Blogue - Dernières entrées

Écrit par: Halima

19 octobre 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1964 fois

Le 4 octobre 2006, Xi a quitté la Chine pour les couleurs flamboyantes de l’été indien en compagnie de 22 autres chinois partis en voyage d’échange à l’Université du Québec en Abitibi-Temiscamingue. Elle a laissé derrière elle une maman et un papa qui, malgré la difficulté de la séparation, l’ont encouragé à immigrer au Canada. Après ses études, Xi pensait retourner vivre en Chine et travailler à Beijing. Sa maman lui conseille de penser à rester plus longtemps au Canada. « Tu pourrais développer ton art et voyager ailleurs dans le monde ».

Quand elle est arrivée au Canada, Xi parlait seulement quelques mots de français et elle se préparait à fêter ses 20 ans. « Je voulais avoir un anniversaire très spécial, mes 20 ans au Canada, mais le jour de ma fête a fini par être plutôt normal ». Après les couleurs de l’automne, Xi découvre le blanc de l’hiver et les vastes étendus de l’Abitibi. « C’est un peu trop vide pour moi ici » précise Xi. « Je passais de longs moments à écouter de la musique classique. J’écoutais Bach en attendant le bus à moins 30 degrés. Tout était au ralenti comme dans un film. Je pensais souvent à ma famille, mes amis et aussi à la beauté de la culture chinoise traditionnelle. Ça me manquait beaucoup ».

p10178631Départ précipité pour Montréal

Xi déménage à Montréal le même jour que son entrevue pour du travail. Elle se trouve une chambre avec cinq autres colocataires chez une gentille dame et son fils qui ont fini par vendre la maison pour aller habiter à Joliette. Xi atterrit chez un vieux couple d’immigrés portugais qui lui proposaient parfois de manger à table avec eux. Elle leur fait des dumplings. Elle leur pose des questions sur le Québec. Ils s’entendent bien. La femme occupe une grande partie de sa journée à nourrir une dizaine de chats pendant que l’homme se lève à l’aube pour aller nourrir les pigeons du Parc Lafontaine. Vous pouvez le voir en compagnie de ses oiseaux dans le magnifique poème visuel Matins routiniers, (An Early Morning Routine) avec une narration en mandarin qu’elle a réalisé pour Who we are. Xi est une passionnée d’images et de sons. Elle fait de la photo, de la vidéo, de l’animation et de la danse. C’est une artiste pluridisciplinaire qui cherche à perfectionner son art au Canada.

Grande comment?

Tous les petits pas que Xi met les uns devant les autres la mènent forcément quelque part. Elle obtient le contrat pour lequel elle est venue à Montréal, chez EyeSteelFilm, une maison de production de films documentaires où elle travaille à la postproduction de longs métrages tournés en Chine (Last Train Home, 2009). C’est là dans ce contexte que j’ai fait sa connaissance et un jour, au bureau, Xi a préparé des dumplings pour tout le monde dans de la petite cuisine qui s’est remplie de vapeur. C’est sa façon de bien s’occuper des gens autour d’elle.

L’été dernier, après un voyage en Europe de villes en villes, de canapés en canapés, de musées en musées, de rencontres en rencontres, Xi est revenue avec sur le visage cet air qu’ont les gens qui reviennent d’un voyage initiatique qui a contribué à changer leur vision du monde. Elle est revenue enrichie et elle m’a dit : « Quand je suis devenue résidente permanente au Canada, j’ai tout à coup pensé à ma nouvelle liberté. Et je me suis demandé s’il y avait une limite à cette liberté? Elle est grande comment?  « Je vis encore dans un carré créé par mon autre vie chinoise. Quelle est la différence de liberté entre ces deux mondes? Jusqu’où est-ce que je peux aller?»

Pour Xi, le défi est de fusionner son passé à son présent et de continuer à créer.

