With hockey season over for the Canadiens, Montreal is in dire need of a sport we can get behind in the summer. Some turn to the Montreal Impact, our awesome soccer team, but with their home, Saputo Stadium, so far east, it’s not convenient for many of us to schlep out there in an overcrowded metro car. Luckily we have another team we can turn to: the Montreal Alouettes.

The Als, while under many of our radars, have been around since 1946 and despite a lapse of existence in the eighties, still draw die-hard baby boomer fans who were around for the team’s glory years in the sixties and seventies. The Canadian Football League (CFL) within which the Alouettes operate works in conjunction with the National Football League (NFL) in the States.

montreal alouettes toronto argos

While the two leagues are distinct, the NFL’s agreement with the CFL gives them first pick of any players drafted. The CFL gets to choose their teams from whoever is left and a salary cap helps keep any one team from packing their roster with expensive players. Cheerleaders are volunteers compensated with merchandise, publicity, and a chance to travel with the team.

The Alouettes play at Percival Molson Stadium (on the McGill Campus) on Pine Avenue downtown, a location extremely accessible by foot and public transit. An agreement between the team and the STM has resulted in shuttle buses that will take you from various locations along University Street up to the stadium – all you have to do is show the driver your ticket. Tickets go for as little as twenty five bucks but the team is regularly offering promotions in order to fill seats. They can be purchased online at ticketmaster.ca.

On June 17, 2016 the Montreal Alouettes played their first home exhibition game against the Toronto Argonauts. Exhibition games are used by teams to make cuts and don’t count during the actual season. They’re sort of like a massive public tryout.

I was excited and frustrated by the game.

I was excited because of the overall atmosphere of the football game: the music, the crowd’s cheers and screams of frustration, and the audio system blasting “Make Some Noise!” Some players, like the Alouettes’ running backs Martese Jackson and Stefan Logan made impressive runs that wowed the crowd, wriggling past Toronto’s defense before finally being tackled.

Our defense held strong against the Argonauts but our offense came in fits and starts. Quarterbacks Kevin Glenn and Rakeem Cato showed leadership and courage. In the second quarter, a pass from Glenn to wide receiver Duron Carter resulted in a seventy eight yard touchdown. Our team got a total of eight sacks against Toronto and in the end we emerged victorious with a final score of twenty two to fifteen.

I was frustrated because I counted a total of twenty six penalties during the game, many of which were given to both teams at the same time and more or less cancelled each other out. As a legal columnist I see referees as game judges, people who make sure the rules are enforced, but in an exhibition game meant to show coaches what prospective players can do, penalties given for something other than a major foul or unnecessary roughness seem just that, unnecessary.

The screen at the far end of the field used to show replays and ads had a massive glitch leaving a large portion of the screen black that technicians failed to fix. There was also the matter of the cheerleaders.

Als Cheerleaders

Cheerleaders no longer lead cheers. They are now led by recordings that encourage people to make noise, clap, or chant because speakers and large screens can be seen and heard by more people. The cheerleaders were almost all white women and their uniforms, generously provided by Jupa – a company that normally makes snowsuits for children and teens – looked to be designed more for American fetishists than Canadian football fans.

While the outfits are in the team’s colours, they bear the stars and stripes of the USA when a plain design would have worked better. Pleated miniskirts cater to school girl fetishists while the white go-go boots while sturdy are clearly impractical and made only to cater to those into S&M.

Given the uniform and the fact that they don’t lead any cheers, the cheerleaders are clearly there to be eye candy for men in the crowd when there’s no game play going on. That being said, they deserve to be paid for it and it wouldn’t hurt to make their ranks a little more diverse either.

And then there was the halftime show, which featured the Montreal Alouettes’ “Mini Cheerleaders” a bunch of little girls aged 5-17 clad in miniskirts doing a cheerleading routine. The goal of this program, as per the Alouettes’ website, is to allow them to learn to dance with the pros in a fun, safe environment. The problem is that it also seems to be catering to pedophiles.

In an era where women’s sports are increasingly popular and profitable, having a cheerleading program just encourages the notion that there should be separate sports for boys and girls when girls would benefit just as much from the guidance of professional football players as boys would. Instead of encouraging an athletic gender divide, the Als’ should put their money towards girls’ sports teams and make them the half time show.

In the wake of the massacre in Orlando, the Als’ only tribute to the victims was a single pride flag above the field. The lack of honor for the victims at such a masculine event promotes the idea that what happened was an LGBTI issue and not one that affects us all.

The Als can do better, I know they can, which is why I’ll be at the games this summer, wearing the team’s colours with pride. I encourage everyone to do the same.

