I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of grandstands, bars and chalk-filled utility rooms, talking a lot of soccer with a lot of experts.
Often I hear – and still it amazes me – “spending money on women’s soccer is a waste.”
The argument is always the same. The men’s World Cup pays a bomb-load o’bucks, and if Canada ever gets there, all our money problems will be solved. Pushed a little further – and I always push these guys – they look away, or stare into their beer, and say that women don’t play good soccer.
That argument is ludicrous in Canada – and was long before the Canadian Soccer Association made a big commitment to the women’s program this past week, hiring acclaimed Italian coach Carolina Morace to take over the program.
As much as I am a huge supporter of the Canadian men, let’s call time and break this thing down.
- Canada’s men are ranked 86th in world – in a three-way tie with Qatar and the Congo. The Canadian women rank 11th.
- The cost of running the women’s team is vastly lower, because the players are based in North America.
- Significantly more than half of Canada’s 800,000 registered soccer players are female. Players aren’t necessarily fans, but I’ll guarantee you the Canadian international player our amateurs knows best is Christine Sinclair.
- The women’s team plays all over Canada – Victoria, the Maritimes – while our men don’t even want to play at BMO Field in Toronto because the turf’s too tough on their tender tootsies. Hey, I want real grass too, but newsflash, gentlemen: You’re not good enough to be that picky.
- The men haven’t qualified for a World Cup since 1986. The women are there consistently. With the hiring of Morace, they are going all out for a top-three finish.
- Female players idolize the national team. That’s good for the game at every level.
(And now, the kicker:)
- Money spent on the women’s team makes money. Expenses are lower, and there are more home games. The TV numbers may not be what the men get, but advertisers reach a more unique and distinct audience when the women play.
In other words, the women are a sound investment right now. They’re more successful, and their fans idolize them. They play an energetic style of football, and any team that has Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi and Kara Lang pushing the ball are going to be lots of fun to watch.
Oh, and they haven’t been eliminated from the next World Cup.
The tragic truth is, no member of the men’s team is going to become any young Canadian’s hero playing that upcoming tune-up match in Cyprus. And that, I fully understand, is more about the CSA than it is the team. Coaching and funding are huge issues here, and none of that has been adequately addressed.
But as much as I sympathize – nay, grieve! – for the huge, debilitating obstacles faced by our men, I’m delighted to see the CSA giving the women a significant boost. Might as well send our best team out there with as much support as we can possibly muster.
They are, after all – Canada’s team.