Ma demande de citoyenneté – mise à jour Je suis toujours en train de remplir le formulaire de demande et de réunir tous les documents qu’il faut joindre à la demande. Je posterai un scan de la check-list une fois que ce sera terminé. Je dois être honnête, ce n’est pas le dossier prioritaire sur ma liste de chose à faire mais je continue.

Écrit par: Alan Bourassa

04 octobre 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 2312 fois

245906621_98e9d09f06_m As much as I regard the likes of Glen Beck and Sarah Palin with the haughty condescension of an anthropologist studying the most bloodthirsty of cannibals, I cannot help but feel that the Palins and Becks of the world dwell in a region where there are political treasures to be won. They, in short, seem to have something that I — that we, as Canadians — could use: the talent to harness fantasy to political ends.
Earlier this summer I was reading a Gazette article about Micheal Ignatieff’s hapless LiberalExpress bus tour stopping in Justin Trudeau’s riding of Papineau in Montreal. The most astute observation in the article was that the cameras at the event seemed to show little interest in Ignatieff and seemed magnetically drawn to the young Mr. Trudeau. A few weeks later, in a conversation over beers, my friend Manish lamented the tenure of Stephen Harper and noted his cleverness in quietly and implacably making the small changes in policy that were gradually stripping away everything that was progressive and egalitarian in Canadian culture. “What has to happen?” he asked. And I offered the only answer that seemed true to me: “Justin Trudeau,” I said, “has to happen.” We are waiting for an event, and, in this case, the event has a proper name.
I want to believe that in politics the best argument wins, that sooner or later the truth will triumph over lies (yes, I’m the one who still holds on to this notion), as much as I want to follow Aristotle in the assertion that things that are right and true are easier to argue for than things that are not, this belief strikes me more and more as a kind of droopy, sad-sack philosophy that belongs to another era, to, in fact, an era that never really existed. Politics today is the politics of fantasy. Period. People are moved by images of truth, not by the ugly, poor and grinding truth itself. We are moved to great acts by great emotions, not great thoughts. We vibrate to the music of stirring narrative, and, as with all music, the issue of whether it is true or not is simply irrelevant. Our reason is, and always has been, ancillary to our dreams.
And rather than lament this odd twist in the human soul, let us embrace it, and with it the intriguing young Justin Trudeau. Time and distance have erased the gradual disenchantment we underwent with the elder Trudeau. We remember now his elegance, his turns of phrase (”Just watch me,” “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”), his decisiveness. We remember a cosmopolitan perspective, an active and probing intellect, a talent for large thoughts and large metaphors. What remains of Pierre Trudeau is the image of a man whose sweeping style and personality made what is, in spite of its geography, a small country feel much larger. There was magic in Trudeau, a magic all too rare in Canadian politics. So much of this magic went to waste, but only because it did not have an historical moment great enough to conjure on.
How much of the previous paragraph is true? Some? All? None? What does it matter? If we are to be the people who bring home political treasures we will have to wrestle truths from fantasies.
What are the struggles, the very real and serious struggles for the future of Canada? To protect the environment? To maintain and rebuilt the institutions of equality and justice? To protect our economy from the predations of sociopathic money men? To harmonize a more and more diverse population? To ensure opportunity for the have-not provinces? To be a functioning national community in a more and more dysfunctional world? Yes, these and other challenges will confront us as a people, and in a world of enflamed passions, of racial mistrust, simmering resentments and violent despair, a managerial calm will not do. We face what is difficult and what is frightening, we prepare ourselves for the work of generations, not with the pale blandishments of reason, but with the passions of fantasy, with the image of a world so much better that we ache for it.
This passion is always embodied in a person, a leader. And the only man that history has prepared for this role in Canada is Justin Trudeau. We can hope that he has inherited a part of his father’s intellect, some of his talent for the theatrical, and a large dose of the arrogance that we loved in Trudeau however much we may have condemned it, as — polite Canadians — we were inevitably going to. What Justin Trudeau can bring to the political fray is the sense that a moribund liberal party has found, finally, its event. That after the attempts to create a new energy from the hearts of energyless men, after the maddening inability of the Liberal party to generate an image of the future that strikes us all as simply and convincingly good, there will be a figure, a voice, a face, that will attach the picture of our imagined beautiful future to a picture of our imagined beautiful past.
And this is the greatest power of political fantasy. The past is what it is, riddled, as always, with compromise, inertia, the pettiness of the everyday exercise of power. It may be incorrect, the burnished image we always offer up of this past. It may be factually inaccurate to see in Pierre Eliot Trudeau a leader of vision, a man of scope and reach. This, some might argue, is political fantasy at its worst. But the strange thing about such fantasy is that its worst is intimately bound up with its best. Perhaps fantasy cannot change the brute factual reality of the past, but it most certainly can change what will be the equally brute and inescapable reality of the future. If the image we possess of Pierre Trudeau is that of a man whose potential went largely unrealized, who had in reserve wisdom and decisiveness that, for a host of reasons, went unused, then why not see in his son the return to the scene of the very wisdom and energy we need today more than ever? If the son echoes the father, if — greatest of dreams — he strives to surpass the father, we should encourage and applaud such ambition. If he one day appears large to us, large with political purpose, large with hope, large in his expectations of us, then this power will become our truth, however much it may be couched in terms that are beautiful, poetic, dramatic, even fantastic.
Justin Trudeau’s moment is not yet here. He is still young, still flexing his political and intellectual muscle. I hope he will not fall victim to the modesty with which our culture seems sometimes cursed. He will assume leadership with a strong wind at his back, with an inheritance of political capital, with — most importantly — an aura of fragile but effective historical magic. He may not thank fate for having dropped him into this role, but we may still have reason to thank him if he assumes it will strength and purpose.

