Rhian Wilkinson led the Portland Thorns to a title in the NWSL this year. Missed the Shield by one point. Took over a team that was already successful, but in her first year had to win them over to her style of play. To her style of player management. All amidst the shadow of an abuse scandal that rocked the league and her team directly.
One country further south you will find Carmelina Moscato. She is currently probably partying into the night. Although more likely she is getting her team ready for the Clausura. After leading her team to third place in the Apertura, she has just guided Tigres Feminil to the Liga MX Feminil Final victory over two legs, and now they stand as champions. This is also her first year as head coach.
That is not all they have in common. They are former National Team teammates. And they are from Canada.
Two Champions behind the bench. And they have done it in North America’s two biggest nations. That is incredible. It is also a little bittersweet. One of the reasons they are where they are, is because there is nowhere like it for them to coach in Canada.
There is a soccer drain in Canada. And it flows southward. Recently the drain was stoppered for the men by the creation of the Canadian Premier League. There are currently eight teams for coaches, assistant coaches, and other player personnel to find work with, on top of the US-based teams in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. (Although they still require US or International leadership to be taken seriously).
S. 2 Ep. 21: Canada Doing What Canada Does – FC13 Podcast
But that league, the CPL, is still working on a women’s counterpart (allegedly).
If that comes off as a little bitter or jaded by this writer, it is no accident. It was always likely that this nation to the north was going to turn out high-quality coaches, GMs and assistants on the women’s side, who were sought after internationally, before their male counterparts. Why? Because success will do that.
The women’s national team boasts two Olympic bronze medals, one gold, a host of World Cup appearances and they even hosted a World Cup a decade before the men will “co-host” a bigger event, with fewer games, in Canada.
So, while we dither in Canada, and wait for it to become financially prudent, we are missing opportunities. We are watching a golden generation of players and new coaches ply their trade for huge crowds abroad (45,000 at the Tigres Final). And worse yet we aren’t creating any places for the generation inspired by them to play at home. It reminds of that quote, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did backwards and in heels.”
I feel we have it backwards here sometimes. Our women are proven winners. And they will make it to the top in the hardest of conditions. Whether it be finding scholarships at US universities. Finding ways to catch onto a team abroad. Playing up through a single pathway, rife with abuse at home. Or latching on to semi-pro American teams to keep the dream alive. They just keep doing without, and yet, still getting it done.
And I can hear the pitchforks and torches being pulled out of the toolsheds as people (men) come for me to explain the realities of capitalism, geography, and the over-saturation of markets. But here’s the thing. The women have already shown they can do more with less. Let’s show them more now.
And if you don’t think more exists, let’s take a look. Canada Soccer (CS) President Nick Bontis just stated whatever is left over from the National Teams’ World Cup bonus demands will go towards starting a women’s pro league. And it has been discussed everywhere that the Canadian Soccer Business (CSB) deal gives total control over the women’s soccer commercial sponsorship. Surely CSB doesn’t intend to pump all that money into a privately-owned men’s league. I mean Sincy, was a household name when Phonzie was still in house leagues. And I am sure CIBC doesn’t mind using female stars in their commercials as well. There is a big and growing market in female sports right now that corporations may want to get behind.
Last I heard Six-Five Sports was getting into the modular stadium business. It’s nice to have an in on the CSB Board. Welcoming female entrepreneurs onto the CSB board may be a great way to grow the game, eh boys?
Anyway, I was ecstatic watching the celebrations Tuesday night in Mexico, the fireworks, the singing the joy. I was just as happy hearing Canadian players on the Thorns say that their club was sometimes called Portlanada (Canadian players, coach, and general manager) during their celebrations at Providence Park.
I just can’t wait to celebrate the Hamilton dominance of Canadian pro soccer on the women’s side.
Women’s pro soccer is coming to Canada. Let’s help it get here sooner rather than later.
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