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Varsity Blues Football vs. Queens University

Bader Theatre hosts Black Ribbon event remembering Molotov-Ribbentop pact

Chessmaster Garry Kasparov compares Stalin Putin at Black Ribbon event

Bader Theatre hosts  Black Ribbon event remembering Molotov-Ribbentop pact

The Lithuanian embassy held a Black Ribbon event at the Isabel Bader Theatre on September 12 to remember the 80-year anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, and  to recognize the victims of totalitarian and fascist regimes.

The keynote speaker, chessmaster, and notable opponent of the Kremlin, Garry Kasparov, drew from his experiences to compare Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regimes.

“Hitler and Stalin were allies,” Kasparov explained. “They started World War II together.” The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was a non-aggression treaty between Stalin and Adolf Hitler, which was signed on August 23, 1939. The pact enabled the German invasion of Poland nine days later, which is regarded as the inciting incident that began World War II.

Professor Matthew Light, who specializes in Eastern European and Russian politics, explained in an interview with The Varsity that Stalin “essentially carved up eastern Europe with Hitler, and after the war, imposed Soviet rule on the Baltics and communist regimes in Poland and other eastern European states.” Those states included Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and more — many of which had representatives at the Thursday event.

Kasparov on Hitler, Stalin, Putin

Professor Light argues that painting Stalin as a hero against the Third Reich is a tool in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, “whose leadership Putin and his regime frequently refer to as ‘fascists’ and seek to associate with the Nazis.”

In 2009, during a visit to Poland, Putin denounced the pact as a “collusion to solve one’s problems at others’ expense.’’ 2014 — the same year Russia annexed Crimea — Russia’s Culture Minister, Vladimir Medinsky, called the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact a “colossal achievement of Stalin’s diplomacy.”

“I could only envy Canadians because they enter elections and they don’t know who’s going to win,” Kasparov joked in his keynote address.

“[Young people] want to hear about the future. And what can Putin can offer? Nothing. They could see wars. They could see growing tension there. Most of them are pro-Western and they could see that there’s a growing gap between Russia and the free world.”

“Corruption in Russia is not a problem, it’s a system,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Kasparov remains an optimist, adding that “whatever happens after Putin, it will be some sort of regrouping, but I think Russia will move in the right direction. It’s a big chance and hopefully, unlike in 1991, we will not miss it.”

Battling Blues drop home opener to Waterloo

Toronto shows resilience and potential, despite loss

Battling Blues drop home opener to Waterloo

The Varsity Blues men’s rugby team took on the Waterloo Warriors in their home opener on September 14, dropping a 35–14 decision.

Toronto got off to a slow start, with Waterloo scoring the opening try within the first minutes of the game. A brilliantly crafty play — a low, skipping kick from Waterloo for a sprinting player to latch onto — and subsequent conversion led to Waterloo doubling their lead.

Despite the widening scoreline, Toronto were reluctant to relinquish control of the game to the Warriors, and grew stronger and more threatening as the first half stretched on.

Several Blues shined throughout the match. Captain Faiyaz Lokhandwala showed off his speed on several dazzling and deceptive runs up field. Stephen Stothers-Robertson was a defensive juggernaut, using his strength and size to thwart several Waterloo attempts to gain ground. Tudor Chirila played a pivotal role in gaining ground for the Blues, using his passing ability to widen the field, and his long kicks to force Waterloo back.

In spite of their best efforts, Toronto entered half-time down 21–0. However, they roared to life in the second half, with Liam Sangmuah slicing through Waterloo’s defence to score in the 42nd minute. Toronto used this momentum to force penalties and turnovers from the Warriors, and scored a second try from Riley Martin in the 49th minute. The Blues came agonizingly close to scoring a third try, but it was successfully held up and defended by the Warriors.

Despite Toronto’s spirited and relentless efforts, Waterloo would go on to score two more tries to defeat Toronto by a score of 35–14. However, the score was not representative of Toronto’s quality. The Blues showed impressive skills, a high level of fitness, and an unrelenting determination.

