July 6, 2009
Cheers for Da Ali G ShowGerba proves his worth again
By GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA
Sacha Baron Cohen made Ali G a household name before Borat or Bruno became huge.
Right now Canada has its own Ali G making a name for himself.
Ali Gerba is proving his worth once again for his country.
There's no doubt about it: Gerba shone during World Cup qualifying when so many others on the Canadian roster failed. And his match-winning finish against Jamaica at the Gold Cup is further proof Gerba is the exact kind of player Canada needs to be relevant on the international soccer scene.
He's intelligent, swift, and can finish -- you hear that, Toronto FC fans?
The guy can flat-out play and is a natural goal-scorer of the likes TFC has not seen -- that includes you, Jeff Cunningham.
But for now, Gerba wears a different red, and wears it proudly.
Some Canadian players took a pass on this year's Gold Cup, believing it pointless -- a misguided point of view.
But somewhere along the way, playing for Canada lost its meaning.
Instead, playing politics and complaining about the system took precedence over competing on the field. And that is sad.
Whether you agree or disagree with how the system is run is irrelevant. What matters is the Maple Leaf and donning the red and white.
So it's time for us, the Canadian soccer public, to start taking notice of our nation's soccer representatives.
That begins with starting to talk about who we have instead of who we don't.
Who cares if Canadian-born goalkeeper Asmir Begovic decided this past week to play for his parent's home country Bosnia over Canada? Good luck at qualifying for anything tangible there! For whatever reason, he feels more attached to Bosnia over the country that gave him the chance to become what he is today, that's his own prerogative. And if he misses that point, it's his own conscience, not ours.
Same goes for Owen (Where's my career at now?) Hargreaves. We've all seen the last of him in an England jersey with his career very much in limbo. So it's time to forget about that country versus country argument.
Likewise for Jonathan de Guzman. The younger brother of Canadian star Julian decided to face an uphill climb to be a part of an ultra-competitive Dutch squad instead of playing for Canada. The reasons have been told to be more political than competitive, but once again, not our problem.
What is our problem is supporting this team at this year's competition.
It's true, Canada doesn't play enough games. Our national team needs to play more games at home. Our country's finest players don't get the spotlight they should. And Gold Cup wins in the past have done very little to satiate the desire of many to turn around soccer in this country for the long haul.
But make no mistake; soccer in Canada is changing.
Professionally speaking, it has taken a massive step in the right direction, and that's directly influencing the national program.
As for the players, a new breed of young and talented players, many of whom failed under the unimaginative tutelage of Dale Mitchell, are shining under interim head coach Stephen Hart. If there is anyone who thinks the interim tag should stay on, you clearly have no idea what you're watching.
Hart wasn't disappointed with the players who declined to play for Canada -- he was steadfast in his belief in the players who came, strengths, weaknesses and all.
It's these players who should be celebrated.
It starts with Gerba, who has bounced from place to place, professionally speaking, because of contract issues, whether it be financial or passport. Once again, the guy can flat-out play.
The youngsters are popping up their heads, with the likes of Will Johnson, Simeon Jackson and Dejan Jakovic entering the public consciousness.
The names though are less important than the message. Canadians can straight-up play soccer. It's time we stop questioning ourselves as a soccer nation and embrace what we have.
This isn't to say the team won't continue to struggle. One win against Jamaica doesn't change it all -- the politics, the uphill climb financially, and organizational roadblocks.
But the building blocks are there.
Ali G, among others deserves respect.
It's time we recognize that.