Even leaving?

TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

HANGZHOU, China -- You could hardly blame Even Pellerud if he soon told the Canadian Soccer Association to take this job and shove it.

Pellerud's contract as coach of the Canadian women's team runs out at the end of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The CSA, Sun Media has learned, has just turned down a gift-wrapped opportunity to get Canada to Beijing 2008 by playing host to the Olympic qualifying tournament.

It's one thing to having to work for an organization currently without a president, without an executive director and without any money.

But learning that the CSA has declined an invitation to host next year's CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament -- despite having a host city in Victoria eager to hold the event next March -- might be the last straw.

Instead, the event may end up in Haiti.

"It should happen. Victoria wants to host it. But the association turned it down," Pellerud said. "It's really disappointing. For sure it would present a better chance to get to the Olympic Games."

Four years ago, Canada finished fourth at the FIFA women's World Cup and then went to Costa Rica where they lost 2-1 to Mexico and failed to join the United States at the Athens 2004 Olympics.

Learn of the CSA turning down the chance to host the Olympic qualifier and then read a pair of paragraphs on FIFA.com and you have to wonder if the man is about to find another country to coach:

"Even Pellerud admits that an end is now in sight to his lengthy Canadian adventure. Don't bet against this fiery 52-year-old appearing at the 2011 FIFA women's World Cup under a different banner," said the story on the sport's main website.

"'This is my eighth year in the job and next year will be my ninth,' he said, shaking his head. 'It's a shockingly long time. As for the future, let's see.'"

Pellerud, speaking to Sun Media, did not claim misquote.

"There will always be a fatigue factor," he said. "The same voice. The same face. "It's always a concern as a coach. You can still be saying the right things but when it's the same voice and the same face, players don't always keep listening. You have to be smart enough to figure out if that is going to happen to you."

The coach, who won the World Cup title as coach of native Norway in 1995, said his statement to FIFA.com did not mean he's actively looking for a new country to coach.

"It's not on my mind at all. I enjoy my job with these girls."

Pellerud has built his women's program to be a complete contrast to the total abomination that is otherwise the CSA.

IF HE LEFT ...

"It would be a very sad time for Canadian soccer," said Andrea Neil, the veteran of four FIFA women's World Cups who was around in the era before Pellerud when teams were thrown together with little preparation and virtually no program in place.

"It is unique. He's been here for a long time. He's been around coaching one team longer than most coaches are with one nation. He's brought so much stability, background and experience. He's made us a top 10 country in the world, capable of playing with anybody every time we step on the field."

"It's been amazing since he came," star striker Christine Sinclair said. "Just look at what he's done in building up youth teams. Just to have youth teams. We went from nobodies to having a legitimate chance to win the World Cup."

"He is an extremely well-respected coach who is very, very sure of himself. When you play for Even it is easy to be confident," said 20-year-old Kara Lang.

"We're very lucky to have someone so grounded in such a high-stress environment as this event and to totally be able to trust him. Respect is the main word. We respect him so much. Whatever he does, we believe he is doing the right thing for the team. Our program turned around the day they hired him.

"To miss that, you'd have to be blind."

"We're all aware his contract is up at the end of the Olympic year. Nobody would be surprised if another coach has to be found," Lang said.

"When Even came here, I was a U-19 player," Canadian keeper Erin McLeod said. "All of a sudden, we had all these youth programs. It's to Even's credit what has happened in Canada. He gave us a very structured style of play to be as successful as we could be with the skills we had.

"He means so much. He's one of the world's best coaches. You believe in him and you believe he's going to make you better. He really does bring the best out of you. He just makes you want it more."

Candace Chapman, who missed the last World Cup because of injury and scored Canada's goal in the opening game, said it's more than building a program and the Xs and Os of coaching.

"We just have such a family with this team. He has given that to us. Personally, he's been a great coach to me. He helped me though a lot of things. He's been a really good friend.

"He also instituted a residency camp and brought in a new level of professionalism," she said of the $20,000-per-player Pellerud arranged with Vancouver businessman Greg Kerfoot to pay each of the more than 20 girls in the residency camp in Vancouver every year.

Will he stay or will he go? What if Canada wins the bid to play host to the 2011 FIFA women's World Cup? Would he return to the tournament coaching some other country?

Sinclair, for one, said there is one woman who might be able to convince Pellerud to stay.

"I still want to see him convince his wife to leave Vancouver," she said. "I just know his wife loves it in Vancouver."


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