99 Friendship Episode 31

By Carolyn Duthie and Benjamin Massey · February 28th, 2017 · No comments

For the love of spinning granite, we didn’t seriously make our 31st episode of 99 Friendship an hour-long all-curling spectacular, did we?

No! Because there’s the introductory and closing songs, which add up to about 48 seconds combined. On top of that we spend 77.3 seconds of talk time discussing the Algarve Cup and its roster. Carolyn took note of Diana Matheson’s absence, but had we known while recording that she had suffered another debilitating knee injury we would have used considerably more time. Most of it would have been screaming. Perhaps it was for the best.

The rest of the hour (yes, an hour) is given over to curling. Canada’s women’s curling championship, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, had just wrapped up in St. Catharines, and the team Carolyn and I had more-or-less reluctantly decided to cheer for had won. This was no credit to us, since we had deliberately picked by far the best team in a field that had us all a little worried Robyn MacPhee or somebody was accidentally going to the World Championships. But it was nice, especially since the games featured some of the best curling seen in a while, so good that even the faintly-annoying skip and team we were “cheering” for emerged likable from their hard-fought victory.

It was such a marathon podcast that we recorded it over two evenings; that’s my excuse, and not “on Sunday night my wifi wrecked like Marla Mallett trying to draw behind a guard.” Yeah, we ran off at the mouth a little. It was worth it, though. If you have any interest in curling, grab a couple Homan-Englot draws off YouTube, sit down with three hours in booze, and enjoy yourself.

Although the social media prize of the Scotties, which by the way is consistently an excellent category, probably goes to Carolyn’s fellow Toban Michelle Englot for grace in defeat.

Anyway, listen to and follow 99 Friendship on Twitter.

99 Friendship Episode 30

By Carolyn Duthie and Benjamin Massey · February 20th, 2017 · No comments

On this very special thirtieth episode of 99 Friendship:

  • We discuss bread. Now, look, I know you’re thinking “okay this was a Canadian women’s soccer podcast on day one, and I signed up and I indulged when they started talking about curling, and ringette, and other irrelevant things, but now they’re talking about bread and this is a bridge too far.” But the bread is a topic relevant to one of our regular subjects. Admittedly that subject is “curling.”
  • We have two pieces of canwoso news, and dispose of them in about three minutes. It’s February. Deal with it.
  • Canada’s women’s curling championship, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, is beginning. I missed all the opening games so we don’t mention it at all. Ha ha just kidding this is a mostly-curling podcast when we aren’t talking about bread. But we’re very entertaining so listen to it anyway.
  • Carolyn wrote a huge blog post about curling that was very enjoyable, but she didn’t post it publicly, so I read a paragraph from it. I promise I am not mentioning it just to shame her into sharing it with the world.
  • I wrote a short blog post about the Scotties, but I shared it with the world so we don’t mention it at all.

What’s that, it sounds like the same old crap? You’re right it’s not a very special thirtieth episode of 99 Friendship at all. But follow us on Twitter anyway, or I’ll come to your house and yell about Emma Miskew’s outturn while you try to sleep.

99 Friendship Episode 29

By Carolyn Duthie and Benjamin Massey · February 13th, 2017 · No comments

Oh my God I hate writing these blurbs, especially when I have to confess a technical glitch. You see, I recorded this episode on a different computer than usual because I was trying to watch John Morris whip some guy, and maybe that’s why the recording is suffering from what I can only call “missing syllables.” Carolyn and I will be chatting along merrily and then some phoneme which I know we enunciated will just not be there anymore. At one point I say “the house was all Pepsi.” I promise this made sense when I said it but now I’m crazy.

Anyway I tried to cut the worst bits but you’ll still be able to tell. Don’t worry, you’re not having a stroke.

So what did we talk about? Well the provincial men’s curling championships wrapped up this weekend so we talk about that. There wasn’t much Canadian women’s soccer news but we work in a little bit, mostly revolving around a Canadian on trial in Norway. And then we end by seemingly-randomly discussing commercials and accents. Once upon a time there was a segue but there ain’t anymore. This is the 99 Friendship experience.

Also, some errata. At one point I say the woman on the old Macdonald Lassies curling trophy was holding a broom. This was in error. It was actually a broadsword.

Follow us on Twitter or something.

