FIFA WWC Winnipeg Recap – June 15th, 2015

Winnipeg saw everything from the sublime to the surreal today. From utter dominance to a circus sideshow complete with inept officiating, a pitch invader and the Chinese manager being sent to the stands, there was something for everyone. Unfortunately at the end of the night it came at New Zealand’s expense who now exit the competition controversially but hey, this is FIFA, what else would you expect?

Germany vs Thailand

There was never any question that the #1 ranked Germany would beat the #29 ranked Thailand. The only real question was by how much? Having advanced to the knockout stage from their group before this match even kicked off, this was little more than a training exercise for the Germans.

From the opening whistle it was all Germany. They controlled the possession and the tempo of the match, initiating wave after wave of attack on Thailand. Through the first 20 minutes the only time Thailand got the ball across half was on a couple of goal kicks only to lose possession immediately. The Thai goalkeeper deserves praise for an admirable performance, for much of the game she looked to be the only Thai player on the field and made a number of great saves to maintain Thailand’s dignity on the scoreboard.

Germany finally broke through the wall in the 23rd minute with a great header from a corner kick finding the back of the net. Never shifting out of first gear but utilizing a wide range of attacks through the middle, down the flanks and in the air Germany took only the single goal into the half-time break. It looked as if the Germans used the first half as an extended pregame warm-up and the best was yet to come.

Half Time: Germany 1 – Thailand 0

The second started much like the first with Germany taking immediate control and never relinquishing it. For ten minutes the Thai goalkeeper was peppered with shots, had it not been for her, the German’s would easily be approaching a double digit scoreline by that point.

Finally the German Air Force was released scoring headers in the 56th and 58th minutes, from a cross and corner kick respectively. In the 73rd minute they put in their 4th and final goal of the match. Again, initiated from a cross down the right flank and worked across the goal for an easy open net tap in.

The stats don’t lie Germany had 36 shots of which 16 were on target. This compares to Thailand’s 2 shots, none of which were on target. Factor 14-2 corner kicks and 65%-35% possession for the Germans and you begin to get a picture of just how dominant they were. It’s either a miracle or mercy that Germany only won 4-0.

Some might argue there’s little joy in watching a team get dominated to that extent but for those who eat, sleep and breath the game, it’s not about the result or the emotional response it elicits rather it’s about admiration and respect for the quality of technical and tactical play on the pitch. Germany put on a world class, sublime performance unmatched by any other in this tournament to date. Their play is always controlled and silky smooth while others are erratic and sometimes chaotic displaying everything from the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Having had the pleasure of watching #2 ranked and tournament favorites in many circles, the USA play twice I am left wondering who can possibly match this German side. Can we not simply crown Germany the champions now? Because if the USA is second best in the world, they have a long way to go before coming close to matching the quality of this German side.


New Zealand vs China

And now on to the surreal. This was a huge match for both sides, New Zealand needing a win to advance while China only needed the draw. An army of Chinese supporters in red set the pre-match mood in full voice taking over the north stand of Winnipeg Stadium, territory the American Outlaws occupied for the two match days prior.

China started very strong creating a great scoring chance off a header in the opening five minutes but by the 12th minute they had dropped into a defensive formation looking to play on the counter attack much like they did against Canada. On the counter, China lacked directness and were much too slow getting forward, they wasted a couple of great opportunities when they finally did penetrate New Zealand’s final third.

By the 25th minute New Zealand was taking control of the match, creating opportunities and despite wasting a few they found the back of the net from a corner kick for the opening goal of the match in the 27th minute.

China managed to regain composure and make it a tight, back and forth affair until the 40th minute when the surreal began. The official awarded a Penalty Kick to China for a New Zealand handball but replays clearly show there was absolutely no contact with the players hand. China converted and leveled 1-1. New Zealand was the better team in the half and would be disappointed by their misfortune having lost their lead going into the break.

Half Time: New Zealand 1 – China 1

Perhaps fueled by misfortune, New Zealand started the second half strong putting pressure on the Chinese force them to defend deep in their half.

Once again, after absorbing the opening 10 minutes of pressure the Chinese regain composure and enjoy a spell as the better team leading to a 60th minute goal to take the lead 2-1.

