From: Stephen Halchuk
Date: 16/07/2001
Subject: An Evening with Roger Milla

Okay, I went overboard in this rather lengthy description, but some of
you may be interested....

In what was one of the best deals of my soccer viewing career
(6 soccer matches for $16 CAN - or about $11 US for those of you more
used to that slightly more dominant currency), I attended half of a
soccer marathon yesterday and although my voice is somewhat hoarse from
cheering, I'm ready for more. The IV Jeux Francophonie are currently
taking place in the Ottawa-Hull region of Canada. These games are a
rather odd affair where medals are awarded in both athletics and
culture (and the gold medal in busking goes to...(I'm not kidding!)),
and the participants come from a variety of countries, supposedly
linked by the French language (although Poland and Bulgaria may leave
one scratching their heads as their links to the French language)
Sunday, July 15 was a soccer starved fan's dream.

The matches were
11:00 MALI 4-2 POLAND
19:00 FRANCE 2-1 HAITI
21:00 EGYPT 2-1 CANADA 

Not being able to go for the entire day (having a wife and 2 young
children and wanting to be able to see more matches in the tournament
meant not pushing my luck the first time out), I elected to go to the
last 3 matches of the day. I said to my friends something along the
lines of "well, we'll be able to see 3 or 4 really good teams and then
have Canada break our hearts once again". 

We arrived in the dying moments of the Gabon-Bulgaria match. We were
quite surprised to see the scoreline. The tournament is nominally an
under-23 affair, but each country treats it differently in terms of the
quality of players they send (very much like the current edition of the
current Copa America, which has slipped ever closer towards the
farcical).  Surprisingly, Canada has won 2 of the 3 soccer gold medals
in the Jeux Francophonie, which should be enough to tell you how
seriously the traditional soccer powers treat the games.  Bulgaria
supposedly has sent a predominantly under 18 side, which would go a
long way to explaining the lopsided scoreline against Gabon (the
Bulgars also lost their first match against Egypt, 2-0).

Cameroon - Morocco looked to be the premiere match of the day. Either of
these two giants of African soccer could easily reach the medal podium.
The game itself suffered from a lack of flow. Both sides were quite
physical, but the ball skills of the players were breathtaking. The
Cameroonians to a man were able to send pinpont passes all over the
field and performed dribbling feats that Canadians can only manage if
they are on the ice with a stick. In one particularly memorable play,
the keeper Idriss Carlos Kameni (who at the tender age of 17 already
has an Olympic gold medal to wear around his neck) kicked a ball off
the volley from the top of his box and sent the Moroccan goalkeeper
backpedalling to stop the ball from going in at the other end of the
pitch. Despite their skills, the Cameroonian Indomitable Lions  were
slightly outplayed by the Moroccan Lions of the Atlas (Lions are one of
the most common nicknames amongst African teams) on the day. The
Moroccans had the more organized attacks and Cameroonian keeper Kameni
was called on to make several more saves than his counterpart. In the
59th minute, Moroccan striker Mohammed Armoumen was judged to have been
brought down in the box (it seemed a little soft to me but I wasn't
going to argue with the rather empassioned Moroccan fans in the row in
front of us). Armoumen then did what no doubt his heros before him have
done (Platini, Baggio...) - he skied the kick, missing the net
completely and sending it hurtling towards the large inflatable figure
in the corner of the stadium, its waving arms taunting him for his
spectacular miss. Although a few goals would have been welcome for all
of the build-up, the second half of the game was memorable.