99 Friendship Episode 28

By Carolyn Duthie and Benjamin Massey · February 7th, 2017 · No comments

Carolyn and I rained blows upon young girls being ushered into our seats by their overwhelmed guardians. The Canadian women’s national soccer team rained goals on young Mexico. The Canadian Soccer Association rained flowers on Marie-Ève Nault, Rhian Wilkinson, and Melissa Tancredi to honour their great careers, and rained noticeably fewer flowers on Karina LeBlanc, Carmelina Moscato, and Emily Zurrer because they had also retired and happened to be in the neighbourhood when Peter Montopoli was walking by the flower stall. Then our podcast rains, uh, conditional praise on Nault, because given that she was playing 90 minutes out of position and hasn’t played at all in over a year and we honestly thought she was already retired, she was really decent! We rain no particular scorn on Melissa Tancredi, as we have learned our lesson from Germany. Rhian Wilkinson also played. No new young people did, apart from Sarah Stratigakis who was rained with company in midfield for once. Abby did not get chased, Janine Beckie scored two goals but neither of them were brilliant 90th-minute winners, it was a good, memorable game and we have many things to say about it, and the bronze medal was celebrated.

On the other end of our usual topics, Pinty’s rained money on Jennifer Jones and Kevin Koe. Yes, there was curling! There was so much curling! More than two curlings! We discuss Canada’s legendary wheelchair-curling drug smuggler, who is the same age as the current non-wheelchair curling champion of Ontario and, we hope the, future non-wheelchair curling champion of Northern Ontario.

I liked this episode very much.

Do you… do you like it? Please? If you like it you should follow 99 Friendship on Twitter, not that we care or anything.

Eight Years of Russell Teibert Hair Choices

By Benjamin Massey · January 30th, 2017 · No comments

Once-and-future Canadian national team standout, and eventual Vancouver Whitecaps captain, Russell Teibert has always had the distinctive fashion sense that has gone along with his outstanding play and gentlemanly demeanour. Even as the Whitecaps were mired in their worst Canada-hating spells there was Teibert, looking brilliant both off and on the field, promising better days without a word. (I am a Russell Teibert fan of the old school; perhaps you can tell.)

With MLS bringing in flashy foreigners every year no home-grown soccer player can stand still. Teibert certainly has not. In his professional career he has gone from a dazzling number 10 to a workmanlike defensive midfielder. He is not only the last Vancouver Whitecap remaining from their pre-MLS era but has almost a year’s seniority on the next-longest servant, Jordan Harvey. He has worn the armband for his club. He has quarreled, and made up, with national team coaches. He has played defense, central midfield, and wing. He has survived many players who supposedly were going to do him out of a job. He is still only 24 years old, barely aged out of NCAA and the MLS SuperDraft.

More importantly, his haircuts have moved with him, up and down, and I mean that literally. Like his own career they have been a roller-coaster of promise and nightmare, but they have always been interesting. Let us recap the most important thing we can talk about in the world today: Russell Teibert’s hairstyles.

(more…)

99 Friendship Episode 27

By Carolyn Duthie and Benjamin Massey · January 30th, 2017 · No comments

It is the week before Canada’s women’s soccer team meets Mexico in a bronze medal celebration match, whatever that means, but unfortunately for them it is also the week where Canada’s lady-curlers shake out most of the field for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the national lady-curling championship. Even more unfortunately, a lot of very interesting things happened! Both Carolyn and my faves lost to opponents literally nobody on Earth, including the winning curlers themselves, would have predicted before it happened! I mean we don’t break down and cry on the podcast, in my case because I don’t hate the curler Val Sweeting lost to and anyway Shannon Kleibrink played really well and deserved it. In Carolyn’s case it was possibly because Jennifer Jones played so badly she didn’t deserve anything, and possibly because she started drinking at like ten in the morning.

Good episode. Good, curling-focused episode. I mean we find some time to shoot the breeze about woso for, like, the last two minutes of a 28-minute episode; you’ve got that going for you. Skip ahead if you like, we won’t be offended. And I think I can bet that there will be much more soccer-based excitement when we record next week, if we manage it through our crippling hangovers. (Adriana Leon signing with the Boston Breakers, which I’m sure we would have talked about had we known it was coming, came out only after the podcast was recorded because NWSL front offices are wise to our schedule and don’t want to fling us red meat. I’m sure that’s why.)

