return game a few days later against El Salvador in a still-to-be-announced venue on Sept. 6.