The Blues will continue their season on the road, heading to London, Ontario to take on the Western Mustangs on September 21.

Soccer doubleheader

Women’s team get second win of the season, while men’s team draw in game cut short

Soccer doubleheader

Women’s team

The Varsity Blues women’s soccer team secured a 3–1 win over the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks on September 13, with impressive goals from newcomer Valentina Greco, regular starter Erin Kelly, and three-time Ontario University Athletics (OUA) All-Star Jenny Wolever. This loss for the Ridgebacks continues its fall from grace after the team went undefeated in 2017. 

The Blues were dominating possession from the very beginning, making intelligent passes and creating countless shot opportunities. Defender Daniella Cipriano played an especially smart game from the outset, moving quickly up and down the line to maintain possession and shutting down the few Ridgeback offensive efforts that broke past the half line. 

Cipriano’s speed and quick thinking created the opportunity in which Greco scored her first career goal — a quick cross up the line led to a goal in the second minute. “It was a really good play built from the back, they played it wide, [Kelly] just crossed it in and I finished it,” Greco described.

Kelly kept up the momentum with a header goal from another great Cipriano touch in the 14th minute. There was a significant commotion in the keeper’s box, but Kelly kept her cool and finished the play. She was a standout player throughout the game, making lots of touches and supporting a dominant offensive trifecta with Wolever and newcomer Miranda Badovinac, who together made aggressive plays throughout the first half. 

The second half saw deteriorating organization and coordination for the Blues after a penalty against keeper Levanta Staggolis led to a penalty kick goal for UOIT. Play got a little scrappier in the final minutes, with the Ridgebacks hungry to even the mere one-goal gap and U of T fighting for three points. 

In the end, it was Wolever who made it clear that the Blues’ lead was there to stay, with an insurance goal in the 90th minute, off a Kelly assist. “This was a game where even though things weren’t coming together as we thought, we all worked together and kept pushing, and I think that’s what got us through,” said Wolever. “We’ll just keep improving from here.”

Men’s team

The Varsity Blues men’s soccer team tied the Ridgebacks 1–1 on September 13 after 75 minutes of hard playing. Despite a promising second half, in which midfielder and former Guelph Gryphon Atchu Sivananthan scored off a penalty kick, the game was cut short due to an unrelenting lightning storm.

Both teams fought aggressively from the first minute, and it shows in the 15 fouls earned only in the first half. The Blues dominated possession, keeping constant pressure in the Ridgebacks’ half and executing flawless passing patterns. 

Star defender Kenny Lioutas instigated a number of intelligent plays from the beginning, shutting down Ridgeback breakaways and consistently keeping his cool in the face of a scrappy, foul-filled game, focusing instead on keeping possession and shifting the play. 

Despite an obvious domination of possession, the Blues couldn’t seem to get any chances once they moved into the keepers’ box: the great pass formations could not be backed up by any goals in the first half, and the frustration amongst coaching staff and players of both teams was palpable. 

It was at the start of the second half that the Blues’ aggression translated to shot opportunities. After an apparent goal from OUA East second team all-star Marko Mandekic was deemed offside, the Blues’ anger translated to them outperforming their opponents as consistent shots on net were made by Sivanathan, Mandekic, and defender Koosha Nazemi. This only intensified after UOIT scored on a penalty kick, only for Sivanathan to tie the score with a redemption goal in the following minute.

This upwards trajectory was only heating up when the game was called off. 

Opinion: The state of women’s sports today

From college teams to the big leagues, misogyny still exists

Opinion: The state of women’s sports today

Vicky Sunohara has lived the life that many athletes can only dream of. During her illustrious  career she won Olympic gold twice and she won the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship seven times. She has remained engaged in her sport since her retirement in 2008 through mentorship programs and as the current head coach of U of T’s Varsity Blues women’s hockey team. 

However, throughout her years of experience in hockey, Sunohara has noticed a glass ceiling for women players. “The national team… university athletes, they put in just as much time and effort as our male counterparts, but there’s not that opportunity to make money,” Sunohara said in an interview with The Varsity. 

