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Tony Waiters interview


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Sorry, too important article to possibly lose.

Yvonne sure asked some astute questions...is she a V?


If New Zealand can field a World Cup team, why can't Canada?

Coach of Canada's 1986 team points to a lack of opportunities, lack of a Division 2 presence and lack of passion

By Yvonne Zacharias, Vancouver Sun July 3, 2010 StoryPhotos ( 1 )

Tony Waiters says Canadians playing for European teams should be praised.

Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, PNG, Vancouver SunWith all eyes focused on the World Cup in South Africa, the inevitable question arises: Why isn't Canada there?

If countries such as New Zealand and North Korea can make it into the tourney, why can't an affluent, sports-crazy country likes ours make the grade?

Canadian players like Vancouver's Daniel Fernandes, the third goalkeeper on Portugal's World Cup team, left home at a young age to play on top-flight European teams. Some fans accuse them of turning their backs on the country that gave them their start.

For answers, we turned to Tony Waiters, who was head coach of Canada's national team at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Waiters, now 73, lives in the White Rock-South Surrey area. He remains active in the soccer world through his company, World of Soccer.

Q. Why is Canada not in the World Cup?

A. There are quite a few reasons. One would be a lack of leadership. We also have to get out of CONCACAF . (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football). The powerhouses that we are involved with are the U.S., Mexico and Honduras. Costa Rica has a good program. Other countries have professional leagues.

Q. What do you say to the critics who label Canadian players who have fled to European teams -- such as Daniel Fernandes -- as traitors?

A. Daniel left because he has little or no chance of developing into a professional soccer player here. Why would he not leave? If he has got ambition, which he obviously has, why hang about here? Because the Canadian program is not good enough, what is his chance of going to the World Cup? Slim to none. People who say they have deserted their country should go and try it. Try going to another country where there is a little bit of resentment toward a foreigner coming in. To get yourself established as a player, to leave home at a young age, that takes a hell of a lot of doing. Most can't hack it. Fernandes is not a traitor ... I would say he is a hero, not a traitor.

Q. Why did Canada make it to the World Cup in 1986?

A. Many players had played on the North American Soccer League [before it folded following the 1984 season]. Our players had played with and against some of the best players in the world. We had 50 odd players coming in training camp in 1982, many having played for the NASL. Therefore, I had a lot of choices to select players for the World Cup team.

Q. What needs to be done to change things here?

A. We can't continue to compete on the world stage unless we have a similar league to give our very good players an opportunity to further develop. In the 1980s and 1990s, when we had a Canadian soccer league, we actually had teams in 10 cities across Canada but never at the same time ... We need to have teams in Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, here and in Victoria. You can coach until the cows come home but you only become good by being challenged by competition.

Q. Will the Vancouver Whitecaps' entry into Major League Soccer next year and the Montreal Impact's entry the following year increase Canada's chances of getting into the World Cup?

A. It will increase Canada's chances but I am not going to say to any great extent. There are not enough teams. (Toronto FC is the only current MLS team.) What we really need is a Division 2 presence in Canada that would have seven or eight teams.

Q. Are there too many volunteer coaches in Canada and not enough professional instruction?

A. If we didn't have volunteer coaches, we wouldn't have a game here. At the young levels in hockey, there are not a lot of top-class coaches either, yet Canada excels at hockey.

Q. What lessons can Canada draw from this World Cup?

A. We should be like New Zealand. It has been to the World Cup twice now and it's not their No. 1 game by a long shot. I don't know what New Zealand is doing that we are not doing. It's something we should definitely look into in Canada. Also, what is Australia doing that we are not? Australia has done very well.

Q. Is the predominance of hockey in Canada detracting from soccer?

A. Rugby is the No. 1 sport in New Zealand. Soccer is now established as an Australian sport but it wasn't eight or 10 years ago. We've got the talent here. We are not giving them the opportunity.


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