July 1, 2011
Message here to groom players young
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
It's difficult to decide where to begin, or more to the point, where to end.
The day after another almost incomprehensible failure of a Canadian national soccer program on the world stage, questions that appeared answered, are being asked again.
Canada's high hopes for international soccer respect ended in a 4-0 disastrous loss to France. After their opening game loss to Germany, Canada was eliminated from the FIFA's 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany.
Words to describe the mess were difficult to find.
But leave it to Canada's best player, courageous Christine Sinclair to find the one word that sums everything up.
"Shattered," Sinclair said when asked during a television interview to describe how she and her teammates were feeling.
There was no doubting how shattered Sinclair felt over the Word Cup debacle. She still looked ready to cry more than 24 hours after she left the pitch against France.
But the word shattered may mean a great deal more than just how Sinclair and her mates are feeling.
The questions are flying faster than balls flying into the Canada net.
Is the program shattered? Even though Carolina Morace is on contract through the 2012 Olympics, where does she go from here? Should it be the end of the road for many members of the 2011 World Cup team? Is all the confidence built up over the last few years between coach and players, coach and CSA, team and the general public, shattered?
No matter what Canada does in its final game against Nigeria Tuesday at the World Cup, these are questions that will continue to be asked in large part because no one expected this to happen.
The run-up to the World Cup was highly successful for the Canadians. The players adored their coach. The coach initiated a new style of play more in tune with how the rest of the world was playing. We were told this team was more skilled, fitter and more prepared. This team had spent a great deal of time together including playing many friendly matches and holding an extended training camp in Europe.
This result has shattered far more than simply players. It has shattered Canadian fans who finally believed they would have something to cheer.
Emotions need not get in the way.
Right now there is an urge to throw the baby out with the bathwater as they say.
But one can't fix this problem overnight.
Morace has done the right thing. She's changed the culture at the top of the pyramid. She wants the team to play the right way. She's implemented training programs and preparation programs that needed to be implemented, a blueprint that needs to be followed.
For all of Canada's pre-tournament success, the jarring reality is that the World Cup failure falls at the feet of the system.
Morace's job should be to worry about changing a style of play, preparing the team to play and tactics.
By the time a player makes the senior national team, that player should already by in shape. He or she should have the skills to dribble and shoot a ball. Players should already understand the concept of running to space, when to deliver a pass without having to worry about the technique of doing it. They should have the mental toughness needed to compete internationally. They should already fit the mold of a footballer.
It's ridiculous to think that a national team coach needs to teach players all of this.
The national team is merely a reflection of the development system. If the national team, whether men or women's, continually fails it's because the system isn't producing top calibre players or scouts aren't finding them. In this case, it's a lot of the former and some of the latter.
It's time we taught players how to play the game from a young age, not when they are members of the national team.
If there's anything Canada can take from this nightmare, it had better be that.