The Kiwi’s fully aware of what they needed for advancement pulled up their socks and immediately answered back with goal of their own drawing level 2-2 in the 63rd minute. From that point on, New Zealand took firm control of the match. They did well in possession and recovered quickly when out of it and utilized the flanks of the pitch very well to penetrate the Chinese final third in waves of attack. It was clear the Chinese were happy with a draw and got all eleven players behind the ball, centrally packing the 18 yard box. They were content to allow New Zealand acres of space on the flanks while crowding out the middle; a dangerous game management tactic given the height advantage and superior aerial ability of the Kiwi’s.

The final ten minutes saw the good, the bad and the ugly. The good, at either end of the pitch, both teams were denied great scoring opportunities by equally great defensive efforts. The bad (although most had a good laugh at it), a pitch invader jumped onto the field from the north stand and had a decent run out, feinting 4-5 security personnel before being caught. I was hoping for a bone crunching tackle but I guess Canadian’s are just too polite and the pitch invader was delicately restrained and escorted away. The ugly, the Chinese employed every time wasting tactic in the book from fake injuries, rehabbing on field, to delayed restarts on throw-ins and kicks. It all finally culminated in a disgraceful display when the Chinese manager was sent to the stands for knocking the ball away from a New Zealand player and then obstructing and bumping her while her attempted a throw-in. To top it off, the Chinese manager waved and prompted the crowd for applause as if he’d done something noble! I hope FIFA takes a good look at this and extends his stay in the stands for the next game at minimum.

Like I said, this day in Winnipeg had it all from the sublime German’s to the surreal antics of the Chinese and officiating. In the end, China claims 2nd place in Group A and advances to the knockout stage while New Zealand’s tournament comes to a sad an undeserving end.



FIFA WWC Winnipeg Recap – June 12th, 2015

This post is three days late but better late than never as the saying goes. With the first game jitters out of the way, Winnipeg’s second round of group D matches were always going to be important, perhaps the make or break match for many teams in this World Cup, if not mathematically than in spirit and momentum. Of course the highlight not just of the day but perhaps one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament would be the USA vs Sweden with current Swedish coach Pia Sundhage facing her former team, the United States which she led from 2008 to 2012. As expected, the build up to this match was made more intriguing with Sundhage’s comments about her former players stating the somewhat obvious and often echoed. Sundhage maintained that Hope Solo was one of the most challenging players Sundhage has ever coached, “especially when it comes to trouble,” and that Abby Wambach, now 35, would not be a starter if Sundhage still coached the team. Nothing dishonest nor offensive in these words but a well timed psychological first strike. Current American WNT coach, Jill Ellis, and several USA players downplayed the comments suggesting they represent neither a distraction nor motivation. But when the USA starting XI was announced and Wambach was named to the substitutes bench, one would have to think Sundhage and the Swedes would build confidence from that and take it as a damaging first blow even before the first kick of a ball.

Australia vs. Nigeria

With opening round loss for Australia and a draw for Nigeria, one would expect these teams with everything to play for to put it all out on the line in this match. On the contrary, it was a rather subdued opening with neither team able to take early control of the match. Australia were noticeably less intense with their pressing game than they showed days before against the USA, perhaps an attempt to avoid the same mistake and prevent early burnout?

Ironically, the Nigerian too were noticeably less direct and explosive on the counter attack then they previously showed against Sweden. It was a rather uneventful opening 25 minutes with a few half chances for both sides; the best opportunity coming from a close range Australian free kick but neither side very threatening.

Finally in the 28th minute the Australian’s broke the deadlock. Originating from great pass out of their defensive third, De Vanna made a beautiful run through the middle before being taken down near the top of the eighteen but K. P. Simon was there to pick up the lose ball and send it across the goalkeeper into the far corner.

The remainder of the half continued to be fairly even with both teams missing opportunities. The Australian’s missed an open net opportunity in the 33rd minute after taking too many touches on the ball, something they were guilty of at times against the USA. Australia took the 1-0 lead into half-time but it could as easily have been reversed or a draw.

Half Time: Australia 1 – Nigeria 0

When the teams emerged for the second half, Nigeria began looking more like the team that played Sweden days earlier. Playing their direct brand of football, they were more successful penetrating the Aussie’s final third and creating chances for themselves in the opening 20 minutes of the half but a stingy Aussie defense did well to absorb the pressure.