Obviously, because Carolyn co-hosts this podcast, there are some allusions to the most famous incident of Heather Nedohin’s life. Carolyn gives us the story but if you want the video evidence I got you, fam.

Follow 99 Friendship on Twitter. We tweet about new episodes there! Which… you obviously have other ways to find out about, because you found out about this one! Look we have to promote our social media #brand, that’s just the rule.

Parental advisory: I swear a bit more than usual in this one.

99 Friendship Episode 26

By Carolyn Duthie and Benjamin Massey · January 23rd, 2017 · No comments

In honour of the Canadian Soccer Association providing us a stream of a men’s national team game that was impossible to watch, we present you with a podcast on the women’s national team that is impossible to listen to.

Okay, fine, that’s a joke. But Carolyn had bronchitis and I was trying to watch the BC Scotties final until the stream literally cut out in the middle of skip stones in the tenth end, which if anything is worse than what the CSA did. It’s a fun vibe.

So what happened this week? John Herdman called up a most surprising roster for a conditioning and connectedness camp in Los Angeles, which many interesting people are attending and Jessie Fleming is not even though the camp is almost-literally across the street from her dorm. Carolyn has what I insisted was “breaking news” about one of the players who isn’t there, and that wasn’t just a pun. There are, however, many children. So that should be interesting, even though they aren’t playing any games so we won’t ever find out about it.

They are playing a game against Germany, but that’s not for months. I say “Erfurt” a lot. It’s a funny word.

Then there’s the fact that I was watching the BC Scotties, with a few others also finishing their playdowns this past weekend, so of course we discuss curling even though none actually happened. This consists largely of me lamenting the quality of the BC Scotties and us discussing how easily Rachel Homan could secretly replace Chelsea Carey on Team Canada.

Following 99 Friendship on Twitter will cure respiratory diseases.

A British Columbia PDL

By Benjamin Massey · January 18th, 2017 · 2 comments

Benjamin Massey/Maple Leaf Forever!

On Monday afternoon BC Soccer began soliciting franchises for the long-discussed provincial senior soccer league. That first statement over a year ago was a corker: following decades of hope deferred, BC Soccer is now publicly planning to kick off with eight[1] teams in 2018.

Our answer to League1 Ontario and the Première ligue de soccer du Québec, the league is awkwardly called the “BC Soccer Regional Tier 3 League” and let’s hope that’s a working title. The model resembles L1O: “an amateur league run professionally” with open-age competition but a developmental mandate. They have no aspiration to paying players. The schedule will appeal primarily to student-athletes while eight of the eighteen players on the team sheet, and four starters, must be U-23[2]. Head coaches must hold the CSA’s national “B” license, and by 2020 the “A” license, and there are minimums on the number of practices per week[3]. League1 Ontario has the same rules.

After waiting so long it would be churlish to look a gift horse in the mouth. BC Soccer has got what appeared to be an immobile ball rolling. Nobody who doesn’t live here will appreciate the innumerable rivalries, jealousies, and simple differences of opinion that make something as simple as “emulating Ontario and Quebec” a veritable streetfight. By accentuating the negative, as I am about to do, I am only contributing to these problems. So a paragraph spent putting it in black and white is a good investment. This league is admirable. I will support it. If I had the cash, I might start a team myself. (More on that topic another day.)

The only problem is that it doesn’t meet every expectation. Rather than filling a role no other league can, it is trying to replace a different, albeit foreign, league.

Many fans were hoping for a new, elite semi-professional league that would improve upon the province’s existing top adult teams. British Columbia already has the amateur players and clubs for a serious, competitive “third division”* atop existing regional leagues that, in addition to improving opportunities for talented youth, could entertain fans, pad the pockets of a few veterans, and develop the modest but spectator-friendly local clubs the province craves. There is a clear appetite for that kind of thing. Cup finals between small-town metro league teams with no exciting prospects in sight draw better crowds than you’d think. The 2015 Jackson Cup final in Victoria brought in a thousand paying fans, for a regional competition where one team played an hour’s drive away.

That’s not what we’re getting. BC Soccer wants fans and is very clear on the need to cultivate a supporter base, separating the new league favourably from what exists today. But the league itself is another youth development league, an adjunct on a player’s Wikipedia page. It’s not the rules about imports or U-23 players which make this; plenty of full-time leagues go that route. It’s the schedule.