On September 24th McGill University published a press release stating they had become knowledgeable of a McGill Redmen football player being arrested and charged and that the student would be suspended from football until his court dealings were concluded, carefully citing that this suspension was simply in accordance with the University’s values and athletic standards. Speculation around the charge, which was not indicated by the University in its press release, quickly began circulating – but the quick response from McGill (the student had only been charged earlier that morning) and very public release led many to believe the charge was, as rumoured to be, domestic violence.

Only a few hours later reports confirmed that 22-year old Luis-Andres Guimont-Mota, a running back and all star football player for the Redmen, had assaulted his 21-year old girlfriend and would be facing arraignment in court the following day. It confirmed for many of us that the preemptive public statement was McGill’s attempt to remain out of the shade surrounding athletes and violence and a quick method of applying band-aids to hypothetical wounds if they didn’t act quickly. This all largely influenced by the Ray Rice scandal in the NFL where a running back who assaulted his fiance, knocking her unconscious on film, was only ejected from the league after that film became public.

Some people applauded McGill’s response to the crime. Within hours they developed a press statement, suspended a player and maintained a public image, but is it enough? I suppose we could have asked that question last year, when the same football player was charged with assault and McGill not only allowed him to remain on the team but to serve his 90-day jail sentence once a week, in order to continue his training. Or perhaps we could ask if it was enough when the university refused to discipline three Redmen football players in 2012 after they were charged with the sexual assault and rape of a Concordia student.

Although McGill learned from past mistakes and responded more confidently to the charge, one could speculate it was simply putting water on the embers of an already burning fire.

McGill’s history of dealing with violence, specifically by football players, has never been one to applaud. And with notable public pressure for major athletic institutions to take hardline positions against violent players, it is hard to believe that McGill will ban the football player upon a conviction and repeat offence.

Unfortunately, it isn’t only McGill who fails to set a standard of non-violence to its students. Universities in general are also part of a trend in failed discipline.

Last year, the University of Ottawa administration refused to take disciplinary action against three male students for the sexual harassment and violent comments toward another. More recently a student from Columbia has been petitioning a university for action after being raped by a fellow student, Columbia administration also refuses to take any notable action.

Taking clear positions and hard-line action against students who commit acts of violence contributes to a greater effort in addressing the larger concern of violence against women in general, more specifically in recent headlines: violence perpetuated by professional athletes.

Guimont-Mota was a well-recognized and rewarded Football player, but by failing to remove Guimont-Mota from the Redmen football team, McGill reintroduces to the CFL and NFL a new Ray Rice. It tells other players that not only can you get away with assault and continue to associate with our University, but you can get away with it twice, be sentenced to jail, break your probation and still make it for the fall season kick-off.

By not entirely banning athletes who have committed violent crimes, universities are not simply remaining apathetic to the question of violence itself but instead they are taking a position on the side of that violence.

“The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That’s how I see football, that’s how I see life.”  -Bill Shankly

At 15h00 Brazilian local time, the Arena Corinthians will be filled to the brim as hundreds of thousands of supporters will come to see Os Canarinhos kick off the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup. The game in itself will be of minor importance, not because Croatia doesn’t have a chance against the powerful Brazilian armada – my bet is that Brazil will still come out on top – but because of the protests that have shook Brazilian society for the past year. Those protests will find centre stage at the Arena Corinthias, as they did in the past.

Sport Club Corinthians Paulista – Corinthians for short – is  the name of one of the most important teams of Sao Paolo, Brazil, and Latin America, but its renown is not due to the number of titles amassed through the years. The source of its fame is political. Corinthians became the time do povo (The people’s team)  because of its political struggle outside of the pitch.

The story of Corinthians’ political struggle against inequality, fascism, and the brutal repression freedom of speech, dates back to the military coup of 1964.

On the 1st of April 1964 Joao Jango Goulart would be forcefully deposed from his role as 24th President of the Brazilian republic, by a right-wing military coup. Jango had close relationships with Cuba and the Socialist Bloc, and his espousal of the idea of land reform had put him on the American government’s blacklist. Thus on April first, in a matter of hours, Jango was deposed and exiled by a military junta, which would stay in power until 1985.


The military coup of 1964 was part of the broader Latin American containment strategy spearheaded by Washington familiarly called operation CONDOR. CONDOR, in practice, was the indirect American financing of military reactionary groups to topple left-wing or left sympathetic, democratically elected governments. In a second time, it was to tacit American support for those military dictatorships once they were in power.