Once again seemingly out of nowhere, Australia struck again in the 68th minute with their first real opportunity of the half. A cross from the right flank skipped through the 18 to Kerr who did well to lob it over the flat Nigeria defense caught ball watching to you guessed it, K. P. Simon for her second of the match.

After that, the Australian’s confidence grew, they managed their energy reserves better and they saw out the match for the 2-0 win. Despite the scoreline, this was a statistically even and rather uneventful match, not what many expected given what was on the line for both teams. With Nigeria sitting last in their group and the USA up next in their final group match, advancement is looking very unlikely.


USA vs Sweden

Another USA match brought another ruckus capacity crowd in Winnipeg. Coming off a less then impressive opening round win against Australia, the question on everyone’s mind was if the USA could ignite its misfiring offense, even going so far as to sit Abby Wambach.

Through the opening 5 minutes, both teams came out of the gate looking better then they had in their first round matches. Sweden did well to utilize the width of the pitch which allowed them to penetrate the USA final third often but through 20 minutes and after a few half chances for each side, neither team dominated or took control of the match. The Swedes were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty kick for a very clear “hand to ball” motion for Sydeny Leroux in the penalty area.

The USA was able to pick up the tempo, they enjoyed a prolonged period with more of the ball and were able to push Sweden back forcing them to defend deeper in their half. Sweden remained a serious threat on the counter attack and despite having less of the ball they certainly looked capable of threatening when they did.

The final 5 – 10 minutes of the half saw a return to balance. The teams more or less shared equal possession of the ball and despite not testing Hope Solo, chances created and shots were very close. The USA played a more forward, direct style of play while the Swedes generally took their time to build-up their attacks. Both teams enjoyed periods of dominance but neither team could go into the break with the confidence of know they dominated their opponent; the 0-0 draw meant is was still anyone’s match.

Half Time: USA 0 – Sweden 0

The USA open the second half with a great scoring opportunity. the Swedes adopted a higher more intense press which began to open up the match. After enjoying the better part of the opening 15 minutes, the plucky Swedes just wouldn’t go away and enjoyed a period of betterment of their own in what had become a back and forth affair.

The 68th minute introduction of Wambach had a moment of magic written all over it. After being dubbed a super-sub in the lead up to the match and failing to to crack the starting XI of a World Cup match for only the second time since 2003 could Wambach prove the naysayers wrong and kick start an otherwise rather mundane USA offense.

From the onset of her introduction, Wambach had plenty to say to the referee as she often does and missed a couple of signature headers but still the ebb and flow of the match continued. It wasn’t until the 77th minute when Sweden missed the best goal scoring chance of the match. Sara Seger got on the end of a Swedish corner and send the ball on target, Solo was well beaten with no chance at making the save but the shot was admirably headed onto the cross bar by an American defender spoiling what presented itself the best goal scoring chance of the night.

In the final minutes of the match, Sweden continued to press and recover well while attacking in waves despite failing to test Solo. The sense was that if there was a goal to be had on the night, it was Sweden’s. In the 89th minute Wambach looking to earn her side a PK went down rather theatrically in the penalty area but the referee was have none of it. Wambach is perhaps luck not to have received a caution herself for the dive.


The final whistle blew and the 0-0 draw was in the books. Sweden will be much happier with the point, it keeps them running for advancement and sets up a great final group stage match Australia. The USA will once again be asking questions of their offense. A sound performance defensively, Hope Solo wasn’t tested like she was against the Australian’s but going forward there must be concern among the Americans and their fans as to where the goals are going to come from. There is no question they will easily advance from their group but unless they pick up there offensive play deep progression through the knockout stage is anything but a given.

FIFA WWC Winnipeg Recap – June 8th, 2015

Today the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off its first round of matches in Winnipeg and it did not disappoint. Pulling up to Investors Group Field, pardon me, Winnipeg Stadium as re-branded by FIFA, the excitement was thick in the air. I’ve been to many events at the stadium before but none with an atmosphere quite like this. It was literally a party everywhere you looked. The costumes, noise makers, singing and dancing, it all signaled that something big was about to happen and it made you feel proud and honored to be a part of it.

wpid-img_20150608_220713.jpgSweden vs. Nigeria

This was your classic “Technical vs Physical” battle. Nigeria opened the first five minutes very strong, controlling the tempo and playing very direct. Nigeria were the strong underdog but I guess they never got the memo because they certainly weren’t playing the role through 20 minutes.