Sunohara is not the first woman athlete to feel undercut in her sport. It was only during the ‘60s and ‘70s that women in North America began to gain equal opportunity in athletics. However, even after the doors to sports clubs and societies opened for both genders, the public still struggled to allow women to participate in ‘manlier’ sports, or even portray them separately from their sexuality in the news and other media. Carling Bassett, for example, one of the best tennis players in Canada’s history, faced continuous sexual objectification throughout her career in the ‘80s, with interviewers prioritizing questions about her preference in boys over the documentation of her impressive stats.

Needless to say, women’s sports have historically been underappreciated and overlooked, in every country and at every level.

Recently, however, the tides seem to be turning. Nike released a viral ad campaign in February that celebrated women athletes in every stage of life and ability. In July, the US women’s soccer team won its fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup. And the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has increased the number of women in IOC Commissions by 98 per cent since 2013. It seems that there are more opportunities than ever for women in athletics.

But many argue that these campaigns and perceived progress are masking and oversimplifying an issue that runs deep within all levels of sport. The lauded Nike campaign, for example, was soured when a New York Times op-ed revealed that the company reduced pay for their sponsored athletes who were pregnant. 

The US women’s soccer team gets paid less than their male counterparts, despite winning more games and generating more earnings. The 98 per cent increase of women in IOC Commissions still accounts for less than half of their total members. And just this past May, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League disbanded after 12 seasons, due to an “economically unsustainable” business model. 

All of these little side-stories and road blocks undercut the greatness of these women’s feats of athleticism, and pervade all levels and types of sport. What does it mean for the prospects of aspiring women athletes around the world, including at U of T, when their experience of sport is riddled with misogynist connotations and low expectations of success and ability? If people aren’t viewing your athleticism as elite, can your passion be a viable career option, or are women being forced out of high-performance athletics because of the public’s outdated and misguided beliefs about the nature of women’s sport?  

Sunohara, among many other professionals, thinks that something has to be done. “I think that the players are doing the right thing,” she continued. “On the ice they’re trying. They’re looking for the best — the best training, the best coaching… But you know for the big picture — for a professional league, a sustainable league, it really is hard to say exactly what it’s going to look like.” 

These systemically-perpetuated notions also actively jeopardize the future careers of student athletes, including our own Varsity Blues. And it’s not societal attitudes alone that prevent women athletes from competing on equal ground; it’s the actual economic structures that was built upon such misguided ideas. In US universities in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Division I, for example, women’s teams regularly receive just 41.4 per cent of the money spent on salaries for head coaches, 36.4 per cent to fund recruitment initiatives, and 39.6 per cent of the total budget to fund athletic expenses. These limited resources present a challenge for the growth of women’s sport within schools, and hence for the success of the athletes after graduation. 

So what’s the solution? For the US women’s soccer team, it’s a lawsuit for equal pay. For Nike-sponsored athletes like Olympic mid-distance American runner Alysia Montaño, it’s speaking up to the media about unjust practices. In every case, it seems to be exposure of the misogynistic underbelly of organized sport through increased coverage and communication. Athletes are starting to raise their voices against the systemic misogyny, and audiences need to amplify their calls to action through public support of the cause. 

Audiences also need to be explicit in their interest in women’s professional sports in order to increase its economic success. University of Southern California and Purdue researchers conducted a 20-year study that shows that women’s sports coverage pales in comparison to men’s, and is even on the downturn. This means that current women athletes will get paid less, and future women athletes may find it harder to identify idols or see a viable athletic career for themselves. We, the public, can create change simply by choosing to watch women’s sports, which sends a message to sports media networks. If attitudes change at the professional level, the effects can trickle down to the high school and collegiate levels as well. 

Varsity Blues Men’s Soccer vs. Ryerson University

Varsity Blues Men’s Soccer vs. Nipissing University

Varsity Blues Men’s Rugby vs. UWaterloo