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  • Canadian coaching: Rafael Carbajal's vision


    Author's note: When Stephen Hart became technical director of the Canadian Soccer Association in 2008, he received the following e-mail from Rafael Carbajal. "Rafa," as we all call him, is a native of Uruguay, with extensive coaching experience in both Canada and Italy and holds his UEFA A and USSF A certification. He is currently head coach of Milltown FC.

    Though there is likely no single vision that can cure the massive player-development problems Canadian soccer faces, this document certainly raises some interesting ideas -- particularly in the area of elite youth soccer leagues, and what form they should take.

    Any and all comments always welcome. Let's debate!


    Dear Steve:

    Now that you are The Man in charge, I thought who better than you to pass along something that I’ve been thinking about ever since I came back from Italy.

    How can we build a professional soccer system in Canada without incurring huge expenses at the beginning?


    This is a question that has been going around my head for many years and my five years coaching experience in Italy has helped me answer a huge part of this question. I’d always wondered about the reasons why the sport doesn’t move forward to a professional level in Canada, other than the obvious distances between our cities and the huge traveling expenses for the clubs?

    I realize that there are too many people who have no idea about what professional soccer is, giving their opinions, putting their two cents in, and what is worse, running clubs in our country.

    These people should realize that once you ruin the learning years for a child player with average potential to become a pro player, the damage is done forever.

    If you do that in other professions you will probably be sued for everything you’ve got, because you were directly responsible for that child’s education at that particular time. Here grassroots coaching has been taken lightly for too long, I appreciate the coaches dads and moms who believe that they have to coach their own children because nobody else is going to take care of them better than they will, but they don’t realize that if they don’t have the knowledge and the experience necessary, they really are doing more harm than good to those kids.

    I understand that without volunteers it would be very difficult to run grassroots soccer in Canada, so I’m not saying that they should not exist. All I’m saying is that they should not be involved in coaching at all unless they have the proper coaching certification and experience according to the level they’re coaching.

    I believe we have already in place what we need to start a professional system in Canada. We have the competitive youth clubs with tremendous revenues and we have senior regional leagues (semi-pro and amateur) all over the country.

    1. I would go about it by giving youth clubs with 500 or more registered rep players and senior clubs, existing for at least a decade, with proven track record on finances and good disciplinary record in their competitions, a time window of two to three years to fill up a Men's or Women's team with at least 70% of their rosters to be home homegrown for the youth clubs. For the senior clubs, it should be a mandate to fill up five different age groups of competitive players (from U-12 to U-16), which could be achieved by joining forces with an existing youth organization or by simply recruiting the players from open tryouts.

    2. Each province should organize men's and women's leagues with these clubs, including a promotion and relegation system. That by itself will create a pro atmosphere within the soccer communities in each province, and kids will go to support their clubs’ first teams at the games. Such a system will give new organizations the opportunity to climb their way to the first division. There should be three divisions, A, B and C. From ages U-11 and under soccer should not be competitive and from U-16 and up, the players should be ready to play in a senior team, which could be the club’s reserve team.

    3. This system will make things easy to select the best players for our national programs. Of course that will kill the so-called "provincial programs," because the clubs will be the ones doing the work, and it will be in their best interest to come up with talent that will mean revenue for the club and brighter future for the player.

    4. We should also find a way to sponsor talented players with no possibilities of paying their way into a club, academy or provincial team, and give them the opportunity to develop further their natural talent.

    How can we do this? I have a few ideas and I also explain why I think the current system doesn’t work.


    Scholarships for the best or most talented players in each of our youth clubs can always be arranged by the same club if they believe it would be beneficial for the club in the long run.

    Transfer Fees:

    In association football, a transfer is the action taken whenever a player moves between clubs. It refers to the transferring of a player’s registration from one club to another. In general the players can only be transferred during a transfer window and according to the rules set by a governing body. When a soccer player is under contract with a club, he can only leave if the club agrees to terminate this contract. As a way of compensation, the club to whom the player is transferring will usually pay a capital sum. This is known as the 'transfer fee'. As part of the transfer deal, a proportion of the fee may go to the player himself and any agents involved in the deal. Again, the exact percentage is subject to the regulations of the relevant governing body.

    1. We don't have in Canada a system that will compensate monetarily clubs that invest money and time developing elite players. In order to do that you need pro coaches with experience and knowledge on how to develop an elite player, and that costs a lot of money.

    2. The players have nowhere to go after they reach age 18, this is simply because clubs are not interested or they don't know how to go any further in their development, why?

    A) They don't know how to develop a professional player.

    B) They can't recognize an elite player at an early age, they don’t know what to look for.

    C) They don't have qualified experienced coaches to do the job.

    D) They don’t have the revenue to hire a qualified coach, etc.

    3. Youth soccer clubs have no ownership on players' "cards," meaning they can't get revenue for the transfer of one of their players and that is the professional procedure all over the world. They don’t even get compensated for developing a player who could be transferred to a pro club in Europe or any other continent, e.g. the De Guzman brothers’ club North Scarborough. FIFA stipulates that a player who has been developed for a determined number of years, should be compensated for their work, very clearly explained on this website.

    I don't know much about the game politics at the CSA level, but I know one thing, what I just exposed above is what every football nation in the world does to create revenue and professional players. It's not rocket science, it's just the way football or soccer is developed all over the world. I think there is too many people in Canada that don't want this to ever happen, because that will leave them out from running their little kingdoms. Most of these people never played the game at a pro or semi-pro level and by keeping things the way they are, they still have a chance to keep feeling important and "respected."

    Only qualified people should be running the business of soccer, and these people should be experienced and with a proven track record of success in whatever role they take on.

    I hope that I didn’t take too much of your time expressing my thoughts.

    I wish you all the best my friend.

    Rafael Carbajal

    Also in this series:

    - Canadian coaching: a new CSN investigation

    - Some preliminaries

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