Sweden’s best early chances came from a few corner kicks and in the 20th minute against the run of play they were very fortunate to open the scoring with a deflection off a Nigerian player that counted as an own goal (OG).

Oshoala (#8) of Nigeria had a very strong game to that point and you knew she would put her stamp on the game before its end. Either initiating the attack or the receiving focal point of it, Oshoala was a constant in Nigeria’s relentless attack. Playing direct, long-balls and splitting through balls into the attacking third over and over, the Swedish defenders had there hands full all night long with the directness of the Nigerian attack.

But again, it was Sweden to capitalize off yet another corner kick putting them comfortably up 2-0 in the 31st minute. A lead they carried into half time despite Nigeria creating better and more frequent scoring chances from open play.

Half Time: Sweden 2 – Nigeria 0

When the teams emerged for the second half, Nigeria picked up where they left off at the end of the first and scored quickly in the 50th minute to get themselves back into the game. Immediately following their first goal, Oshoala for Nigeria tied it up with another well worked goal in the 53rd minute.

Sweden did well to recover from blowing a 2-0 lead and settled into their more technical passing and possession game which saw them take the lead again in the 60th minute, 3-2. The build up and finish of Sweden’s third goal was superb, easily their best open play attack of the match. Feeling more relaxed, the Swedes took control of the games tempo and held possession for long periods of time. Unfortunately they never really penetrated the Nigerian final third or looked very threatening in attack after their third goal. It was almost as if Sweden were content to hold the lead and see out the match. This of course is seldom a good plan against a powerful team playing as direct and quick to counter as Nigeria.

Once again the Swedes paid the price when yet another Nigerian attack was unleash in behind the Swedish defense, an attack that the Nigerians utilized from the opening minute of the match yet the Swedes somehow failed to adapt to and just like that in the 87th minute, Nigeria get the crucial leveling goal. Having come from behind twice, the underdog Nigerians were very happy with the draw but you get the sense they could have and should have walked away with the 3 points. This certainly did not look like a match between the 5th (Sweden) vs 33rd (Nigeria) ranked teams.



USA vs Australia

With the stadium at full capacity and voice, this game was always meant to be the show piece match of the day. It did surprise but did not disappoint!

The Australian’s came out determined in the opening 10 minutes. Playing a high intensity pressing game, Australia was able to recover the ball quickly and often when out of possession. Their build-up play was equally impressive, carving through the American defense to create some great early opportunities. The question from the beginning was always whether or not they could maintain this frenetic pace for 90 minutes.

But with their first chance on goal, the USA scored at 10 minutes with a shot from distance, a reminder to the Australian’s that with the level of quality on the American team, they don’t need many chances to make you pay.

Australia responded well, they continued their high tempo, high intensity play, recovering balls quickly and penetrating well in attack but taking too many touches in and around the 18 yard box cost them a few scoring chances. However, their persistence paid off when Australia scored the leveling goal at 27 minutes from a beautifully worked setup and finish. The one touch ball movement from the Australian’s was very impressive and defensively they did well to limit the few chances that the USA did have to shots from distance.

Going into half time Australia would fancy their chances for a result having responded so well coming from behind and creating better scoring opportunities MORE frequently than the USA.

Half Time: USA 1 – Australia 1

The opening 10 minutes of the second half proved a back and forth stalemate until the USA took the lead again in the 61st minute, 2-1. Could Australia answer back again?

Over the following 15 minutes Australia had noticeably lost the jump in their step and the tenacious pressing game they showed in the first half simply wasn’t there anymore. The USA was doing a great job forcing Australia to defend deeper in their own half and eliminated the Australian attacks through the middle, forcing their build-up and attack to the wings.

The Australians were looking very tired with the Americans penetrating the final third with ease and were rewarded in the 76th minute with a fine goal, 3-1.

Exhausted but resilient, the Australians fashioned a few chances for themselves in the final 10 minutes but again, too many touches led to squandered opportunities. At 3-1 down in the final 10 minutes, any opportunity with the ball at your feet in or around the 18 yard box is a green light to shoot but the Aussie’s wasted too many of these chances throughout the game.

