Ballet With the Ball: A Love Story

women's world cup, FIFA
Originally published by John Lanchester, National Geographic, June 2006

Why do we fall in love with soccer? What happens?

At some deep level, the reason soccer snags us is that good soccer is beautiful, and it’s difficult, and the two are related.

A team kicking the ball to each other, passing into empty space that is suddenly filled by a player who wasn’t there two seconds ago and who is running at full pelt and who without looking or breaking stride knocks the ball back to a third player who he surely can’t have seen, who, also at full pelt and without breaking stride, then passes the ball, at say 60 miles an hour, to land on the head of a fourth player who has run 75 yards to get there and who, again all in stride, jumps and heads the ball with, once you realize how hard this is, unbelievable power and accuracy toward a corner of the goal just exactly where the goalkeeper, executing some complex physics entirely without conscious thought and through muscle-memory, has expected it to be, so that all this grace and speed and muscle and athleticism and attention to detail and power and precision will never appear on a score sheet and will be forgotten by everybody a day later–this is the strange fragility, the evanescence of soccer.

It’s hard to describe and it is even harder to do, but it does have a deep beauty, a beauty hard to talk about and that everyone watching a game discovers for themselves, a secret thing, and this is the reason why soccer, which has so much ugliness around it and attached to it, still sinks so deeply into us: Because it is, it can be, so beautiful.


women's world cup

The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup is finally here!

Canadian Living magazine went behind the scenes with the Canadian national women's soccer team. From superstitions to pre-game food to the musicians they rock out to (you won't believe who!), here are the secrets to team Canada's success.

How do you celebrate a win?
“Usually by singing Celine Dion … After one of our big wins last year, or a couple of years in the Cyprus Cups, we had the stereo system in the locker room and we popped in Celine Dion and started singing at the top of our lungs. And that’s usually, as a team, what we do. If anybody walked by they’d think: What a bunch of crazy Canadians. I can’t sing worth anything, but I am singing at the top of my lungs.”
– Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, 31 years old, from Maple Ridge, B.C.

“A lot of dancing, music … (and, after a tournament) Celine Dion’s Power of Love, that’s a good one.”
– Forward Melissa Tancredi, 29, Hamilton, Ont.

“Usually in the locker room we end up singing some kind of Celine Dion song … You can thank Karine LeBlanc for that one.”
– Forward Christine Sinclair, 27, from Burnaby, B.C.

women's world cup

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten from a coach?
“Just to be confident in my own skill and my own ability and just to believe in myself. As a girl growing up you’re not expected to be boisterous or look into yourself and be who you are, it’s always like ‘stay in the back, be a team player.’ For a coach to come up to you and say ‘you’re better than you think you are,’ and to push it out of you is the best advice I’ve ever gotten.”
– M.T.

The team’s pre-game rituals
“Music is a must. And, for me, when I put my shin guards on and my cleats, and even when I get my ankles taped, it’s always left side first …”
– M.T.

More of the team’s pre-game rituals
“Left to right: you’ve gotta put on everything from left to right (when getting dressed for the game). And definitely say a prayer. I always say a prayer right before I enter the field and during the national anthem.”
– K.L.

“I always have to make sure my laces are tied extremely tight before a game. If they’re too lose it sets me off.”
– Forward Jonelle Filigno, 20, from Mississauga, Ont.

women's world cup

Favourite pre-game meals
“My pre-game meal is always a big plate of pasta.”
– J.F.

“Pre-game it’s usually plain, simple pasta. Especially with an Italian as a head coach, she’s all about the pasta and the crostata before a game.”
– C.S.

“Actually a lot of us have been taking these goo packets, which are supposed to be a lot of simple sugars right before we play and they taste like chocolate icing, so they’re delicious.”
– Midfielder Diana Matheson, 27, from Oakville, Ont.

Post-game snacks
“Post-game, right away we have Parmesan. It’s gonna sound weird to people but Parmesan is what I look forward to. Parmesan is the first thing we eat in the locker room, as weird as that sounds. I’m a cheese-lover, too, so it works.”
– M.T.

“Certain members of our team are obsessed with Parmesan cheese. I’m not quite there: It’s hard for me to want to stick a brick of Parmesan cheese in my mouth after a game!”
– C.S.


