Going straight to the top

Ran into a former coach at our club yesterday and it reminded me of one of my favourite coach stories. Most people who read this will know what an International Transfer Clearance (ITC) is but briefly for those who do not it is a FIFA initiative designed to curb unscrupulous agents preying on young players, generally from poorer countries, who are desperate to get tryouts and contracts with professional clubs in Europe. It forces clubs to get an array of intrusive questions answered so as to ascertain that the player and his or her parents are legitimately in the country to eliminate the chance that an agent has charged them a large sum of money to arrange a trial when in fact many, in the past, have just been abandoned to the streets when they reach Europe.

So ITC’s serve a purpose but their implementation has been extended to every player between the age of ten and 17 regardless of the level of play or country. That means we get 10-20 players every year who move to Vancouver and need to fill out an ITC just to play low level recreational soccer. Clearly ITC’s were not intended to stop kids who have moved to Canada from playing recreational soccer but there are no exceptions to the policy.

In theory, once their ITC application leaves Canada and goes to the national association of the country they moved from, if it is not responded to in 30 days, the player is free to play. There are often side issues that lengthen that though.

So back to Tim, the former coach at our club. He was coaching a U16 or U17 Silver team (fourth of five levels of play) and had a new player who was keen to play. The 30 day deadline came and went but there was no clearance from our governing body. Tim asked our admin staff to look into it and the query flowed from our club to the District to the Provincial body and to the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA). And then nothing. We couldn’t get an answer. Tim was not impressed and was increasingly upset at the ridiculousness of this player new to our club not being able to play. He persisted, going through the established channels, but with every non-response he got more impatient as this dragged out over close to three months.

So, as is not too unusual on the west side of Vancouver, a very affluent part of the city, Tim decided he was done dealing with underlings. Instead he decided to go right to the top to get this sorted out. He picked up the phone and called the then new CSA President (and now FIFA Vice President) Victor Montagliani! Tim had never met or talked to Victor before so it’s not like he was leaning on him as a friend to get something. He just called him and asked, persistently, that Victor figure out what had happened and fix it.

And the best part is…Victor, to his credit and my amazement, did just that.

He took down the details, made a phone call or two and got back to Tim days later saying the problem was solved and the kid was now eligible to play.

I’m not going to hang anyone out to dry over what the problem was but it was a simple clerical error on the Canada side of things and Victor was able to get someone to look into it quickly, realize what the mistake was and rectify it.

So the next time you don’t have a ref show up to do your game or you’re not sure if a field is closed due to inclement weather, you know who to call.

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