Écrit par: Chris Aung-Thwin

28 septembre 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 2684 fois

As a youth soccer instructor in Montreal I am fortunate enough to witness everyday moments of perseverance, humanity, and acceptance from a very diverse, yet very homogenous group: Canadian children.

The soccer courses are offered from a community centre in the Plateau district – basically in the heart of Montreal. While we devote a great deal of time to drills aimed at improving basic soccer skills and athleticism, we also try to instill a sense of fair play, sportsmanship and cooperation.

But to be honest, cooperation seems to come pretty naturally to these kids, which is amazing (at least to an adult) because they come from such fundamentally different backgrounds. The children I’ve taught have spoken combinations of English, French, Hindi, Japanese, Arabic, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Greek, Spanish, Punjabi, Urdu, German – to only name a few. They’ve been Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Agnostic. Black, white and every shade in between. Some families have been here for generations, others are recent immigrants.

The kids (and their parents) interact in French, English, hand gestures and smiles. It’s a great community environment where everybody gets along. Everyone, especially the kids, are interested to learn about other cultural backgrounds and have such an easy time picking up new languages. Relationships and community are forged. It’s a strong mosaic that’s representative of who we are.

There’s never a language debate.

I’ve never seen racism on our field.

Provincial politicians like Pauline Marois and Pierre Curzi are putting politics where they don’t belong. They’ve both stated recently that the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens need more Francophones on their roster. Professional sports build a sense of community in cities and entertain hard working citizens. By thrusting politics into play, they’re not only creating societal divisions they’re adulterating an institution that can make people feel young again.

Sports – like my students intrinsically know – are fun. They’re happy with their teammates (as long as their teammates don’t push, grab or constantly emit a high pitch scream) because the game is fun.

Life too is fun – or can be – if you let it.

Kids are excited to learn, play, exercise. They’re great at meeting new people and finding similarities to build on – not differences to divide.

We build walls, they climb over them.

It’s time for our elected officials to learn something from our kids. No more us versus them. Less politics. More play.

