Feverish pitch

DAVE 'CRASH' CAMERON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

Ultimately, his kids are responsible for the way he is today.

He was just a normal Canadian youngster, with no fear of the cold and a love for hockey and football - the Grey Cup kind.

Then, Gene Loga's boys began playing soccer - football to the rest of the world.

Years later, Loga is now the executive director for the Alberta Soccer Association.

"I'm a Canadian. I grew up with hockey, like most Canadians," said Loga, who grew up on the road-hockey streets of Edmonton's Beverly district. "I came into soccer about 15 years ago. I said, 'Yeah, well, it's a good sport for the boys to stay in shape for hockey,' '' he laughed. ''A great conditioning sport. Then they started playing at higher levels and I'm thinking, 'I've got to learn how to enjoy this game.' "

First to understand it. Then to love it. Then to spend the odd Saturday watching three or four European matches consecutively!

"When I think about the skills of hockey, you watch these guys do it so fluidly, so easy, that you love the game. So I applied that to soccer. I realized, 'Hey, this is worth watching.'

"Everybody likes that breakaway pass in hockey. Bang, it's on a guy's stick. What about a 60-yard pass in soccer? A guy pulls it down on his foot or on his chest down to his foot - and when you watch that, it's: 'Wow!' You learn to respect it.''

"I'm still a hockey fan. I'm still involved with the Beverly Warriors Junior B club. I love hockey, but I have a passion for soccer."

THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS

But if being a fan was the only qualification for the ASA post, the lineup for the job would be longer than the ones for World Cup tickets.

Loga feels he has the right ingredients for the job.

"I've lived in Edmonton all my life and been involved in amateur sport almost all my life. I first volunteered with amateur sport when I was 12 years old. My older brother was coaching a hockey team and he needed a scorekeeper and a timekeeper. I'd be out here, - 3 F, trying to get the pen to write doing the scorekeeping!

''I got involved in coaching at an early age, too. I was playing junior football with the Wildcats, and coaching a bantam team. So it was ongoing for me - playing, coaching, helping out. Then it was on to work. Got a real job!

"I started at the Brick warehouse, 1973, I think. Worked my way up. 1984 achieved the position of vice-president of distribution. Ran all the distribution centres across Canada. The fleet, as well.

"I learned a lot. Schooled by Bill Comrie, John Comrie, Fred Comrie. Bill, of course. Heck of a businessman, good negotiator, knows when to be tough. And I learned all those things from him. And I think those kinds of skills will help here at the Alberta Soccer Association. "

Loga isn't a politician, but an executive director's job requires the juggling of politics, needs, desires and maybe even the egos of various governing bodies, from national to the neighbourhood pitch. He's prepping for that right now.

"The AGM meeting on Jan. 13 is when all the districts get together ... all the business has to be taken care of. There's stuff like that I'm absorbing.

WANTS THE FINAL GAME

"One of the other tasks I've jumped into the middle of is the 2007 World Youth Championships; stepping into some of the meetings, trying to make our proposals, because we want that (final) game here.

"This is big. It's the junior championship," Loga said, comparing the Under-20 event to the annual junior hockey tourney, but on an even wider scale.

"Hopefully common sense will prevail and they'll see that a bird in hand is worth whatever they see (to be built) in Toronto. If they choose Toronto - and who knows for what underlying reason they do - in my mind it's not the best choice," Loga said, adding that there will be about a dozen games here.

"As far as our point of view, there's nothing better than that stadium that's out there," Loga said, pointing out of the ASA office window to the field at Commonwealth Stadium. "And that's where the final should be.

"We've proved it in our track record," he said, referring to the likes of the Canada-Brazil game in '94, and the Under-19 girls worlds in 2002.

"To me, it should be a no-brainer."

- - -

ASA FAST FACTS AND FIGURES:

- Incorporated in 1911 as the Alberta Football Association, the name was changed in 1974 to Alberta Soccer Association, reflecting the more common term for the sport in North America.

- 1975 ASA membership was 10,000. By 1980, it had risen to 15,000 and to 35,000 by 1985. The meteric growth in the provincial association had membership approaching the 150,000 mark last year.


Videos

Photos