The word has rumbled down from the muddled mountain on Metcalfe Street, and it is …
The Canadian Soccer Association threw a little press party down at Toronto’s BMO Field yesterday (apparently it’s only the National Soccer Stadium when FIFA is in town), and introduced the world to the new boss of our national women’s soccer team – accomplished Italian player, coach and tactician Carolina Morace.
And while I did not see this with my own eyes (a ripped-up throat and sub-Winnipeg weather conditions took care of that), there is some clear and present good news here – encouraging signs that CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli may be able to make significant positive changes to an old and obsolete organization.
This is a real hire. Morace is a wise and worldly soccer mind, who can lead by example as she takes a more-than-respectably talented Canadian women’s roster forward. This team can already flat-out play on the world stage. With a top international coach, they might even – who knows? – win.
But for me, the star of this show may turn out to be Montopoli himself.
You know the story. He’s brought in to implement the CSA Strategic Plan, but not given a contract in the wake of the Fred Nykamp hire-fire-pay-up disaster. That gives him position, but any actual power has to be wrested away from the CSA’s notorious multi-headed nightmare of a bureaucratic board, lovingly referred to in these columns as “It.”
To do the right thing and land Morace, Montopoli had to steer the idea of a big foreign hire past board members who would have been stubbornly backing Canadian-born candidates like Ian Bridge or Andrea Neil. Nothing wrong with them doing that, except the CSA needs to prove it can take expert advice from the man it has hired – effectively – to lead it home.
Not only did Montopoli land Morace, he got “It” to agree to let her bring in her own trusted, proven support staff, as well – and there are parts of the country where that was not a popular plan.
So, in his first real chance to step up and make a mark, the score reads Montopoli 1, “It” 0.
Don’t count “It” out, though, bureaucracy fans. “It” has proven many times in the past that “It” can come from behind. But for now, let’s give full credit where it’s due.
Montopoli and the have board combined to make a serious, significant hire. And if such a thing is actually possible under Peter Montopoli, then I think we all have cause to be a bit more hopeful this morning.
But we’re now left with a fascinating split.
The women have gone the direction the men want to go. Our gals were already competitive. Now they’re getting some world-class direction, as the central core of the side rounds nicely into the primes of their careers.
Meanwhile, our battered, dispirited men’s side is set to go touristing off to Cyprus for a Gold Cup warm-up match, under the ineffective thumb of a coach several key players have vocally and publically rejected.
If the Morace hire represents the way Montopoli wants Canadian soccer to be, the men’s team is still the mired, soggy evidence of everything that’s been done wrong, compromised or botched for the last 23 years.
The biggest issue right now has to be money. Fair or no, the global market for female soccer coaches is filled with good bargains. Hiring the male equivalent of Carolina Morace would be prohibitively expensive for a CSA still struggling with a $13-million (Cdn.) annual budget.
Montopoli’s next challenge is clear – find new, reliable ways of earning money that aren’t based on raising annual fees on Canada’s 800,000-plus amateur soccer players. To do this, he will have to sidestep huge chunks of the strategic plan he was brought in to babysit. That won’t sit well with “It.”
Morace’s hiring is hugely and obviously right. It opens the door to great possibilities ahead.
Well done everybody. We await the next moves with interest.