I love French culture. It’s one of the reasons why Montreal is one of the happiest cities in the world. But it’s not the only reason. We have a vibrant and diverse culture here. I’m a proud Quebecer and a proud Montrealer. I’m proud of my roots which go deep in this country - and also stretch across the globe. My skin is not pure white and my father was not born on this soil - but I am Canadian.

Je suis Quebecois.

Perhaps us adults can spend less time playing politics and spend more time on the same team. Shared goals and cooperation. Ultimately, that’s what will unite us.

That, and our kids.

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Écrit par: Hinda

20 septembre 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1750 fois

Existant bien avant l’arrivée de l’Islam, le voile est aujourd’hui un sujet des plus controversé. Mais avant tout, voici d’abord un petit lexique de quelques définitions qui nous aiderons à définir et à clarifier la différence entre différents degrés de “recouvrement”.

voile_02Le hidjab est un simple voile qui cache les cheveux, les oreilles et le cou, ne laissant voir que l’ovale du visage. Le tchador est une grande pièce de tissu posée sur la tête retombant jusqu’aux chevilles et qui laisse également tout le visage à découvert. Le niqab est un voile intégral, soit une étoffe ne laissant apparaître qu’une fente pour les yeux. La burqa est un grand voile, bleu ou brun, qui recouvre complètement la tête et le corps, avec un grillage dissimulant pour les yeux.

L’Occident mène un combat contre le symbole ou l’idéologie du voile, avec l’argument qu’il va a l’encontre de la liberté et de l’égalité de la femme. Mais qu’en est-il justement de la liberté de ses femmes voilées? Y a-t-il une nuance à apporter entre une femme soumise à la loi du recouvrement et une autre qui le porte par choix?

Dans n’importe quel pays, celle qui a la volonté de se battre pour sa liberté vestimentaire et son droit à l’égalité doit être entendue et appuyée. Mais ne faudrait-il pas, afin d’être juste, écouter ce que toutes ces femmes ont à dire sur ce que le voile représente pour elles? Si pour certaines femmes le voile est un fardeau difficile à porter, pour plusieurs autres, il est l’expression légitime d’une identité qui demande à se faire entendre. Cette nuance est cruciale et demande un ajustement face aux combats que l’on porte.

De la même façon qu’il est nécessaire et urgent de supporter la cause des femmes opprimées, il est impossible de passer à côté du symbole identitaire que ce morceau de tissus est devenu à travers le temps.

Écrit par: Christina Nicolo-Couto

20 septembre 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1881 fois

From the way we communicate to the tools we use to do it, technology is engrained as a basic component of interpersonal interaction in Western society. It’s come to be so fast-paced that nothing is ever new for very long, and upgrading for the latest ephemeral gadgets comes as naturally to us as changing our underwear.

For almost a week now, my landline has been disconnected, thanks to workers from Bell who accidentally cut us off while doing seasonal maintenance. My initial feeling wasn’t panic though, but rather annoyance. It meant I would have to contact anyone who’d normally reach me at home to tell them to call my cell instead. But then it dawned on me - no one has ever tried to reach me on my home phone since circa 2005.

More and more, people have been ridding themselves of home phone lines altogether, especially younger generations that are starting to live on their own. In an age where practically everyone has a personal cell phone, what’s the use of a landline? Cell phone companies are encouraging the trend by offering great deals with Internet packages so that people will never have to use home phones again.

cell-phones-africa1To Westerners, this shift in the importance of cell phones simply represents another phase in our rapidly evolving technological era. But in other less developed areas of the world, cell phones are much more than a slight novelty – they are key in providing interpersonal information exchanges that have been quite simply impossible thus far. In Africa for example, they are completely revolutionizing traditional lifestyles. From having scarce communication resources to a widespread surge in cell phone usage, there now exists in Africa the fastest growing cell phone market worldwide, developing exponentially each year. Africans living in villages that don’t yet have electricity or drinkable water own cell phones.

This technology we’ve come to take for granted is now opening a whole new world of opportunity to those discovering it for the first time. Food for thought when considering just how powerful a tool the cellular phone has become.