The 3-1 final score was a stark reminder that football is truly a game of two halves. Australia the better team in the first and perhaps a little unlucky not to take a lead into the break but the USA won the war of attrition in the end. After absorbing all that the Australian’s could throw at them, the Americans fitness and composure lead to a dominating second half and a well earned opening group stage win.

Canadian Youth Soccer Participation: Boom or Bust?

I was sitting at my work station this morning thinking about the session I was planning to roll out tonight with my U12 boys rec team in preparation for the season kick off next week when I got “the email.” It was from a third parent in as many weeks notifying me that they were pulling their child from soccer to focus on various other “priorities.” Then I started to wonder if this was a unilateral decision or if the child was given any say in the matter? Does this parent offer their child any other opportunities for physical activity or promote healthy living in other ways? Without knowing all the facts, I felt sorry for the child, sorry he would miss out on the opportunity to be active, sorry he would miss out on the opportunity to meet new friends, sorry he would miss out on the opportunity to fall in love with the Beautiful Game!

My original roster of 13 players was now down to just 10 and we haven’t even played a single game yet. Being U12 and playing an 8v8 format that leaves me with a very lean roster even with perfect attendance and health. This got me thinking about the broader issue beyond just my team. Being a GIS Specialist, this of course meant I was thinking spatially. Using 2011 StatsCan census data, I examined the population by age within each soccer district in Winnipeg. Using this data I looked at 2015 outdoor soccer participation rates among U12 boys within my own district and that of a neighbouring district, the results are nothing short of disturbing!

SCSA U12 Pop
Figure 1: Youth soccer participation in my local soccer district.
FCNW U12 Pop
Figure 2: Youth soccer participation in a neighbouring soccer district.
Figure 3: Youth soccer participation combined in my local soccer district as well as a neighbouring district.

Figure 1 illustrates the geographical reach of my soccer district and includes counts for total 12 year old population and the approximate U12 boys registration count to calculate their participation rate. Figure 2 and Figure 3 shows the same information for a neighbouring district and the two districts combined respectively. In all cases the total 12 year old population was halved on the assumption that the gender ratio was approximately 50/50. A fair assumption as this fits the general population models for Manitoba and Canada. To confirm, +/- 5% differences in the gender ratio were tested and resulted in a +/- 0.7% difference in the participation rates, a statistically insignificant difference.

I chose this temporal period and these geographies simply because I had the data readily available. Historically these two districts in Winnipeg have faced either socio-economic and/or organizational challenges that have hampered strong growth of their player bases thus they may not be entirely representative of Winnipeg as a whole. It would be interesting to complete this review for all 5 Winnipeg soccer districts for each gender and at each age group from U4 – U18 during both the summer and winter seasons.

So there you have it, a rather depressing 6.6% participation rate this summer among Winnipeg’s 12 year old boys in what is supposedly Canada’s fastest growing and most widely played game. I fully realize the dangers and limitations of extrapolating these temporal and spatial based results beyond Winnipeg and across Canada but it’s a start and an eye opener at that. As fortune would have it, I stumbled upon the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) 2011 Annual Report titled, Momentum: A Game Changer. In it, the CSA claim that nationally 44% of Canada’s youth participate in soccer. My initial thought was what the heck is wrong with Winnipeg, considered by many a passionate soccer market. After regaining my wits, I called shenanigans on the CSA claim. To my luck they published stats on registered players by province and nationally. Again using publicly available 2011 census data from StatsCan and the CSA’s own published 2011 registration counts, I was able to calculate the youth soccer participation rates (combines males and females) for every province and Canada. The disturbing results are summarized below in Table 1.

Canadian Youth Soccer Participation Rates 2011

With a national youth participation rate of 12%, this is a far cry from the 44% claimed by the CSA. As you can see the results are poor right across the board, particularly in the prairies and most disappointing in Manitoba. Keep in mind the numbers I present are for registered players. If the 44% claimed by the CSA was to somehow include a miraculous estimate of unregistered players as well, the results are even more disastrous suggesting that as many as 32% of youth would rather forgo participation in the structured youth soccer system. It’s a damning indictment of our system and the national and provincial governing bodies effectiveness to grow, promote and retain youth participation in the game of soccer.

