Sepp speaks his mind
By GEORGE GROSS, TORONTO SUN
Many Europeans figure that the most powerful man in global sports is Jacques Rogge, an orthopedic surgeon and president of the International Olympic Committee. The fact, however, is that the most powerful man in sports -- and recognized as such around the world--- is a retired Swiss army colonel -- Joseph S.Blatter.
Sepp Blatter, as he's better known, is president of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA), the organization that controls the world's most popular sport on all continents.
Blatter, who never shies away from controversy, created a commotion in Britain recently when he suggested that the number of league clubs should be reduced from 20 to 18. In my view, Blatter should have known that Brits don't like to be told. Telling them is tantamount to proposing to Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow to reduce the number of NHL teams from 30 to 26. (Actually, that wouldn't be a bad idea.)
Getting back to Blatter, the crown prince of the world game figures that no team should play more than 45 matches a season, including cup tournaments and international matches. (If that was ever forced on the NHL, some owners might commit hara-kiri.)
President Blatter rarely minces his words. Not only did he defeat his detractors when, not long ago, it came to the re-election of the FIFA president, but he proved an admninistrative genius by leading the organization to a more than a US $ 100 million profit last year.
While trying to guide English leagues towards a more profitable future, he would be wasting his time trying to lecture a first rate Canadian professional league to reduce its number of teams to 18. The reason? There isn't one in existence. In fact, if memory serves me right, there was never a 20-team pro soccer league in Canada.
However, there was a first rate pro soccer league in operation in Canada in the 1960s, even though it was composed of only four teams. Toronto had two teams in the league -- Toronto City and Toronto Italia. They were joined by Hamilton Steelers and Montreal Cantalia, owned by the late Dr. Karol Stastny, the first proprietor of a Volkswagen dealership in Quebec.
Toronto City and Italia played their matches at the sob ... sob ... torn down Varsity Stadium, Cantalia at Delorimier Stadium in Montreal and Steelers at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton.
If Torontonians are today proud of the Mats Sundin-led Maple Leafs, they certainly were boastful of the Steve Stavro-led Toronto City Soccer Club, which filled the stands at Varsity Stadium for many of its matches.
Small wonder. Toronto City achieved what no other team in British history was able to accomplish -- employ the captain of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland for league competition.
Indeed, City had signed Johnny Haynes, the England skipper, Tommy Younger, the captain of Scotland and the late Danny Blanchflower, who was captain of Northern Ireland and Tottenham Hotspur. Moreover, the team boasted the legendary Sir Stanley Matthews, the first soccer player knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
Those were the glory years of Canadian soccer, unlike today's situation when we find Canada ranked somewhere around the 100th spot in the world despite all the money FIFA donates to the Canadian Soccer Association annually.
GROSSLY ABBREVIATED: Former Canadian Davis Cupper and world renowned tennis teacher, Peter Burwash, will be inducted into University of Toronto's Hall of Fame next month...Dick Duff, one of the all-time Maple Leaf favourites and a worthy candidate for the Bickell Trophy, is very sad that the historic Maple Leaf Gardens is not being used. Duff feels it would make a wonderful facility for a hospital in aid of ex-Leafs and their families, as well as serve the homeless.