Écrit par: Christina Nicolo-Couto

20 septembre 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1694 fois

Children and grandchildren of immigrants have probably heard these words before: “You have to stick to your own kind!” Be it for friendships, dating or marriage, older immigrant generations seem to have a very narrow view about interacting with others. Whether it’s out of fear of losing their cultural roots, language barriers or culture clash, this fear of the other remains a very ignorant way, and though it may have worked twenty or thirty years ago, it no longer works today.

Cultural differences among younger generations are no longer a big issue. Since schools these days are filled with kids from various backgrounds, youths are exposed to different ethnicities and religious beliefs from a young age. This exposure allows them to interact with and learn about different cultures, while developing interesting friendships. Everyone is friends with everyone, regardless of skin colour, ethnicity or religion.

mixed-culture-family3What’s more, cultures are blending together through coupling and marriage, and producing children of mixed backgrounds. The city of Montreal is filled with mixed individuals, from backgrounds such as Haitian-Italian to Filipino-German. I myself am a product of cultural blending, having a Portuguese father and an Italian mother. When my mom started dating my dad, she was a little apprehensive about her parents’ reactions to her non-Italian choice. In the end, my grandparents embraced my dad and realized a little Portuguese in the family wouldn’t hurt anyone.

In contrast to those old immigrant “rules”, my parents, having defied them themselves, raised my brother and I very openly. From when we were very young, we were taught to accept and respect everyone, because though we may be different, we’re all equals. Once I hit the dating age, my dad’s only rule was that I could date whomever I wanted, as long as they weren’t “douche bags”.

I know some people still have this mentality that “your own kind is the best kind” engrained, and in the end, everyone’s entitled to be with whoever makes them happy. But I say, why limit yourself to vanilla when there are so many flavours to choose from?

Écrit par: Hinda

07 septembre 2010|Mots-clés:

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1283 fois

Le 23 avril 2010, assise en entrevue à la table de Christiane Charette à Radio Canada, un des invités me demande : « ne croyez-vous pas que lorsque les immigrants arrivent au Québec, ils doivent adhérer à un certains nombres de valeurs communes? ».

La question qui tue, les fameuses valeurs communes. Mais quelles sont-elles ces valeurs communes?

Le Québec s’est durement battu pour le droit des femmes, d’accord. C’est grâce au travail remarquable de nombreuses féministes que les québécoises jouissent aujourd’hui d’une liberté et d’une égalité enviée de par le monde. Le rejet de la religion et l’implantation de la laïcité sont également venus définir l’identité d’une grande partie de la population du Québec. Finalement, notre belle province francophone se bat pour affirmer son identité distincte, et revendique la reconnaissance de sa langue et de sa culture au sein du pays. C’est pourquoi des sujets chauds comme les accommodements raisonnables viennent effrayer de nombreux québécois. La peur de perdre ce qu’ils ont chèrement défendus d’abord et la peur de l’assimilation ensuite. C’est pourquoi l’immigration peut aussi facilement être perçue comme une menace de plus dans l’authenticité et la préservation de la culture québécoise.

Alors quelles sont ces valeurs communes dont tout le monde parle? En regardant de près les nouveaux arrivants, on peut voir des familles qui débarquent en ayant tout laissé derrière eux, travail, familles, amis, communautés, etc. Ils arrivent la plupart du temps avec des diplômes pleins les poches et une expérience de travail monstre. Que recherchent-ils? Un travail à la mesure de leurs compétences ainsi qu’un avenir meilleur pour leurs enfants dans une société en paix.

Une ouverture d’esprit est nécessaire afin de laisser le temps à ces nouveaux arrivants de se poser en terre inconnue, de connaître les lieux, mais surtout de s’y reconnaître et de s’y identifier pour ensuite construire avec la population déjà établie. L’intégration se fait à partir du travail et très vite, la seconde génération prend le relais, elle grandit au sein de la communauté grâce à l’école, aux différentes activités et aux amis. Ce processus d’intégration a besoin d’un temps minimum nécessaire, et lorsqu’il est bien fait, il permet un échange réel. Le Québec et le Canada ne peuvent que s’enrichir d’une diversité ouverte et paisible.

