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Canadian Soccer Hits Rock Bottom


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Nothing new here - but at least its still in the news...

Despite game's popularity, we continue to fail

Bob Mackin, Vancouver Courier

Published: Friday, November 28, 2008

There it is. On page six. Canada is 10th in the world in registered soccer players.

There are 867,869 of them from coast to coast to coast, 58 per cent male and 42 per cent female.

Six is also a fitting number, because that's the number of consecutive World Cups Canada's men have failed to qualify for since their first and only appearance in 1986 at Mexico. Three losses and no goal scored. Ole.

Canada does have an Olympic gold medal from 1904, but that's when the Games were in St. Louis and the World's Fair was the real reason to meet in St. Louis.

A dysfunctional men's national team program is at the root of the Canadian Soccer Association Strategic Plan 2009-2013: Leading Canada to Victory and Canadians to a Life-long Passion for Soccer. Peter Montopoli is the third general secretary in as many years and he's trying to guide the organization in the right direction. It's not an easy job.

"The CSA is at a pivotal moment in its existence" to position itself as a major sport body in Canada, says the five-year plan. To become a soccer power, Canada needs a new way of developing and operating the sport at all levels.

By 2013, the CSA wants to have an annual budget of more than $25 million, qualify for a senior men's World Cup, win the right to host the 2015 Women's World Cup and reach the one million player level.

A cynic might call it a wish list. If you're going to dream, why not dream big?

The CSA ends 2008 with elimination from the quest for a spot in South Africa 2010 and no women's medal from the Beijing Games. A parallel report on strategic activities sets a round of 16 appearance in the 2018 World Cup and a medal in the 2011 Women's World Cup as goals.

The CSA wants European and Central American training camp sites and partnerships with top professional clubs. Canada could have hosted the 2008 North and Central American and Caribbean zone women's Olympic qualifier, but the new goal is 2012. The CSA wants to enter and host more CONCACAF and FIFA events. It also wants a seat at the table in committees for the confederation and the globe's governing body.

The CSA's budget is $12 million, including $5.9 million from a tithe on members and just $2.3 million from 15 sponsors. Only 65 Canadians abroad and 40 on either side of the 49th parallel are classified as professionals.

This isn't the first time the CSA has gone through such an exercise. In 2000, there was the Road to Success: Blueprint for the Expansion of the CSA. Five years later, Deloitte and Touch reviewed the organization.

Last year brought the Wellness to World Cup strategy. This new five-year plan calls for a Soccer Summit, apparently patterned after the Canadian Hockey Open Ice Summit of 1999 that rejuvenated the national hockey program. It also stresses the principles of ethics, fair play, respect for the Laws of the Game and those who play and officiate.

"We aim to regain the confidence of the Canadian soccer community by giving our teams the means to improve their performances within CONCACAF and FIFA.

"We know that much remains to be done, but we are determined to reach our objectives and we will accept the judgement of our peers on our achievements."

Those are the words. Let the action speak louder.

© Vancouver Courier 2008

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