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  • Reserve Squad Classic: CSA "youth cap" program panned as wasteful


    ccs-3097-140264011165_thumb.jpg(This article originally appeared at Some Canadian Guys Writing About Soccer on January 7, 2009. Wondering what this is? Click here.)

    The oft-maligned Canadian Soccer Association has embarked upon an ambitious program meant to revitalize the sport in this country. But the “youth cap” program — which sought to distribute red baseball caps to every registered soccer player across the country — has already cost the organization over $1 million and, thus far, has yielded few tangible results.

    “[The $1 million figure] doesn’t include the considerable expense associated with capping players in remote regions such as northern Labrador and Baffin Island,” said Sean Heffernan, the CSA’s Chief Financial Officer. “All told, the program will have cost nearly $2 million; however, we believe the long-term benefits outweigh the initial financial hit.”

    The CSA, with an annual operating budget of around $15 million, said the program represents a watershed moment in its player development strategy. Some critics, however, say the plan was misguided and wasteful.

    “This is unconscionable,” said soccer writer Ben Knight. “All that money, gone, wasted, because some bean-counter doesn’t understand football terminology. Unbelievable.”


    In international soccer parlance, “capping” a player refers to giving them an on-field appearance for a national team. Under international rules, once a player is “capped” at a certain level, they become “cap-tied” to that country for life, and may not play for any other nation.

    In recent years, several highly-touted Canadian-born players, including Owen Hargreaves and Jonathan de Guzman, have chosen to play for other countries in international competition. CSA officials said the “youth cap” program was meant to counteract this trend.

    “We believe that with over 800,000 players in this country, somewhere among them is the next Hargreaves or de Guzman,” said CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli. “And it is in our long-term best interests to cap them now, all of them, when they are young, so that they have no choice but to represent Canada once their innate soccer talent kicks into full bloom, out of the blue, at age 18.”

    When informed of the true meaning of the word “cap-tied”, Montopoli’s eyes widened, he whispered something to an assistant and responded, meekly, “we’ll get back to you on that.”

    As for the players themselves, the program doesn’t appear to be catching on yet.

    “This hat is gay,” said Aiden Marsh, 8, of Oakville, Ontario. “That doesn’t even look like a maple leaf. It looks like a hand or something.”

    “Soccer’s okay,” said Rapesh Singh, 10, of Calgary. “But my mom says it’s just supposed to keep me busy till winter. I’m gonna play for the Flames!”

    At a soccer field in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, a trash bin was found containing no fewer than 14 of the caps. Several were also discovered on the ground near the bin, and sources said that the hats’ owners would not be returning to retrieve them. Still, CSA officials seemed pleased with the program’s progress.

    “Look, nothing works on the first try,” said Montopoli. “And in the case of Canadian soccer, sometimes it doesn’t work on the second or third or tenth. But if you keep at it, eventually something will happen.”

    Montopoli noted that, to subsidize the cost of the caps, youth registration fees around the country would be increased by $14 per player in 2009.

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