In the France-Haiti game, I was expecting a lopsided affair with a
scoreline resembling the earlier Gabon-Bulgaria match. With the senior
side being so deep in talent and the squad being made up of the under
21 side that just a few weeks before had reached the quarter finals of
the World Youth Cup in Argentina, I was expecting France to have little
trouble with Haiti, usually considered to be one of the minnows of the
CONCACAF federation. The game reminded me once again that the gap at
the senior level is oftimes more down to money and opportunity than
talent alone. At times France stuggled against the Haitians and in the
second half particularly Haiti dominated. The final scoreline (2-1)
flattered France and Haiti certainly deserved a draw on the night.
Fellow CONCACAF countries take note - if Haiti can somehow maintain
this level in its senior squad, it will not be a team to be taken

The last match of the night featured Canada and Egypt. In the pit of my
stomach I wasn't relishing the prospect of watching this. Canada was
outscored 9-0 in its 3 matches in the recent World Youth Cup while
Egypt surprised most observers with a strong 3rd place finish. The
Egyptians were by far the better team. Our defensive wings were often
outclassed by the young Pharoah attackers and our attack showed little
imagination (mostly hoofing the ball up to Rob Friend to have him
vainly attempt to head it on to someone else) but Canada did show some
promise and a lot of heart. The introduction of Wyn Belotte at the
beginning of the second half helped Canada significantly. A
particularly nice bob and weave by Belotte through several defenders
helped set up Friend's smash into the net. Friend received a yellow
card for removing his shirt in celebration, but given the drought
Canada has suffered in the goal scoring department, this indescretion
was overlooked by the appreciative crowd. It seems that excessive
celebration involves total removal of the shirt (the Egyptians pulling
their shirts over their heads during their celebrations did not result
in similar cautions). Canada certainly pressed for the equalizer after
looking out of it when they were 2-0 down. The Egyptians ruined their
performance somewhat in the last 10 minutes by some particularly bad
playacting in attempts to run out the clock. So much writhing and
flopping made one wonder if they were auditioning for the part of one
of the fish left stranded by the parting Red Sea. The loss leaves
Canada looking to yet another early exit (having already lost to Gabon
1-0), unless they can run up the score against the weaker Bulgarians
and hope for some favourable results in the other groups.

As for the tournament organisation and atmosphere, both were great. I
had some trepidation about being able to keep the games on time in the
rather narrow 2 hour window given for each match but every game I saw
started on time to within the minute. The game was played on field turf
in Frank Clair stadium (fomerly used by the now defunct Canadian
football league team the Ottawa Roughriders). This new version of
artificial turf seems a vast improvement over astroturf. The ball does
not bounce wildly and players seemed to slip no more than they would on
regular grass and apparently do not suffer from the nasty burns that
older artificial turf causes when one's skin slides across it.

About 10-15000 people (I'm not particularly good at crowd estimates but
the north stands were about 3/4 full)  attended the games, a decent
crowd for any sporting event in Ottawa. Each team had its cheering
section (a combination of being a multi-ethnic country and being the
home of most of the embassies in the country) and we were treated to
series of percussion bands from Cameroon, Morocco and Haiti in addition
to an Egyptian 'ud (a relative of the lute with a bent neck) and the
wailing sounds of a mizmar (a cross between a clarinet and the bagpipes
without the bag). Canadian supporters, not surprisingly, couldn't match
the fervour or the musicality of their counterparts, and their cheers
were limited to variations of the words "Canada" and "go" (Ca-na-da
-clap,clap clap, Go Canada Go! and Lets go Canada, lets go! seem to be
the extent of the Canadian imagination). Even the lads who painted the
letters C, A, N, A, D, and A on their chests had some trouble
organizing themselves in the right order, but never mind, the crowd was
enthusiastic and it was probably the most support the youth side is
going to have in a long time.

Oh, and Roger Milla, he was in the stands not thirty feet away from me.
For those of you new to the sport, Milla is one of the legends of the
game, helping Cameroon become the first team to reach the 1/4 finals of
the World Cup in 1990 and being the oldest player (42!) to score in the
finals (versus Russia in 1994). He was there, understandably, for the
Cameroon-Morocco game but I give him credit for staying on through to
the end of the first half of the Canada-Egypt match. Only the most
optimistic of Canadian fans could be expected to do more. At half time
I climbed the stairs to find a washroom and stood beside the great man
for a moment (not great in stature as he seemed to be about 5 ft 6
inches) but at 49 he still looked as wiry as ever and could step on the
field once again as a "super sub". I thought of doing a little corner
flag victory dance in his honour as I passed him but my typical
Canadian shyness and reserve got the better of me.