Donnons le temps au changement et qui sait, peut-être que ceux qui sont réticents à la diversité verront que les choses changeront pour le mieux.

(Pour plus de discussions sur le sujet de l’interculturalisme, joignez-vous au groupe Facebook “Ici on est au Québec, restes-y pour bâtir une société ouverte et colorée”.)

Écrit par: Halima

07 septembre 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1495 fois

C’est le mois de mars. Il est 8 heures 35. Il n’y a pas beaucoup de monde dans la salle d’attente de Citoyenneté et Immigration Canada sur la rue Saint-Jacques. Je suis ici pour venir chercher mon renouvellement de carte de résidence permanente. Il y a toujours la même odeur de grippe dans ces lieux d’attente. J’ai à peine le temps de faire le tour des visages illuminés au néon en me disant que je rayonne de la même lumière qu’on m’appelle déjà au comptoir.

- Bonjour.

- Bonjour Mademoiselle. Une pièce d’identité avec photo et le IMM 1000 s’il vous plaît.

- Voilà.

- Ça fait 12 ans que vous êtes au Canada?

- Oui. Ça fait 12 ans.

-Vous n’avez pas encore demandé votre citoyenneté?

- J’ai pas encore eu l’occasion non.

- Vous ne voulez pas devenir Canadienne?

- Si. Je veux devenir Canadienne.

- Vous devriez vous dépêcher de faire votre citoyenneté. Vous savez les démarches vont être beaucoup plus longues. Et c’est pour bientôt. Ça va être plus difficile.

- Pourquoi?

- C’est le gouvernement et la quantité de demandes qui augmente. Ça va être de plus en plus difficile oui.

- Oui. Je vais faire la demande tout de suite alors.

- Voilà. Vous pouvez télécharger le formulaire sur internet aujourd’hui.

- Oui, merci. Au revoir.

C’est le mois d’août et je n’ai toujours pas téléchargé le formulaire de Demande de citoyenneté. Qu’il y ait un peu de fainéantise face à la besogne administrative, c’est compréhensible, mais je crois surtout que dans mon cas, mon inertie vient d’un manque de motivation. Je déteste cette idée. 2296894839_fa90959cfb_m

Je n’ai pas espéré un troisième passeport. Je ne suis pas venue au Canada pour immigrer mais pour étudier. Je vis à Montréal. Je me souviens de mon statut de résidente permanente seulement quand je renouvelle mes documents. J’en connais d’autres qui sont résidents permanents à vie. Nous ne faisons donc pas partie des 85 % des nouveaux arrivants admissibles qui deviennent citoyens du Canada.

N’ai-je pas envie de voter dans le pays où je vis aujourd’hui?

N’ai-je pas envie de créer un Canada plus fort? comme il est écrit sur le site web de Citoyenneté et Immigration Canada.

Oui, j’ai envie de voter à la prochaine élection.

J’ai décidé de présenter ma demande de citoyenneté en 2010 en direct sur Who we are. Je ne m’attends pas à des aventures palpitantes mais on ne sait jamais. Ils pourraient me refuser.

D’abord, je dois savoir si je suis éligible. Il y a une calculatrice de la période de résidence pour me dire si j’ai habité au Canada assez longtemps. Tout ce qu’il faut avoir sous la main ce sont des dates, arrivées, sorties, etc. Ensuite, je télécharge le formulaire et j’écoute le tutorial vidéo. Pas d’excuse.

En 2011, je ferai partie des 170 000 personnes qui deviennent Canadiens chaque année. Pendant le processus qui devraient durer quelques mois, je raconterai des histoires de citoyenneté comme celle d’une amie chinoise qui a immigré en Abitibi.

