Yeah, the boys got hammered 8-1. It had been our nations biggest soccer game in 15 years, and the lads had found themselves playing in very hostile territory, and under a blazing tropical sun in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, way back in October of 2012.
The team had gone to Central America with the soul objective of gaining at least a draw, and advancing to their World Cup qualifying final group stage, then known as 'The Hex'.
All the pressure had been on the home side, and our faithful were playing well and creating chances early on. Sadly though, Canada managed to cough up two goals in rapid succession, which in the end, had largely been the result of sloppy defending and tentative goaltending; at that point, all their hard work and hours of preparation had seemed to be for nought.
How could it have been? In such an important game as that one, that the boys in red would allow their opponents to grab a critical first goal before the game had even been ten minutes old?
The early hole they had dug for themselves didn't say much for them collectively, and I'm sure it must have seriously undermined their fragile self-confidence. They then would have had to do something which they had been having a great deal of difficulty doing previously in the tournament, score goals!
They soon jumped on a chance which manifested itself as a glorious opportunity to equalize, but one hard post and a squandered rebound later, our beloved boys had once again failed to execute in their primary objective. Another nail in the coffin had swiftly come in the form of a second Honduras goal, and the Canadian team then found themselves playing like eleven automatons kicking an inflated ball in a state of shock.
As small fraction of our nation watched on in horror, I had taken notice of how hard all the players had seemed to be working. They hadn't yet given up, not by a long-shot, but deep down, the collective psyche of the team had sustained a severe blow. The silver lining in all this, was that Canada still had 70 minutes left to score two goals and equalize. If they were to have gotten their composure back, and popped one in before the half, the tables would have surely turned and it would have been the Hondurans who would be on their heels trying desperately to cling to their lead. All that was needed for Canada, at that point, would have been one goal before the half, and had they managed to pull the scoreline back to 2-1, the game would have been far from over, but that was until….
Honduras struck again in the 28th minute, courtesy of a pee-wee league defensive lapse, and what turned out to be a very 'Costly' goal. At that point, the boys in red were visibly shattered, all their hard work and effort over the past year had been undone in less than 30 minutes in the hot honduran heat. Their collective psyche, a beast far larger than any individual player, had been fried, roasted and filleted.
There had been only one thing left to do at that point, if there had been any hopes of salvaging that dreadful game, (or any vestiges of national dignity for that matter). The situation had demanded that the coach step forward and make some critical substitutions. He had already failed by putting 3 players out there who were less talented than three of their counterparts uselessly warming an already searing bench; perhaps, at that point, it had not been too late for our affable coach to right his ghastly error in judgement.
Reflecting back now, they had had a regular starter in the German Bundesliga sitting on the bench ready to replace a visibly shaky defender, an MLS player of the month for August at the ready to help stop the gaps created by a suspect midfielder, and a wily veteran of the English League ever at the ready, who had had much experience playing in exactly these same kinds of hostile central american matches, and poised to replace a forward who had been asked to play a role beyond his competency level.
Ultimately, the coach had been asleep at the wheel, or had been like a deer trapped in the head-lights. With his squad down 3-0, in the most important game of their lives, one begs the question: What on earth had he been saving his substitutions for? The collective psyche of the team is the responsibility of the coach, yet since it is not he who is actually playing the game, he can only affect what goes on on the pitch indirectly, through preparation, tactics, squad selection, and his use of substitutions.
When things go bad, whether in soccer or in life, the past cannot be changed, but the present can be reset by closing the entropic psychological chapter which has it's grips on the situation. We can do this individually in our lives, and collectively with effective leadership.
Lack of this type of leadership from the coach failed our team that day, but gladly, it had only been in the realms of a sporting event. More importantly though, in late 2012, lack of leadership from the self appointed leaders of banking and politics, was leading us 'head on' and smack into a collision course with our inevitable rendezvous with destiny.
Future CT Village 5, Nova Avalon Year 17 P.T.E.