Perhaps I’ve been harsh in suggesting a lack of growth in the game among Canada’s youth. Well as fortune would have it, yet another gem fell into my lap, this time from FIFA. In the July 2007 edition of FIFA Magazine an article titled BIG COUNT: 265 million playing football a 2006 national count of Canada’s registered youth soccer players was published. I calculated the national participation rate in 2006 using this data combined with the StatsCan 2006 census data to arrive at a participation rate of 12.03% shown below in Table 2.

Canadian Youth Soccer Participation Rates 2006

Interestingly there were actually fewer registered players in 2011 then there were in 2006. This however is not surprising as it follows the decreasing youth population trend over the same time period. What is significant is the fact that there is a statistically insignificant decrease in youth soccer participation rates in 2011 from 2006 thus proving my point that no tangible growth has taken place in the game of soccer in Canada over this time period. It won’t be until the 2016 national census before we are able to see if any progress has been made.

So why all these numbers? Well this all began this morning while lamenting the loss of three of my players and the underwhelming registration numbers within my local soccer district and it just snowballed into a greater issue within my city, my province and my country. The CSA and its provincial member associations have been working very hard in recent years to bring about positive change in Canada’s youth soccer landscape. They have introduced arguably the greatest single advancement in Canadian soccer with the introduction of Long Term Player Development (LTPD), they recognize and are prioritizing the need for quality coach education and are working towards a national Club Charter model. These are great and necessary initiatives to improve the experience for our participants but do not address the root problem with soccer in Canada – growth. Canada has no cultural connection to the game of soccer, we don’t get excited about soccer like we do hockey. Until we establish a national pride and make soccer part of our cultural fabric it is forever destined to be a periphery sport in this country.

Being the soccer loving optimist I am, I’m not ready to call Canada’s youth soccer participation a bust but given the data available, my personal experiences as a coach, player and parent in the community, it seems far from a boom.

Countdown to FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015

100 Days and counting! Canada and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), the national governing body for soccer, will host FIFA’s Women’s World Cup 2015 in six cities across Canada from June 6th to July 5th. The CSA has hosted major FIFA tournaments in the past including the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 1987, the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2002, the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007 and the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2014; all of which were hugely successful events. However, none of these compare to the significance of hosting a senior tournament like the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015. Not only will this be the largest single sporting event ever hosted on Canadian soil it will prove invaluable to supporting the CSA’s planned bid to host the 2026 Men’s World Cup – the largest sporting event in the world, dwarfing the Super Bowl and the Olympics!

The initial round of stadium passport ticket sales is complete and preliminary reports indicate strong sales in all host cities. Individual game ticket sales will be available beginning today and continuing for the duration of the 100 day countdown while tickets remain available. Sellouts are expected for many games, particularly for team Canada and knockout stage games and in host cities with passionate soccer fan bases and high profile matches.


Winnipeg, culturally diverse and rich with soccer history and passion, is one such city that is expected to see multiple game sellouts. Although unfortunate not receive any knockout stage matches, Winnipeg will host many matches from Group D, dubbed the group of death. There have been four champions in the history of the tournament since its beginning in 1991, Winnipeg will host matches featuring three of those champions and two runner ups. Of the 10 teams that will play in Winnipeg, five are ranked within the top 10 in FIFA’s Women’s World Rankings and all but 3 are within the top 20. With quality like this, there’s no question Winnipeger’s will be treated to some the best moments of the Group Stage competition.

Fortunately I secured my full Stadium Passport to all seven games in Winnipeg within minutes of the initial ticket offering on September 10th, 2014. This early bird got the worm and despite not shelling out for the most expensive tickets available, I was still rewarded with some exceptional seats in the 100 section lower bowl. For anyone who’s ever attended an event at the new Investors Group Field, it truly is a state of the art facility. Pardon the cliche but there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. I will be in attendance soaking up every second of every game and will be sharing my experiences and reporting on the days proceedings right here. In the meantime, enjoy the many festivities planned across Canada during the lead up to this great event. Soccer/football fan or not, this is a once in a lifetime experience that offers as much off the pitch as it does on.

The experience is what you make of it, don’t let it pass you by.