Ditch the pitch for soccer mecca

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

For at least a couple of weeks, some of those old dreams about Good Old Ourtown getting into a world-class soccer league kept floating around.

You've heard it all before: if some sports addict with deep pockets - Daryl Katz and Bruce Saville had their names tossed around every day - would simply pay zillions for a superstar like David Beckham to play here, Edmonton could be part of a major international structure.

Sorry, folks, but the idea failed when North American Soccer League owners tried it a couple of decades ago and little has changed since then.

After importing over-the-hill internationals such as Franz Beckenbauer, Peter Nogly, Johan Cruyff and others, some guys with real money and a few wannabes like Peter Pocklington surveyed their losses and folded the tent.

History shows that the entire concept was faulty. You can't build a solid structure by starting at the top and working down.

No doubt, having Beckham here on a one-time basis was worthwhile for celebrity-watchers and true lovers of the game, but the dream that Edmonton and perhaps all of Canada one day will become a soccer mecca ... well, it's as far from reality as it ever was.

This city and this province have loads of good players. Good not great. Their efforts are watched, at most, by family and friends.

Only when Canada creates a true national league peopled by local players and watched by sizeable numbers who pay real prices for tickets can soccer get the respect that it deserves around here.

It's a shame that we're so far away from that day.

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Edmonton's boxing community, like most others, is loaded with jealousies and intrigues but beneath all those factors lies a terrific heart.

Brad Hortie's pro-am fight card in honour of his long-dead parents produced a lot of good moments on Friday but the best things did not happen in the ring.

To see Scotty Olson stretch to his full five feet in height and read a tribute to Paul Hortie was cause enough to feel good, but that was only one of the terrific moments.

To see former Olympians like Walter Kozak sitting near retired top-notchers such as Randy Jackson, to see Jelena Mrdjenovich working the corner for Tony Badea, to see promotional competitors Ken Lakusta and Glen Carriere working with the crowd, to see Daryl Duke and Frank Lee and Jersey Joe Edwards reaching out for old friends - well, it was special.

But there was sadness, too.

Lawrence Duperron, a fixture at pro and amateur cards for too many years to remember, was not there. He is ill with stomach cancer.

During the main event, I felt sorry for referee Len Koivisto. From the beginning, it was clear that Claudio Ortiz wanted out of his six-round beating by Tony Badea. He used blatant fouls to force Koivisto to disqualify him.

In a perfect world, Koivisto would have had a solution - just tell Ortiz that every butt and every low blow would force him to stay in the ring with Badea three minutes longer.


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