Tomorrow is our second-ever home game against Sporting Kansas City. We'll be looking to repeat history by getting a big win, even if we're missing pretty much the whole team with an assortment of lower-body injuries. Of course that's the most important thing. But for guys like me and other supporters of Canadian soccer at any level, there's a second sub-plot that's still essential.
Boo Teal Bunbury. Ninety minutes hate.
Teal Bunbury is the Canadian-born forward for Kansas City, son of our joint all-time leading international scorer Alex Bunbury. A boy who, having made two appearances for the Canadian U-20 team, consumed our money and our time, and lied to both Canadian soccer officials and the public at large about his intentions, decided to jump ship to play for the United States national team last year. I wrote about this when it happened and what I wrote still stands: he was raised in the United States, his soccer education occurred there, he didn't actually play that much for Canada, and while I can't forgive his naked duplicity, from a personal perspective I don't really blame him.
But soccer isn't about what's personal. It's business. This is Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and when Bunbury turned his back on Canada he turned his back on us. He hurt our national team and he hurt soccer in this country. He gave the naysayers yet another excuse to say nay. If you're a Canadian soccer fan (and I don't necessarily mean a Canadian national team fan), he hurt the game you love by thinking of his short-term interests.
So boo Teal Bunbury. Because we're Canadian, and he's not.
I realize that my opinion is not unanimously shared. There's a perception among some Whitecaps fans that Bunbury doesn't deserve this level of derision: he's an opposing player, but he's also somebody who had to look out for number one. He's a professional athlete. We can't know what goes on in a professional athlete's mind; theirs is an arcane and impenetrable world. So give Bunbury the scorn of a decent player on the opposing team and no more than that.
Well, since when did being a high-level athlete become an excuse to ignore the normal rules of human civilization? If I promised a company I'd take a job with them; if I took their money and their time for training in my future position, jumping to another company the instant they called would make me a scumbag. It would be perfectly legal but it would also be an unbelievably dishonest and despicable thing to do, and I certainly wouldn't expect the shareholders of that company to shrug their shoulders and say "well, we could have used him, c'est la vie."
That's Bunbury. He screwed us over. Think of how warm a welcome Liverpool supporters gave Fernando Torres when he returned with Chelsea. Think of how much Man U supporters didn't mind Wayne Rooney's asking for a transfer last year. They were both perfectly entitled to behave as they did, and when Torres was transferred Liverpool got huge compensation. But the players looked out for themselves first and the fans responded appropriately. What Bunbury did to us was far worse; from any ethical perspective other than "I am the only person who matters in the universe" it was indefensible.
If I'm honest, I don't really expect Bunbury to be all that shocked at the booing. He knows what Canadian soccer fans think of him, and he obviously doesn't consider himself Canadian in any meaningful sense (nor, arguably, should he). He'll probably just put it behind him, but that's not what matters. It's about delivering a message: we don't simply smile politely when somebody screws us. We're getting over our inferiority complex. We're a serious soccer country.