June 18th, 2024

Canadian soccer as good as gold

By Dale Woodard on August 7, 2021.

Score one for soccer in Canada.

Score one for soccer in Lethbridge in the long run as well.

A soccer nation celebrated from coast to coast in the early hours of Friday morning following the Canadian women’s soccer team’s thrilling 3-2 gold medal win on penalty kicks over Sweden at the Tokyo Games.

While Canada celebrates Christine Sinclair and her crew’s gold medal win, local coaches are anticipating a ripple effect in Southern Alberta.

In fact, Lethbridge College Kodiaks soccer coach Sean Carey felt that effect was being driven home among young players in the Lethbridge Soccer Association the moment Team Canada’s Julia Grosso kicked the game winner and the celebrations began.

“I think it’s going to inspire the local girls to want to be like the ones they just watched on TV,” said Carey. “I think knowing some of the teams here, like Mike Racz’ U17 and Kristy’s Lauzon’s U16 teams, I would say probably 80 per cent of those girls were up (Friday) morning watching that final and all are inspired to be like one of those players and hopefully the U13’s and the U11’s were up watching it. They just keep that love for the game and want to emulate their heroes. It’s going to be exciting to see where we get to. We just have to keep winning at the college to get those girls thinking about Lethbridge College being a great place to study and a great place to play soccer.”

Carey said that ripple effect was felt back in 2012 when the Canadian women won bronze at the London Games.

The gold medal will now kick it up a notch.

“You’re going to see so many more kids wanting to be like them and I think women’s soccer is only going to get stronger because the team that is there, outside of a couple players, are young,” said Carey. “The girl who scored the winning penalty (kick), she’s only 20 years old. The foundation is there and the grassroots are coming. You just have to look around.

“When we go recruiting you can see that younger age group of girls are coming on with a force now and the level of soccer is getting up there now, as close as the guys.”

On the west side at the University of Lethbridge, Pronghorns women’s head coach Macky Singh and men’s head coach Randy Bardock were enjoying the after-effects of the gold medal win.

“It was definitely exciting,” said Singh. “Penalty (kicks) are always a luck of the draw and Canada already experienced that in previous games. So they had that experience going into the final. When it got into extra time and closer to penalties they had the confidence of knowing they had the advantage. I think when the final whistle was blown Canada had a really good feeling they could take this out with the penalties.”

Bardock noted the leadership of Canadian veteran Christine Sinclair and the young players coming up which will bode well for Canada’s future.

“It was an amazing performance throughout the tournament,” said Bardock. “It was great to see Christine reach the summit. She has done so much for soccer in Canada, what a role model. Canada Soccer is in a fantastic place with the men’s and women’s programs, so much young talent. Our future is bright with these role models for our youth to follow.”

Singh said the men’s and women’s national programs have been building over the years.

“The women taking gold and the men losing in the semifinal at the CONCACAF a couple weeks ago bodes really well for Canada,” he said. “Locally, it’s going to inspire boys and girls to pick up the sport, realize there is an opportunity and a pathway to get there, represent Canada, just enjoy the game and encourage more kids to come out and play.”

Carey called Sinclair “an absolute ambassador” for women’s soccer for the past 20 years.

Whether Sinclair hangs it up after the gold medal win or not, Carey said her presence will be felt in the Canadian ranks for years to come.

“Selfishly, I hope she doesn’t retire, but I think you can’t do any better than what she’s just done right now. I think, for her to go out on top, Christine will continue to be an ambassador, help grow the game at the grassroots and stay involved in the game. She’s just a amazing person and player. You’ll have lots of young girls wanting to be Christine Sinclair.”

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