A three-month season is short in any event, along the lines of the NCAA-oriented USL Premier Development League and shorter than PLSQ or L1O. PDL fans will know what a mixed blessing that shot-glass of soccer can be, and according to BC Soccer there are no plans for lengthening it. This is bad, but (and this will sound strange to nine other Canadian provinces) playing in summer is just as big a problem.

Historically, British Columbia has played soccer in the winter. Our top leagues of the past, the first incarnations of the Pacific Coast Soccer League, followed winter schedules. Today’s regional leagues, the Vancouver Metro Soccer League, Vancouver Island Soccer League, and Fraser Valley Soccer League, all play in the winter and are highly competitive. The VMSL includes recent professionals like Paris Gee, Jacob Lensky, Alex Marello, Michael Nonni, and Nick Soolsma, along with a selection of former high-end prospects and youth internationals that would provide distinction to any RT3 team.

Not much of this talent ever sees the current, summer Pacific Coast Soccer League, which with its province-wide scope and attraction to collegiates might be called an RT3 precursor. After graduating, many elite players prefer winter play, as it leaves summers open to live life. This talent will choose between giving up the longer and often personally-rewarding metro league season, playing soccer eleven-ish months a year, or skipping RT3 with its 14-game season and no player payment. Bet on the latter.

The current model means an even more developmental league than League1 Ontario, which has a seven-month schedule and a good number of teams. RT3 will be not the crown jewel of British Columbia’s senior soccer scene, but a British Columbia PDL. This is fine so far as it goes but that’s not very far. The actual, USL PDL’s record in British Columbia has been mixed. Victoria and to an extent Abbotsford had plenty of initial interest, then as years passed attendance declined. The league failed to arrest the public. A league that is “the same thing but less good” must have the same problem. There’s a ceiling to the amount of casual interest such ephemeral competition can ever generate.

It’s not that players are developed to star elsewhere; junior hockey and college teams make that attractive to fans. A few weeks’ provincial play will probably be an improvement on just the Highlanders and TSS Rovers at a higher level (probably). It’s that the season is so short. Save for the kernel of die-hard supporters, how do you develop a connection to a team that finishes a season in the blink of an eye? How do you develop love for a player to whom your club is only a footnote? When a PDL player goes pro, he is credited to his NCAA college and his PDL career is trivia for the dedicated. The RT3 league seems headed the same way. Far better than what we have; not as good as what we could.

When Canada went to the 1986 World Cup, it took the cream of British Columbia amateur soccer. The heroic George Pakos was winning Jackson Cups in Victoria, Jamie Lowery was a prominent Island player, and in qualifying Ken Garraway did his share. Serious players for serious teams, and when they played for their local clubs serious crowds cheered them on. Of course no semi-professional player other than a prospect is likely to cap for Canada’s men again, and that’s a good thing. But those were still glory days for provincial soccer, made possible by strong local clubs that weren’t the NASL but fought for fans and trophies in their own right. Keeping college students busy for a few months in the summer will never be the same.

(notes and comments…)

99 Friendship Episode 25

By Carolyn Duthie and Benjamin Massey · January 16th, 2017 · No comments

We tried something a little different this episode. Rather than sit down and discuss the pressing issues of the past week, we shot the breeze while watching curling. This is a perfect episode if you like our trademark CanWNT bantz leavened with the yeast of “oh goddamn it Reid Carruthers” even though Reid would, in fact, easily win the game we were watching. This leads to moments where we randomly interject another thought on the Continental Cup, truly the random interjection of curling’s Season of Champions. It was, as our catchphrase goes, weird.

We have a few words about the NWSL draft, and by “a few words” I mean about this many since we did the hard work last week. We consider FIFA’s THE BEST, where I don’t say anything you won’t have learned by reading my blog post last week but nobody got through that goddamned thing so this may still be informative. We spend literal seconds ruminating on the three retiring CanWNT players, Melissa Tancredi, Rhian Wilkinson, and Marie-Eve Nault, then anticipate their being honoured against Mexico in exactly the way Kara Lang wasn’t.

Also we look at some pornography. Uh, if you’re at work, when we tell you to Google something, don’t Google it. Just… just take that as a principle.

Go ahead and follow 99 Friendship on Twitter; it’s very worksafe and family-friendly apart from all the porn.

