Second to None: Brazilian Star Marta

In Canada we have Christine Sinclair and in Brazil they have Marta. Marta is one of the most prolific soccer players ever to play the game. Many years ago I saw her play live in Rochester, New York in what was the Women’s Professional Soccer league. She was a beast – all muscle, strength, speed, agility and finesse. She has been named FIFA’s world player of the year 5 times, an incredible honour that only one other player in soccer has earned: Lionel Messi. Given that the 2016 Summer Olympics are being hosted in Brazil, this will be a prime, and rare opportunity for Marta and the Brazilian WNT to showcase their talent on home soil.

A few months ago when Brazil was in town slated to play Canada in 2-game exhibition series, the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk did a wonderful profile on Marta: “Brazilian star Marta not settling for second: The men’s game will always be first in her country, but the star of the women’s soccer team is trying to close the gap”. In the article Feschuk outlines how women’s soccer in Brazil does not have the same foundations as in other countries such as the US, which makes the accomplishments of Brazil’s WNT remarkable, and the success of Marta bittersweet.

For me, Brazil’s WNT is one of my favourites to watch simply because of their flair, creativity, skill on the ball and attacking style. It was a pleasure to watch them in June and I look forward to seeing them this month at the Olympics. I hope the Rio Olympics changes people’s perception of women’s soccer in Brazil, but I know that institutional and social changes happen very slow. Below, pictures from Canada vs Brazil Exhibition Match at BMO Field June 4, 2016.

All pictures © Cristina Murano

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Sport Infrastructure Part 3: LGBTQ-focused Sport Centre in Toronto’s Downtown East

The last of this Sport Infrastructure Series (refer to Part 1 and Part 2 in the links provided) focuses on the development of a sport facility that will provide athletic and recreation programs for LGBTQ folks. The facility will be built in Moss Park in downtown Toronto’s east end.

Historically, almost everything the LGBTQ community has achieved in Toronto, from access to space to social acceptance to human rights to program funding has been achieved through advocacy. This could be said of most, if not all marginalized groups. Sport for LGBTQ folks may seem like a benign or niche area of advocacy, however for many who are inside of sport or ever considered participation in different facets of sport, it can be uncomfortable and ostracizing to be in mainstream environments. That’s why this Moss Park development is exciting.

Spearheaded by the 519 Church Street Community Centre, an agency of the City of Toronto, the Moss Park project is a work in progress. Recently the project has run into local opposition, namely from members of the Queer Trans Community Defence (QTCD). QTCD has been pushing the 519 and City of Toronto on the details of the project in an attempt to curb the looming impact of gentrification on the neighbourhood especially for the poor and homeless, sex workers and drug users in the Moss Park community.

Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, a member of QTCD, has been documenting the evolution of the project in Now Magazine. Her article in October 2015 first introduced readers to the issue of gentrification and the Moss Park project, and as recently as April 6, 2016 she has written a second piece updating Now Magazine readers about the status of the project.

Development always has a contradictory nature to it as modernization means destruction of the old and the building of the new. This is something people witnessed in the west end when the Gladstone Hotel was renovated. And in the end, the new look of the Gladstone did, and continues to cater to the economically comfortable and wealthy. I’m not sure what the answers are, but in the case of the Moss Park project one marginalized group should not have to benefit at the expense of the other.

As this initiative develops it will be interesting to see how the City of Toronto and the 519 respond to the accountability demands of the QTCD. And while I’m sure the City of Toronto and the 519 have the best of intentions with this project, inevitably the politics involved, the complex needs of the Moss Park community, and the import of the project to the LGBTQ community makes it a volatile thing to navigate.

Women’s World Cup: Semi-Finals

Once all the group stage games had been played, you could trace all match-up possibilities moving forward, which meant that there would be no Germany vs USA final, no France vs USA final, etc. Japan wouldn’t have to play any of these three teams in a semi-final game, and Canada (if they had made it past the quarter-finals) would have had a shot at a top three finish. I was really hoping for a France vs Japan final – that would have been electric. However, the USA vs Japan final will also be dynamite. Did you know the US WNT hasn’t won a World Cup since 1999?

The semi-final games delivered in terms of excitement and quality. The key moments during USA vs Germany were: Nadine Angerer’s first half saves in the box; Célia Šašic’s penalty kick miss, and Kelly O’Hara’s game-clinching second goal to put USA through to the finals. Japan vs England moments, on the other hand, were completely overshadowed by Laura Bassett’s own goal, which came at the worst, most disastrous moment in the game: 1 minute left in stoppage time, 2nd half.

Today, the Lionesses face Germany in the third place match. Here’s what their coach, Mark Sampson, had to say yesterday: “We want to achieve something special … we’re playing the queens of women’s football – but they’ve just been beaten and Germany don’t usually lose two in a row. They’ve got the greatest coach in the history of the female game and will want to win Silvia’s last match for her. We want to make history. The exciting thing about this England team is that they don’t know where the limit is, they want to keep evolving, keep getting better. We feel we’ve put the pride back into English football … Laura will be absolutely determined to lift the FA Cup … she and her team-mates deserve a hero’s welcome when they get home”. England has definitely been one of the breakout stars of the tournament.

Before the tournament started, scandal and corruption abounded involving dozens of FIFA executives. As a result, we won’t be seeing Sepp Blatter at the finals on Sunday, which is for the best. One can’t help but wonder how things will be moving forward, especially with the WWC. Will FIFA get its act together and bring in new leadership? I’m not sure, but the cost of corruption on the game is high. David Olive, of the Toronto Star, wrote a fantastic piece about this prior to the tournament starting: It’s not all Sepp’s fault: Why the sports industry is failing us. The relationship between sport and business is profound, but it is only part of the reason women’s soccer is not where it should be, the other part is just plain sexism.

No pictures today, but when I post about the third place match and the finals, I’ll be sure to include some of the latter. Yes, yes, I will be at the finals in Vancouver! So excited, can’t wait.