As a Canadian owned and operated company, with hotels in both Canada and the UK, Sandman Hotel Group is excited to cheer for both Team Canada and Team England. Who will you be cheering for?

Click here for a full tournament schedule.

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This Summer, Let Sandman Bring You a Dream

Summer Promo FB Cover Photo

Planes, trains, and automobiles. Total relaxation and quality time with family and friends. A vacation in the summer months is one of our most cherished experiences every year. In the same way you benefit from a change of scenery, a new set of clothes and awesome new adventures will completely rejuvenate you.

We want this to be your best summer ever which is why we’re giving everyone the chance to win up to $15,000 in prizes.

Simply book direct and stay with Sandman between May 1 – September 30, 2015 and be automatically entered to win amazing prizes, including: a BBQ & patio set, $6,000 in prepaid credit cards, $4,000 in Sandman gift certificates and much more!

Book Now

For more information, click here.

Prize Details
Reservations booked & stayed by June 15, 2015 will have a chance to win:
Patio furniture or $1,000 Prepaid Credit Card
Winner announced: June 16, 2015

Reservations booked & stayed by July 15, 2015 will have a chance to win:
$1,000 Denny’s Gift Card or $1,000 Prepaid Credit Card
Winner announced: July 16, 2015

Reservations booked & stayed by August 15, 2015 will have a chance to win:
$1,000 Sandman Gift Card or $1,000 Prepaid Credit Card
Winner announced: August 16, 2015

Reservations booked & stayed by September 30, 2015 will have a chance to win:
$2,000 Sandman Gift Card or $2,000 Prepaid Credit Card
Winner announced: October 1, 2015

The more reservations you book directly, the more chances you have to win. Spend your summer with Sandman & be rewarded!

Falling in love with British Columbia & Alberta, all over again

Beautiful British Columbia and Wild Rose Country are complete understatements when it come to one of the most beautiful videos ever shot.

Ben Brown, an English videographer, truly encapsulated the beauty and thrill of living in Canada and makes everyone want to get out there and travel.

Watch this mind blowing video and tell us your favourite part. Enjoy!

Reservations Made Easy With Sandman’s New Mobile App

Sandman Hotel Group is excited about making travel easier with the release of the new Sandman mobile app which will provide the best available rate found anywhere. Guaranteed!

Developed out of a desire to provide guests the fastest, easiest, and most efficient way to book a hotel room, the app allows the user to perform a variety of functions as easy as a few taps of the app. Other features include the ability to synchronize bookings between iPad, mobile devices and desktop as well as access to booking history.

Available for iOS and Android devices, our free app enhances the users’ experience for both reservations and beyond.

iphone-find-hotelUpdates and enhancements:

• The Best Available Rate that you will find anywhere. Guaranteed.
• Automatic enrollment in the StatusPlus™ Rewards Program where you can start collecting and redeeming points for future stays.
• Easy-to-use booking functions with booking confirmations and receipts stored in the app.
• Use group, promo, or corporate codes to access special rates.
• View upcoming reservations.
• Browse hotel photos, maps, and amenities.
• Browse city guides with helpful tips about your destinations

And much, much more!

“As the number of smartphones continues to increase and mobile apps play an ever-growing role in the way people conduct busi­ness, we knew the time was right for us to substantially improve our existing app,” said Salim Kassam, Vice President of Marketing for Sandman Hotel Group. “Today’s guests expect to be able to use their smartphones to do almost everything, and that’s realistic with our new app.”

To download: Visit Apple iTunes App Store or Google Play and search Sandman Hotel Group for free iPhone, iPad, and Android apps.

Click here for more information about our NEW mobile app.

20 Things You Didn’t Know about Queen Victoria

Victoria, British Columbia

Canada has been celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday since 1845, but there’s a lot about the woman, to whom we owe the first unofficial long weekend of the summer, that you may not have realized.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

Victoria, born May 24, 1819, was the daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn and Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. She married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1840, and the union produced four sons and five daughters. She died at 81 years old, on January 22, 1901, and was the longest sitting sovereign in history after a reign of 63 years and 216 days.

But while the day bears her name, here are 20 things you never knew about Queen Victoria or her holiday – or have long since forgotten.

1. Victoria Day is a Canadian tradition and doesn’t actually exist in most of England. But it is celebrated in parts of Scotland, especially Edinburgh, where it remains an official holiday.