Whatever It’s Called, the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year is Still a Joke

By Benjamin Massey · January 11th, 2017 · No comments

John Major/Canadian Soccer Association

In 2012, after the greatest season in her own and her country’s history, Christine Sinclair was nominated for FIFA’s women’s player of the year award. She probably deserved it: the leading scorer and most valuable player at the Olympics captained a perennial underachiever to its best-ever international finish, winning world-wide admiration for skill and guts. Instead she finished fifth, behind the winner Abby Wambach (a one-dimensional goalscorer with fewer goals), Marta (who was, honestly, terrible), Alex Morgan (also good, also outscored), and Homare Sawa (another forward on another good team without much to scream about individually).

Wambach wasn’t a bad winner but what hurt was how Sinclair lost. Among peers her value was more-or-less appreciated, but in FIFA a country with no real women’s soccer program gets just as many votes as Germany. It was the their uninformed votes that relegated Sinclair to fifth place while elevating the average Sawa and the famous-but-worse-than-Melissa-Tancredi Marta. It was proof that the FIFA women’s player of the year award was devoid of merit.

2016 was the franchise’s unoriginal sequel. Once again, Canada’s women beat France and won an Olympic bronze medal. Once again, captain Christine Sinclair played an important role for a team that beat expectations. Once again, Sinclair was nominated for international player of the year, now called “THE BEST” by semi-literate cretins, and once again her opponents included an American player with a probably-inferior season but a huge international reputation (Carli Lloyd), a notable Japanese player who didn’t do anything this year (Saki Kumagai, whose team failed to even qualify for the Olympics), and a fabulously-overrated Brazilian striker coming off a unremarkable season, presumably on the list because people have heard of her (Marta, again, harder to kill than Jason Voorhees).

The plot twist was that Sinclair didn’t deserve the award either. She had a good year for club and country, putting her in Camille Abily/Amandine Henry/Lotta Schelin nice-but-not-enough territory. She was not one of the three best players in world women’s soccer, nor one of the three best out of the ten nominees. The only hope was that Sinclair would scoop up reputation votes as a fabulous player approaching the end of her career who everybody should know has never gotten her due. It wasn’t enough and she finished eighth, ahead of Abily, behind Schelin, and pretty much tied with Henry.

Canada couldn’t complain, but the results were still stunning. Marta, once again, wound up in the final three for no obvious reason. Her 2016 was not nearly as appalling as her 2012, as she bagged a couple goals against Canada and one against France in friendly play, plus two against the Swedes at the Olympics. She was also effective with Scandinavian superpower FC Rosengard, though there’s something not-quite-World-Player-of-the-Year-flavoured about the phrase “joint-leading scorer with Ella Masar*.” The Germans had three nominees in tremendous all-round midfielder Sara Däbritz, retiring sentimental favourite and long-time talent Melanie Behringer, and young forward Dzenifer Marozsan, threatening to split the vote. France’s Henry and Abily were also present.

Maybe that’s why Carli Lloyd won. Carli Lloyd, who was the bona fide 2015 world player of the year after scoring about a billion goals in the World Cup and tearing Japan to bloody ribbons in the final. Carli Lloyd, still in her prime and now, technically, an award-winning author. Carli Lloyd, who in a jam-packed 2016 managed one and a half goals against real teams, knocking a rebound into an empty net against France and scoring a pretty good header against New Zealand (that’s the half). Carli Lloyd, who captained her American national team at the Olympics to, er, a fifth-place finish, the worst in their history. Carli Lloyd, who ran off from the Houston Dash[1] to chill and go on a book tour, while her coach literally did not know where she was. Carli Lloyd, who was outscored by Behringer at the Olympics despite Behringer being a traditional midfielder and Lloyd a very attack-oriented number 10. Behringer took penalties and played more games but she out-open-play-through-the-quarter-finals-scored Lloyd three to two.