P.S. : Comme je lis tout sur tout en matière d’immigration en ce moment, n’hésitez pas à me contacter si vous avez des questions.

Écrit par: Giovanna Nicolo

05 juillet 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 1693 fois

Back in 2005, I found myself traveling throughout Honduras, the third poorest nation in the western hemisphere according to the World Bank. A perilous drive through the winding, mountainous roads on a relic of a North American school bus - wealthy North American Business men sell these mechanical monstrosities to destitute countries, as they cannot afford safer, more modern vehicles. For countless hours, we drove, maybe 7 or 8 hours past endless Banana Plantations, punctuated by the occasional jungle mud hut, dirty barefoot child standing, staring, as though he’d been poised in the same place the whole day. Like those workers who just sit as though stranded in time, on the side of the highways, hoping that a construction truck in need of cheap labourers will offer them some work. Eventually it was time to pause to fill our famished bellies so we stopped at one of the major super-market chains. After having seen all those banana trees, I thought it best to taste the fruit from the source. I was anticipating tasting what will probably be the freshest banana I will ever taste - I entered the store and  I hurriedly  made my way to the produce section only to find the bananas were utterly and completely rotten.
Bewildered, I later asked a local banana picker I had met, why this was - where were all the bananas from the thousands trees I had just witnessed, going?  He smiled a nearly toothless smile and said in a thick accent, “Banana go norte, to USA, to Canada.” Many like the banana plantation worker I had just met, dream of making their way to the US or Canada and often do make the treacherous, illegal journey north out of destitution and poverty.  They risk the passage where many are sent back and where many lose their lives to build a new life. And as I learned from the banana incident that summer in Honduras, they come to reap what hey sow.


Écrit par: Alan Bourassa

28 juin 2010|

0 Commentaire(s)|Lu 3508 fois

Every four years my normal interest in soccer (which I will hereafter call “football,” thus indicating that I am a North American but not excessively proud of it, since the word “soccer” just catches in my throat) is elevated to a fever pitch when the World Cup rolls around. And every four years, like clockwork, we hear the predictions that football is about to come into its own in North America. The next decade, we were told in the eighties and nineties, is the decade when football will finally take hold. North Americans will develop the aficion that the world already embraces.

Of course, we are still waiting. It seems that there is something in football that fails to stir the North American imagination, some resistance we have to it as a meaningful activity. We embrace hockey, baseball, basketball, MMA, a whole range of sports. We can even get excited about bobsledding and decathalon every four years, but we hold back suspiciously from football, as if it is about to tell us something that we don’t want to know. It may be that the meaning of football is beyond us. We are not ready for its hard lessons.

Watching three games a day for the last week, something occurs to me, and becomes clearer and clearer to me: The “beautiful game” is ugly. Surely there is no sport in the history of mankind that features incompetence, banality, failure, duplicity and anguish as much as football.

Although it is true that every sport features moments of failure (the strikeout, the allowed goal, being knocked unconscious), it is also true that every moment of failure is accompanied by a more apparent and obvious moment of triumph that will be remembered more vividly than the failure. We remember and replay the punch that scores the knockout, the split-fingered fastball that completes the no-hitter, the slapshot that eludes the goalie. We celebrate and recall the triumphs, and understand the painful failure as a necessary by-product of that triumph. Failure, for North American sports fans, is never a thing in itself.  In fact it is so rare to note spectacular moments of failure, that really historic moments of incompetence (like the hapless Bill Buckner’s World Series blunder at first base) become iconic, to be approached with eyes averted. North American sports are optimistic celebrations of skill. Hockey players glide with more-than-human speed and finesse, basketball players score points flying through the air, boxers can’t move without embodying power and strength.

