Football begun to feel a little more real in Montreal this morning.
The sights, sounds and smells of pre-season prevailed as spring filled the air, even though on the first day of media access, we had to go indoors to observe the players being put through their paces.
Complexe Sportif, Marie-Victorin was the venue as CF Montreal continued its pre-season preparations.
It wasn’t a match of course, but it had that pre-season feel of optimism and anticipation, with perhaps each commodity in greater abundance than usual, given the times in which we currently exist (I almost said ‘live’).
There could be no doubt who was in charge. Wilfried Nancy was the central coaching figure amongst a backdrop of young hopefuls and those of experience, although the age gap between those from the academy and those expecting to play in April’s first scheduled fixture is far from the gulf it once was.
Unsurprisingly for anyone having studied the new head coach, Nancy had time for the younger players in the squad, frequently stopping play to address situations where positional sense or decision-making was lacking. It was HIS SHOW. And he sounded confident and looked comfortable in his surroundings.
Of course the Olympians were absent; from Canada, Pantemis, Brault-Guillard, Bassong and Tabla, and from the USA, Djordje Mihailovic.
All have jetted south to Guadalajara to participate in Olympic qualifying, with Mihailovic considered to have the best chance of success. The other four may well have something to say about that though, and of course every Canadian wishes them the very best of luck....
Kiki Struna and Joaquin Torres were also conspicuous by their absence, both men still quarantining after arriving in Montreal from Slovenia and Argentina respectively. There were unconfirmed rumours that Ahmed Hamdy would soon travel, but as things stand, he remains at home in Cairo awaiting papers.
Three players trained solo, assisted by various members of the coaching set-up. Lassi Lappalainen after shoulder surgery, Emanuel Maciel following minor surgery and Mathieu Choiniere. It was good to see the latter engage in ball work, suggesting progress as the u23 international tries to overcome a long, frustrating absence from action.
One player who caught my eye was Rida Zouhir. There were some really nice touches from the 17-year-old, who also appears to have the right physical build to succeed. He provided the highlight of the session for me in turning Kamal Miller on one occasion sending his more experienced opponent the wrong way. It was a quicksilver move which unsurprisingly earned acknowledgement from his head coach.
The squad move onto Centre Nutrilait tomorrow morning for some work in the great outdoors. The pre-season feel may be about to crank up even further.
Check out the latest The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 19). Recorded last Wednesday evening the TBIR team discuss the Nancy appointment, select the best-ever #IMFC head coach and try to understand why so many of Europe’s big clubs are struggling under pandemic football. Plus all the usual favourite features...
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