Then there was the coach of the year award. Canada’s John Herdman was nominated, as in 2012. As in 2012 there was a very good argument that he deserved to be among the contenders, and as in 2012 he came up short, finishing fourth in a bewildering field. Of the ten coaches nominated three (Brazil’s Vadão, France’s Philippe Bergeroo, and South Africa’s Dutch boss Vera Pauw) had been sacked in disgrace before the finalists were announced. Another (the United States’s Jill Ellis) is unpopular with fans for the whole “leading the team to its worst major tournament finish” thing. The winner was Germany’s Silvia Neid, who absolutely deserved it and ran away with the voting. Sweden’s Pia Sundhage was third, and also a good pick. But Ellis, the catastrophic underachiever, was second, despite the fact that her team blew its brains out in Rio and—very sorry but I’m going to have to run wild with the formatting here—Sundhage outcoached her into the ground the only time they met.

At least Neid’s victory was justice at the end of a long and legendary career. But Lloyd was less deserving than the top Germans and the idea of Marta or Ellis in their respective top threes is laughable. To make matters worse, FIFA has introduced a fan voting component to their traditional format. The votes of the captains of each national team, the coach of each national team, selected media members from each national federation, and the overall fan ballot each account for one quarter of the result[2].

The fans did some damage. Their votes bumped Ellis ahead of Sundhage and lifted Marta ahead of both Behringer and Maroszan, who among captains, coaches, and media were still behind Lloyd but ahead of the Brazilian. As it was Marta beat the Germans handsomely[3], making one wonder what sorts of idiots vote for these things.

Yet the mathematically-gifted of you will have realized that if fans get 25% of the say, that means the “experts” get 75%. No amount of Marta-worship from ballot-stuffing Brazilians, no number of Tumblr campaigns for Carli 2017, would have mattered if the professionals had voted intelligently. And when you break down the voting you see that, just like in 2012, countries that don’t even really play women’s soccer dragged the whole award into the mud[4].

Below is a table showing each nominee, her final position in the actual player of the year award, the proportion of the vote she received from all the participating captains, coaches, and media (both raw and weighted one-third each), and the proportion of the vote she received from countries ranked in the top however-many of the most recent (December) FIFA women’s soccer rankings. Also shown are the votes for all countries with a FIFA ranking, which means any country that has played a single official match in the past eighteen months, and the votes for all countries without a FIFA ranking, which haven’t. There are a few countries that are not even “not ranked” by FIFA, but regardless sent in votes; they are lumped in with the “inactive.” And advance apologies to my mobile users.

Name # All Weighted Captains Coaches Media Top 10 Top 20 Top 30 Top 40 Active Inactive
Abily 10 5.39% 5.34% 5.26% 6.19% 4.55% 9.58% 9.60% 9.17% 8.31% 6.24% 2.81%
Behringer 3 14.18% 14.73% 10.19% 11.79% 22.22% 21.07% 20.15% 20.54% 20.02% 14.27% 13.92%
Däbritz 5 6.29% 6.44% 5.01% 5.85% 8.47% 11.11% 6.21% 4.65% 4.20% 5.80% 7.81%
Henry 9 5.60% 5.49% 6.02% 6.53% 3.92% 4.60% 6.03% 5.43% 5.21% 5.64% 5.49%
Kumagai 6 7.62% 7.48% 7.52% 9.41% 5.50% 0.77% 2.45% 2.33% 3.30% 5.64% 10.99%
Lloyd 1 21.92% 21.24% 26.48% 25.28% 11.96% 6.51% 16.95% 17.05% 18.12% 21.66% 22.71%
Marozsan 4 13.19% 13.19% 13.03% 13.32% 13.23% 21.46% 19.21% 20.54% 20.02% 15.75% 5.37%
Marta 2 13.16% 13.05% 15.71% 11.79% 11.64% 7.66% 6.03% 7.11% 8.41% 11.35% 18.68%
Schelin 7 7.08% 7.35% 6.27% 4.66% 11.11% 5.75% 6.40% 8.01% 6.71% 7.07% 7.08%
Sinclair 8 5.57% 5.70% 4.51% 5.17% 7.41% 11.49% 6.97% 5.17% 5.71% 5.72% 5.13%

This table raises questions. Questions like “when Marta dies is she going to get 10% of the vote, or 15%?” and “how did countries that don’t play woso develop such a girl-crush on Saki Kumagai?”

Though the top 10 isn’t a lot of countries, it amounts to 29 voters picking three winners for a total of 81 points in ballot strength (North Korea somehow neglected to appoint a media representative). 29 people is not an overwhelming sample but major awards in sports and entertainment have been decided by fewer. For Christine Sinclair to finish third among that elite 29, including her coach and her media rep, is a tribute from the very competitors Sinclair has been trying to lift Canada up to.

