Loss has Hooper mulling soccer future

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

Now that her Olympic dream has been dashed for the year, Charmaine Hooper faces an unclear soccer future. Mexico beat the heavily favoured Canadian women's team 2-1 in an Olympic qualifying game Wednesday in Costa Rica, meaning Canada will not have another opportunity to compete against the world's best in a major competition until the 2007 World Cup.

"I told them to go home and contiune with their lives," coach Even Pellerud said. "I said we need them all for the future, because this team is very young. They must go on and come back stronger.

"This team has not peacked yet."

Hooper, 36, Canada's star, may not be around at that stage.

"I'm going to take a break and then re-assess things," Hooper said yesterday as Canada prepared for a meaningless third-place game at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament tonight (6:30) against Costa Rica. "As long as I have the desire, I'll keep playing. I've never said (the 2008 Olympics) was a question, but I've never said it wasn't a question."

For the summer, Hooper plans to run soccer camps in her home town of Ottawa and train with some male soccer players in Chicago. With the American women's professional league out of action for 2004 and its future up in the air, players have limited opportunities.

While there is an under-19 World Cup event in November -- along with a qualifier in Ottawa later this spring, another World Cup opportunity is another three long years away. And some Canadian players may opt to do other things.

"You kind of wonder whether some people will continue," said Hooper, who never has played in the Olympics. "Some people may want to move on and make some real money."

If the majority of the young team sticks around for the 2007 World Cup and the 2008 Olympics, Hooper thinks Canada will be a serious contender for medals after a fourth-place finish at last year's World Cup.

Pellerud's contract runs through the 2008 Olympics.

"Maybe (the Olympic miss) is a temporary setback, but I still see a program with a very bright future," she said. "We've got a lot of young players on the team and we could be a lot stronger than we were at (last year's) World Cup."

Still, Hooper called Wednesday's stunning result the most disappointing loss of her career.

"We had a great opportunity to go to the Olympics and we blew it," she said. "Unfortunately, it's not an opportunity that you see every year."


Videos

Photos