All in all a great day and I look forward to more of the same,



From: Stephen Halchuk
Date: 20/07/2001
Subject: Mon coeur est casse (Canada France Jeux Francophonie)

Not the most detailed of reports, as I'm worn out from the watching.
For a team cobbled together a week or so before the tournament (not
that any of the other teams probably had better preparations), Canada
did remarkably well. Sean Fraser opened the scoring for Les Rouges in
the 30th minute, Canada's first real chance of the game. For the next
10-15 minutes Canada fell apart and was more of the back on their heels
Canada I have come to know and dread. Keeper Meuleman made at least two
remarkable saves to keep his sheet clean but Sebastien Fidani
eventually headed in off a corner in the 38th minute.

Fidani added a second shortly after the break and I thought it was all
over for Canada. But the second half belonged to the hosts as they had
almost all of the attacks and Rob Friend scored a goal (with his feet!)
after a cross (finally!) from Chris Williams (he has the tendency to
try and take it far into the box, trying to take on too many defenders
in no-win situations). More and more calls seemed to go against Canada 
as the game progressed, perhaps Burkino Faso referee Losseni Pare
making up for some of the questionable calls that went in Canada's
favour in the first half.

Onto extra time and golden goals. France almost ended it in record time
as Meuleman was called on to make a leaping grab from a long range shot
at the 14 second mark. Superior skills finally showed through for Les
Blues, as they had almost all of the attack. No buts d'or were scored,
however, and it was onto the dreaded penalty kicks. Despite Meuleman's 
first diving save, it was our shooters who were our downfall. 3 of the 4
shot it straight down the middle into French goalkeeper Nicolis Bonis.

Wyn Belotte (who is only 17!) was again a thorn in the French side
throughout the second half. He was often the lone attacker in the extra
time and on his best opportunity on a semi-breakaway put the ball
directly into the keeper. But the man of the match for Canada has to be
Meuleman. He kept Canada in the game with several key saves, even
though he was shaky on a few occasions. Overall, France were the better
team.  Canada more often than not resorted to hoofing the ball up the
field and gave posession away needlessly on several occasions and gave
their opponents too much time to move the ball around. Their primitive
tactics aside, no one can question the determination of this team or
the heart they displayed. They pushed France to the limit, who should
have a much stronger opponent in Cameroon in the semi-final (Cameroon
also won on penalty kicks (1-1 at full time), Olympic gold medal keeper
Kameni the hero - stopping the 6th shot by the Gabonese after each team
had scored on its first 5 attempts).


(sorry, the CSA seems to be missing some of the French lineup in its report)
July 19, 2001 - Francophone Games
Frank Clair Stadium - Ottawa, Ontario
Canada 2 (1)
France 2 (1)
Goals: Canada - Sean Fraser (30), Rob Friend (53); France -
Sebastien Fidani (38, 47)
Referee: Losseni Pare (Burkina Faso)
Assistant Referees: Lukasz Bartosik (Poland), Nicolae Marodin
Fourth official: Abdellah El Achiri (Morocco)
Canada: Pieter Meuleman, Tyler Hughes, Kevan Cameron, Chris
Pozniak, Chris Williams, Gaspare Borsellino, Sean Fraser (Andrew
Veer, 52), Josh Simpson (Wyn Belotte, 46), Rob Friend (Alfredo
Valente, 97), Atiba Hutchinson, Patrice Bernier. Head coach: Paul
France: Stephane Borbiconi (William Correa, 69), Fabrice Kelban ,
Michel Rodriguez, Nicolas Girard, Fabien Boudarene, Sebastien
Fidani (Roland Vieira, 79), Mehdi Leroy, Patrice Maurel (Uliano
Courville, 82)