Carli Lloyd starts gaining ground early, driven by a strong coach’s vote in the top 20 and top 30. Of course Jill Ellis voted for Lloyd but the coaches of England (5), the Netherlands (12) China (13), Italy (16), Switzerland (17), South Korea (18), Iceland (20), Austria (24), Belgium (25), and Mexico (t-26) also put Lloyd first. Many of those countries played the Americans in US-based friendlies this year, and Lloyd scored on not a few, so thinking they were sunk by the player of the year must be a great consolation. Italy’s Antonio Cabrini completed his confusing ballot with Marta and Lotta Schelin, then for good measure listed Jill Ellis and Philippe Bergeroo first and third on his coach’s list, suggesting there may be a reason Italian woso has on the downturn lately. Pia Sundhage had Lloyd nowhere.

Maybe they just liked her book. Anyway, what counts is that, in the real woso world, Lloyd is in no danger of catching either Marozsan or Behringer and Marta is an also-ran. The top 30-ranked countries include everyone of even minor consequence in at the senior international level, save some token Africans. Had only the top 30 voted we would have finished with Marozsan and Behringer exactly tied with Lloyd a good step behind, and that would have been an excellent result. If you don’t hold her Houston Magical Mystery Tour against her it’s easy to defend Lloyd as the third-best player on this list.

However, that’s not how it works. Among both minnows ranked below 40th in the world and the teams that aren’t active at all, Lloyd had a decisive lead. Of the 3,321 points allocated in the player of the year ballot the top thirty countries disposed of 774. Inactive countries—national teams which literally do not exist—cast 819 points worth of votes. If you want this award you’re better off being a household name with a book deal.

You can follow Lloyd’s share of the vote rising as the calibre of the voters declines, and very satisfying it is. But Carli Lloyd is nothing next to Marta. Even as far as the top 40, as minnows fill the water, Marta was incapable of cracking 9%. But add in the true nobodies and Marta is on the podium: between them and the fan vote the Brazilian Ella Masar was anointed the second-best player in world women’s soccer for 2016.

If you have the endurance, this chart shows how players’ votes changes as we descend the rankings. Select a player to highlight her, and hover over a point to see which ranking that is. Each point is a player’s ballot position among voters within a set of ten ranking places (which usually doesn’t mean ten countries), with the last point being the not-ranked and not-even-not-ranked voters.

The coach of the year ballot, thank God, was simpler from both ends. At the top, except for us homer Canadians supporting John Herdman, Silvia Neid was a fairly obvious choice both on the basis of Germany’s gold medal and as an acknowledgement of one of the best coaching careers in women’s soccer history. You might chisel her out of first place, on the grounds that she did get beat by Melissa Tancredi in a game she didn’t really want to win and that Herdman or Pia Sundhage had done more with less, but leaving Neid out of your top three altogether would have been negligence. Sundhage was the obvious contender for best of the rest, with Herdman hanging around but probably impossible for a Canadian to neutrally rate.

On the other side of the vote were, well, the guys who’d been fired already. It’s a good bet you can’t be the best coach in the world if your employer decided they’d prefer anyone else. Except for French captain Wendie Renard, who loyally put Philippe Bergeroo third on her ballot, voting for France’s fall guy was a sign of mental illness. And he might still have been better than Pauw, obviously listed only as African representation, or Vadão, whose Brazilians beat nobody in particular and needed a win from the penalty spot just to reach a home bronze medal game in which Canada, a team he had met in two pre-tournament friendlies, destroyed him.

And the fired guys weren’t even the only randoms! Gérard Prêcheur, head coach of the Olympique Lyonnais women, winner of the last season’s Champions League and Division 1 Féminine as well as a favourite in both this year, would have been a excellent nominee if you could find anybody who prioritized European club play in an Olympic year, which you can’t. A notch below were Swiss boss Martina Voss-Teckleburg and Bayern Münich’s Thomas Wörle, both of whom are probably good coaches and neither of whom had much of a 2016. Switzerland dominated a European Championships qualifying group that had nobody in it and wasn’t at the Olympics. Wörle won the last Bundesliga but ain’t gonna win this one and went out of the 2015–16 Champions League to Twente, which is even worse than it sounds. It is, apparently, hard to find ten decent women’s soccer coaches in the world; Paul Riley must be throwing Heineken bottles at his television.

