Hooper\'s happy to be home

TODD SAELHOF -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

Canadian soccer returns to Ottawa tomorrow night.

So, too, does local hero Charmaine Hooper -- her 17 years experience leading the Canuck women into a kick friendly with England at Frank Clair Stadium (7 p.m.).

\"It\'s nice to be back in Ottawa,\" said the 35-year-old Nepean native, whose 95 games played ranks the most all-time among Canadian women. \"Most importantly, it\'s nice to play in Ottawa. I don\'t think we play enough in Canada.\"

Thanks to last September\'s approval by FIFA of Frank Clair\'s FieldTurf, Hooper and her Olympic hopefuls can play right here in the nation\'s capital.

And tomorrow\'s game marks the return to Ottawa of the women\'s national team since 1998, when Canada defeated China 2-1 at Terry Fox Stadium.

Another friendly for Frank Clair -- against Brazil on July 20 -- has been added thanks to impressive fan support for tomorrow\'s game. As of yesterday, ticket sales reached 15,000, and the Canadian Soccer Association fully expects between 17,000 and 18,000 fans for the contest.

BRAZIL COMING TO TOWN

\"Wow ... has the soccer community in this area ever responded,\" said CSA chief operating officer Kevan Pipe. \"As a result, we\'re pleased to announce that Brazil is coming. Brazil is generally considered one of the top five countries in the world in women\'s soccer, and their style of play and flair are always a joy to watch.\"

Canadian coach Even Pellerud considers England to be in \"the top five or six countries,\" although his troops did forge a 4-0 win in the first of two-game series Monday in Montreal.

It\'s all part of this year\'s 13-game preparation for the 2003 FIFA Women\'s World Cup. Canada, sporting a 2-2-2 record after six prep games, has already qualified for the international event originally scheduled for China.

\"That\'s part of the reason why I\'m still here,\" said Hooper, who\'s also eying Canada\'s bid for qualification in the 2004 Olympic Games. \"It\'s just another game to me (tomorrow). But at the same time, I would like to have a good game here.\"

So, too, would another local player, Kristina Kiss -- although the 22-year-old Kanata native hopes first just to draw into the lineup. She did in Montreal to contribute with a crossing pass that was headed in for a goal by teammate Andrea Neil.

\"I\'m excited,\" added midfielder Kiss, who attended Holy Trinity High School and played soccer with the Ottawa Fury before hooking up with a top-series club team in Norway.

\"I\'ve never played at home before with the national team. I\'ve been looking forward to it for a few weeks, now. I may have a few nerves, but I should be all right.\"

FREE KICKS: Also on the Canadian roster is Fury goalkeeper Taryn Swiatek, who earned the shutout in Monday\'s win, and Fury defender Isabelle Morneau of Greenfield Park, Que. And making his first international appearance is official Pierre Cantave of Gatineau ... Tickets are $18 and $12 through Ticketmaster or $5 for affiliated members of the Eastern Ontario Soccer District Association.


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