From 1964 onwards Brazilian society was, within the realm of politics, a constant victim of political repression and within the realm of economics, a laboratory for neo-liberal electro-shock therapy. This resulted in mass inequality and a horrendous hike in poverty, fostering the most unequal society in the world and crafting the gap between the violent, poverty ridden Brazil and the billionaire tropical paradise romanticized in so many Hollywood movies. It was the darkest age in Brazilian modern history.

In 1981, the Brazilian renaissance begun in the most unlikely place: the Arena Corinthians. During the 1980s until the fall of the military regime in 1985, Corinthians under the new presidency of Adlison Monteiro Alves became the spearhead of Brazilian resistance by transforming the club itself into a cooperative, where players, staff, and managers were all equal and paid equally – an advanced form of participatory democracy even for today’s standards was put in place. Every position of the board and management was democratically elected and Democracia Corinthiana was born. Slowly the fever of football, which is an everlasting flame in Brazil, combined with the urge for democracy set the country ablaze, precipitating the fall of the military regime 4 years later .

world cup protest

Today workers throughout Brazil workers are striking. The metro workers in Sao Paolo have vowed to continue their strike until the government hears their rightful demands. Protests have exploded (and I hope that they will continue) with one central demand: that the hundreds of millions of dollars that were funneled into the competition be put toward social services, education, and healthcare. As the Brazilian team enters the Arena Corinthians this evening, they must remember that this world cup represents nothing for Brazil if the voices of the Brazilian people are silenced – and even a Brazilian record breaking World Cup victory will mean nothing if A Seleção doesn’t recognize and give a stage to the struggle for a fairer and more just Brazil.

Football has always been political, and will always be political. Numerous are the examples of teams that were political actors within in their respective countries in favour of social movements, of striking workers, against fascism such as Liverpool, Rayo Vallecano, Altelico Bilbao, Spartak Moscow… If politics are checked at the door in favour of money, then football dies. The Brazilians in the streets fighting supposdely against the World Cup are fighting for the love of football. The anti-World Cup movement is fighting to keep the culture of football alive and well to preserve the reason why so many are drawn to football in the first place.

At the heart of football has always been a struggle between the perseverance of this demotic, popular culture, and the corporatization of the sport; between passion and profit, between the Brazilian people and the heads of the international Football associations such as FIFA and UEFA.

We must remind them that the love for football isn’t a monopoly of theirs. Much to the contrary, their love for Football is a selfish cult of profit and has no place in the beautiful game.

A luta continua.

While Montreal may not come close to rivaling the level of fanaticism many European and Latin American cities display toward their soccer teams, there are definitely many devoted enthusiasts of the beautiful game among us. For the first time in North America, an effort is being made to bring them all together. Pitch Fest, Montreal’s newest festival, aims to connect hardcore and casual fans alike through film, visual arts, and music all in celebration of the game of soccer.

Paul Desbaillets, one of the founders of the festival and an avid soccer fan, said the time is ripe for this kind of festival to exist here and he hopes the idea of a soccer-themed festival will spread to other North American cities. Soccer as a cultural phenomenon is becoming very prevalent here, he said, but we don’t really have as much of an outlet for it as other parts of the world.

In a way, the cultural aspect of the game is the true focus of Pitch. It seems as though Desbaillets and his fellow founders really sought to make this a celebration of the fans rather than of the players of the sport. Soccer players are idolized the world over so it’s refreshing to see the focus shifted to soccer’s legions of supporters.

Desbaillets said it was important to not make this just a film festival, but to include other forms of art as well. Photography by Jeremy Patterson, art installation by Alan Ganev, painting by Ruben Ramonda, and visual art by street artist Stikki Peaches, as well as DJ showcases presented by MEG are some of the non-film components of the festival. Desbaillets said all the artwork presented in the festival (all of which are for sale) were specially created for this year’s edition of Pitch.

Additionally, organizers have made a great effort to showcase the cultural phenomenon of soccer from as many viewpoints as possible. Ladies’ Turn, which premiered in North America at the festival, tells of the difficulties Senegalese female soccer players face; Casuals explores the development of a youth fashion movement among UK soccer fans in the 80s. 11 Metri is the story of Agostino Di Bartolomei, legendary captain of Italy’s Roma team who took his own life with a gunshot to the heart.

TRAILER “LADIES’ TURN” – Un film d’Hélène Harder from WENDIGO FILMS on Vimeo.

In a city with as much multicultural diversity as Montreal, it can be difficult to unite soccer fans whose loyalties are fragmented and lie with so many different teams. This festival may prove the one occasion per year when every soccer fan, no matter their allegiance, can share the love of their favourite sport under one banner.

Pitch Fest runs from December 5 to December 7. For a full schedule, see their website.