CSA chief has work ahead of him

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

The man who ran the 2007 FIFA under-20 World Cup in Canada will now sit in this country's soccer hot seat.

Peter Montopoli yesterday was named the Canadian Soccer Association's new general secretary. He'll become the most powerful man in the game in Canada.

Montopoli was the national event director for the U-20.

He'll be taking over an association that's been viewed as dysfunctional, disorganized and unfocused.

"The key is to get everyone working together and moving forward," Montopoli said. "The top of the to-do list is to reconnect and redevelop the relationships with this organization . . . part and parcel with the completion and implementation of our strategic plan . . . "

While cleaning up the administration is paramount, fans just want to know when Canada is going to develop more and better players and field a competitive national team.

Montopoli says soccer is at the same stage as figure skating when he was chief marketing officer for Skate Canada in the late 1990s.

"I see the sport of soccer is at that same doorstep ready to bust the door open," he said. "It certainly has great potential for the future . . . At this stage right now, everything is lining up for it to be the sport for the next 10, 15, 20 years in this country."

Canada has been trying to "bust the door open" for the last 30 years.

"The one thing we're seeing now we haven't seen is that revenue component that's investing in the sport," he said, adding he saw that revenue stream begin to increase with sponsorships in the U-20 World Cup.

Much of the criticism has been the CSA's inability to raise money needed for its programs to compete on a long-term basis.

Montopoli was selected from 32 applicants. Three were from outside Canada --England, Australia and Switzerland. Seven, all Canadians, made the short list. He was unanimous throughout the selection process.

He's also worked for Basketball Canada.

The CSA hopes this, along with the appointment of Stephen Hart as technical director, will ease some criticism. It's come under fire for everything from lack of fundraising, anonymity of national players, to lack of direction in developing players.

Canada has not qualified for the World Cup since 1986 and for the most part, international showings have done nothing to make anyone believe the CSA has done anything to turn the men's program around.

And the criticism has been deafening since the appointment of Dale Mitchell as men's coach.

He coached when Canada hosted the U-20 World Cup and the performance was a disaster. Canada went winless and did not score a goal.

Mitchell's appointment, coming on the heels of the embarrassing Fred Nykamp affair, solidified the belief a housecleaning was needed.

Nykamp was hired as CEO last May, leaving Basketball Canada's top job. He was told in July he needed to be approved by the board of directors. A month later, it voted not to ratify his hiring.

Nykamp was president Colin Linford's guy, so Linford resigned, the CSA was sued by Nykamp for $1.75 million and two months later, the sides settled out of court for a substantial amount.

Montopoli will have to fight through the cynicism.

"I feel I'm a man of integrity throughout my 25-year career. I know right from wrong."


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