But the texture of football — its essential background — is failure and banality. And, what is more, football celebrates this ugliness. I don’t deny the breathtaking skill required to play football at the world cup level, but the optics of the game render this skill all but invisible. Average sized and smallish men in baggy uniforms routinely miss a target that is, quite literally, larger than a garden shed. I have seen simple passes made under no pressure that fail to connect to a teammate ten feet away. I have seen, already in the last two weeks, goaltending blunders that would have lost a Canadian his citizenship. I have seen shots taken by the best players in the world that seemed perversely designed to miss the goal. I have seen the English team trot through a scoreless tie with Algeria like despondent llamas, and a French team whose plodding petulance will all but erase the memory of past world cup triumphs. Football players are capable of playing so badly that games — very much unlike even bad hockey, baseball, or basketball games — simply become distressing and saddening to watch. And far from turning away from all this awfulness, football broadcasts it. The camera will dwell on the anguish of a player who has just missed a shot into an open net. And the announcers, I have noticed this week, will not discuss a scoring play without adding “The defense really fell down on that one,” or, snidely,  “Well, the goalkeeper has to do much better than that!”

And as if the missed shots, bobbled passes, scoreless ties, own-goals weren’t enough, the game becomes even uglier when we add in the ever-present fakery, diving, groans of anguish and Shakespearean death scenes that make footballers seem less like athletes and more like amateur thespians at an improv workshop. Football offers us officials so gullible they surely must moonlight as referees for professional wrestling, and features an offside rule so perverse and impossible to call that it not only guarantees that all action will stop the moment the game becomes exciting, but that many goals will be rabidly disputed and dissected for decades (see New Zealand’s goal against Italy) and will rankle with the losers and taint the pride of the victory. And this is not even to mention the gambling and sex abuse scandals, the temper tantrums and locker-room feuds. Football is truly a horrible game. Has no one has picked up on the irony of calling this slow, stumbling, bumbling mess “the beautiful game”?

And this is precisely what we miss in North America. Our games are finally about triumph. They accept defeat only as the poor cousin of victory. Everything is geared to the promise that we will break the bonds of the human condition and watch heroics (and make no mistake: our constant bleat that the innocence of sports and the glory of athletic heroes have been lost is the greatest indicator of how tightly we still hold to our childhood dreams).

But football is immersed in the very ugly and limiting conditions of everydayness. Unjust decisions, unfair play by opponents, days when the emotion necessary for victory just isn’t there. Skillful players make mostly unskillful plays. The vast majority of attacks sputter out weakly and come to nothing. There is falling and clutching, tangles and flying elbows, and always balls dribbling out of bounds. Whole teams run out of ideas. Energyless games end nil-nil. One begins to suspect that the average football fan must be sustained by a healthy dose of masochism.

But then there is the moment.

In Uruguay’s game against host team South Africa, Diego Forlan, barely in sight of goal, takes an unlikely shot, and it is as if the ball has left ordinary time, as if the moment the ball was struck the goal was assured and all we could do along with the players was to watch it happen. There is always a kind of agonizing stasis as the ball flies, and strangely, the harder the ball is struck, the more laser-like it is, the more it gives this impression that one is already watching the original moment in slow motion. Brazil’s Maicon scores a goal from an impossible angle against North Korea, and his shot seems to defy the laws of physics as it swerves into the goal. New Zealand’s young goalkeeper Mark Paston performs acrobatics against powerhouse Italy, flying horizontally across goal, attacking the ball with a balletic ferocity to win an almost miraculous draw for his country. There are moments when the great teams are on the attack and amid the chaotic swirl of bodies, the dogfight of defense and attack, we can perceive a delicate pattern emerge, the series of three and four and five lightning passes that cut through the madness and finish with the ball in the back of the net. It is fragile and easily missed, but it is what all football fans thrill to.

And this is perhaps what we fail to understand about this ugly beautiful game. It is only from the wreckage of the game, from its human limitations, its coarseness and its mundanity that the beauty can emerge. Football is not offered to us as an escape from the hard conditions of living, but as proof that it is from those conditions — let them be as petty, as grotesque, as cruel as they  will — that the moments of beauty and perfection will emerge, as eternal as they are fleeting.