Turf protection obstructs women's soccer

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

Who knows if, when and what form the Canadian Soccer League's Canada Cup for women will eventually take this summer.

After months of attempting to battle bureaucratic red tape, petty jealousies and turf battles, the London City Lady Selects have played one exhibition game-- a 6-1 win over the Michigan Gators last week.

The short version of a long story revolves around initial concerns the Ontario Soccer Association had about allowing another women's league to be established in Ontario. Apparently, there is belief in 2007 the OSA will allow the league to be formed. In the meantime, the CSL felt it could continue as it did last year, holding an exhibition tournament with teams that would play every week.

That's where turf protection and petty jealousies come in. Some soccer associations refuse to grant permission to teams in their districts to play. The Elgin Middlesex Soccer Association has no such problem and has been a leader in advancing women's soccer. But the stupidity surrounding the other districts has more to do with protecting their turf than with making the right choice for women's soccer.

The tournament for women, as it was held last year, clearly demonstrated there is plenty of room in Ontario for another women's league. There's enough talent to make several leagues viable. The league was good for the players, provided entertaining soccer and wound up as an excellent proving ground for the development of players.

Maybe that was the problem. Maybe success wasn't an option. The league's success was a slap in the face to its detractors. If the league's downfall couldn't be orchestrated on the field, the only option for detractors was to kill it in the boardroom.

In the end, Ryan Gauss, manager of the London City Selects, believes there will be games played with as many as five or six teams participating. No games were scheduled for this weekend when the schedule initially came out and he hopes by next week, the women's Canada Cup will begin with several districts giving teams permission to play.

With everything that's gone on so far, we'll believe it when we see it.

But no matter what happens, Gauss needs to take credit for attempting to do what's right for women's soccer.

Most anyone involved in this situation would have thrown up their hands and quit a long time ago. Instead, Gauss has worked tirelessly to make it work. He has shown remarkable stamina and persistence for a 20-year-old, the type of young blood soccer needs in this country.

"I can't tell you how frustrated I feel," Gauss said. "I'm not so much frustrated for me, but I'm really frustrated for all the women who haven't been able to play.

"They'll play. It will happen. I just feel badly they had to go through this."

Gauss minimizes everything he's been put through . . . the meetings, the travel, hours on the telephone and the sudden roadblocks that appear after he's been told none would be put up. He's a 20-year-old who feels like he's 82.

But it's refreshing to deal with someone who puts his players and what's good for the sport first. That's been Gauss's focus all along and no matter what happens, his players need to know he's fought for them and will continue to fight for them.

Gauss can be proud of what he's done, how he's acted and how he's represented the sport and his players. Not many other people involved, directly or indirectly in this situation, can say the same thing.


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