So, with such an obvious top four of Neid-Sundhage-Herdman-Prêcheur, how did Ellis get the silver medal? Oh boy here comes that big table again.

Name # All Weighted Captains Coaches Media Top 10 Top 20 Top 30 Top 40 Active Inactive
Bergeroo 10 3.54% 3.50% 3.85% 3.73% 2.94% 0.77% 2.82% 2.58% 2.60% 3.01% 5.19%
Ellis 2 16.62% 16.26% 19.74% 18.24% 10.80% 1.92% 7.72% 6.59% 8.01% 13.80% 25.31%
Herdman 4 7.27% 7.30% 7.26% 6.87% 7.76% 10.73% 9.04% 9.17% 8.91% 8.06% 4.81%
Neid 1 32.46% 32.86% 28.80% 30.87% 38.89% 42.15% 37.10% 38.11% 36.54% 34.26% 26.91%
Pauw 8 3.06% 2.99% 2.39% 4.58% 1.99% 1.15% 1.13% 2.33% 2.20% 3.29% 2.35%
Prêcheur 5 8.11% 8.23% 8.72% 6.02% 9.96% 11.11% 10.17% 9.69% 9.51% 8.26% 7.65%
Sundhage 3 17.89% 17.98% 15.98% 18.58% 19.39% 26.82% 24.67% 24.29% 22.92% 19.61% 16.16%
Vadão 6 4.97% 4.89% 6.15% 4.75% 3.77% 1.15% 0.94% 0.65% 1.10% 3.45% 9.63%
Voss-Tecklenburg 7 3.03% 2.97% 2.48% 4.24% 2.20% 3.45% 4.14% 4.01% 5.31% 3.37% 1.98%
Wörle 9 3.06% 3.01% 4.62% 2.12% 2.31% 0.77% 2.26% 2.58% 2.90% 2.89% 3.58%

Neid is never not winning, so the victor was the right one. But witness, friends, the Rise and Fall of Jill Ellis. From less than two percent of the vote among the top ten (one of whom was Ellis herself), she gets a boost as she rolls downhill from support that included the reliably-mental Italians and Swiss but was in no danger of bothering the top picks. Ellis is well above the three coaches who have actually been sacked, which is fair enough, as well as oddballs Voss-Teckleburg and Wörle. Then get down to the nowhere countries and all hell breaks loose. Among the minnows only does Ellis whip the superior Prêcheur and Herdman, pass Sundhage, and storm into the medals but, in the inactive countries, she very nearly catches Silvia Neid, which by itself proves they should have their votes taken away.

Yet, again, the American is not the only recipient of minnows’ largesse. At the bottom of the rankings Vadão outpolls not only the rest of the fired brigade but Herdman and Prêcheur! In the very last tiers Bergeroo passes Herdman as well; our Geordie John apparently doesn’t have great name recognition in Argentina. Prêcheur’s work at OL makes him a bit of an insider’s candidate, and he does very well all things considered among the elite, but his little rally doesn’t last long when the obscure countries get in. Wörle, Pauw, and Voss-Tecklenburg, lacking either big names or achievement, are basement dwellers all the way, though the minnows prefer the sacked Pauw to the useful Voss-Tecklenburg in only the least of their capricious whims.

Want to see it? Too bad; I just have another one of those crappy charts.

On the men’s side, where four billion people know what Claudio Ranieri did for Leicester City, these problems don’t arise to the same extent. Complete information is available to even the most sheltered voter. Women’s soccer is much more of a niche event, and huge chunks of voting power are handed to nobodies because they captain a team that, even if it bothered to get together for a game, wouldn’t win a decent Canadian metro league. You have to look for women’s soccer, you can’t just absorb it as with the men.

There’s no question that some captains, coaches, and media from the irrelevant nations took their duty seriously and came up with ballots at least as well-informed as a random Vancouver blogger’s, and from the US to Uzbekistan the media vote was “fair” at worst. But a statistically-obvious number voted for the people they’d heard of. It wasn’t a Canadian who got screwed this time; Herdman wasn’t going to win no matter how you divided it up and Sinclair wouldn’t have deserved to. But the essential truth has not changed in four years: the FIFA women’s awards are voted on in ignorance and therefore meaningless.

(notes and comments…)