Players had say in Osieck departure
By GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun
It is not unique, and therefore not surprising, that Canadian soccer is once again demonstrating a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Small wonder that our national soccer team is ranked internationally somewhere between Upper Slobovia and Lower Oblivion.
This time we're faced with the resignation of Holger Osieck, head coach of Canada's national team and its technical director, a man who has a better knowledge of the game than most Canadian soccer officials combined.
It was not by accident that Osieck was selected assistant to Franz (Der Kaiser) Beckenbauer, the only man who received global acclaim as both player and coach for leading Germany to soccer's ultimate prize.
When Osieck arrived in Canada in 1998, he was immediately faced with an almost insurmountable task -- most of the national team players were playing overseas.
He wondered why all those players were playing abroad for a buck when Canada, one of the world's wealthiest countries, should have been able to entice these kickers into staying at home and being paid accordingly.
No such luck. The federal support for sport in this country is pitiful. They will talk about millions given to sport, but when dissecting the money one deduces that it may pay, perhaps, for one cup of Tim Horton's coffee per athlete.
In fact, many athletes and sports officials will tell you that after the departure of the string of sports ministers from Iona Campagnolo to Otto Jelinek to Jean Charest, the support for Canadian athletes has been minimal.
But is this why Holger Osieck decided to step down? Hardly. By talking to him yesterday it became obvious that the German-born coach is a gentleman who was not prepared to wash dirty laundry in public.
"It is for personal reasons that I have resigned," he told me. "I have my principles and I have to live by them. There's no reason to say more. I love Canada. So does my wife, Elizabeth. I'm not running away, but certain things forced me to make my decision.
"It's not the case of having lined up another job elsewhere. I don't have another job to go to. But, I hope that if the word filters out that I'm available, I may hear an offer from somewhere."
Part of a journalist's job is to dig for facts. By snooping around, I discovered that some players were reluctant to put up with Osieck's disciplinary demands. They also refused to adhere to his demands for serious fitness training.
A group of them met with Andy Sharpe, president of the Canadian Soccer Association, and threatened not to play for the national team as long as Osieck was coaching.
Sharpe, obviously, capitulated to the players instead of telling them where to go. After all, the way some of them were performing, they might as well not have played at all.
I'm convinced that Holger Osieck, who coached around the world and lectured on soccer on behalf of the Federation of International Football Association in various countries, will be offered a good job elsewhere.
He will, of course, regret that he couldn't lead the Canadian national team out of the wilderness and into the next World Cup. He brought the Gold Cup to Canada in 2000 and was now only a couple of players short of doing better.
Unfortunately, Canadian soccer officials bowed to the players instead of raising funds to keep some in Canada and letting the malcontents go elsewhere. But, I guess, these officials prefer the tail wagging of a dog to its bark.
Onward and upward Upper Slobovia.
GROSSLY ABBREVIATED: Colorado Avalanche's high-scoring forward Milan Hejduk has won the coveted Golden Hockey Stick of the Czech Republic as that country's most valuable player. He beat out Ottawa Senators' Martin Havlat and New Jersey Devils' Patrick Elias for the honours. Washington Capitals sharpshooter Jaromir Jagr finished sixth in the voting ... The Toronto Lynx soccer team, one of this city's best kept secrets, finished the 2003 season with two victories. They beat Calgary 2-1 and followed it up with a 4-1 triumph over the Virginia Beach Mariners. The Lynx's overall record is 11-13-4.