2. While the holiday moves around a lot now (falling this year on May 19th), the original rules stated it be celebrated annually on May 24th, regardless of what day that was, unless it was a Sunday – and then the observance would be moved to the 25th.

That changed with an amendment to the Statutes of Canada in 1952, when the government declared Victoria Day would fall on the Monday preceding the 25th of May. It’s been there ever since.

And those of us who appreciate our long weekends are glad they made the change or we’d all be working on Monday – and getting Sunday off.

3. Victoria Day is a legal Canadian stat, which means it’s also observed in Quebec. But the idea of honouring a British monarch doesn’t sit well with many in Le Belle Province, where it’s known it be another name. Up until three years ago, it was called Fête de Dollard after Adam Dollard des Ormeaux a French hero who helped lead a force in what is now Montreal against the Iroquois in 1660.

In 2003, it was renamed National Patriots Day in Quebec, ignoring the Queen reference altogether.

4. When Victoria was just a little girl, she was known by her nickname, Drina.

5. Despite being born in England, Victoria only spoke German up until the age of three.

6. She was the first member of the Royal Family known to suffer from hemophilia, a fact that had many questioning the circumstances of her parentage.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

7. She married Prince Albert in 1840, although they’d known each other since she was 16. And it really was a family affair.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was her first cousin and his father was her mother’s brother!

8. Because she was Queen, she had to propose to Albert, and not vice versa.

9. She took over the throne in 1837, after the death of William IV. She was just 18 years old.

10. Despite the somewhat imposing figure she’s been portrayed as in history, the real Victoria didn’t completely measure up. She stood just 5 feet tall.

11. She was the subject of at least six serious assassination attempts.

In 1840, an 18-year-old named Edward Oxford took two shots at her carriage as she was riding in London. He was accused of high treason but found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Two years later, a man named John Francis fired a gun at her carriage but missed. He was caught, convicted of treason, but avoided the death penalty and was shipped to a penal colony.

Less than two months later, a youngster named John William Bean fired ammo made out of tobacco and paper at the Queen.

And in 1849, it happened again when William Hamilton, who history books describe as an ‘angry Irishman’, fired a pistol at her carriage. He pled guilty and was also exiled to a penal colony.

They say if you stay around in politics long enough, you’re bound to make enemies. Victoria was living proof of that. The Queen was set upon again in 1850, when ex-Army officer Robert Pate hit her with his cane. He pleaded insanity but the courts didn’t buy it, leaving him to the same fate as Hamilton.

Incredibly, in 1882, there was yet another attempt on her life, this time by Roderick Maclean, who also missed her with a bullet from a gun. He was found insane and sent to an asylum for life.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

12. When you see pictures or actresses playing Victoria, she’s almost always wearing black. That’s because when her husband died in December 1861, she went into seclusion and a perpetual state of mourning and never wore any other colour.

It’s long been rumoured she later married her Scottish butler John Brown, but that’s never been proven. She didn’t get back into the public eye until the early 1870′s.

13. She became a grandma at 39 and a great grandmother 20 years later.

14. The mother of nine suffered one of the major drawbacks of such a long life, tragically outliving three of her own children.

15. She was the first Queen of Canada, sitting on the throne when this country was founded in 1867.

16. She liked to drink a concoction called Vin Mariani.

17. It was Victoria who started the tradition of a bride wearing white. Before her wedding, a woman would simply wear her best dress, no matter what colour it was.

18. She was named the 18th greatest Briton in a BBC poll conducted in 2002. Winston Churchill was number one. Victoria was beaten out by, among others, Princess Diana (#3), William Shakespeare (#5), and John Lennon (#8). She was followed on the list by Paul McCartney.

Victoria, British Columbia

19. Victoria, British Columbia is named after her, but so is the capital of Saskatchewan – Regina.

20. She was the only British monarch in modern music history to be honoured by name in the title of a rock and roll song. “Victoria”, by the Kinks, #62 on the Billboard charts in 1970, although the record did understandably better on this side of the border.

Paul McCartney famously wrote his 23-second ditty “Her Majesty” tune for the Beatles’ Abbey Road LP, but it wasn’t put out as a single and it never mentioned the current Queen by name.