Soccer women enjoy rare Canadian return

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:12 PM ET

TORONTO - Part of the raison d'etre of the building of BMO Field was that it would stand as the country's national soccer stadium.

But, for the women's national team, the place is anything but homey. Even though the stadium is well into its fourth year of existence, the Canadian women will play only their third home game at BMO when they face China on Sept. 30.

"It's very furstrating for us," admitted Canadian midfield veteran Diana Matheson, who earned her 100th cap for the national team earlier this season. "We've been back three times, and it's basically the only times we play in Canada."

That means the Canadian women, who would bend over backwards if they could in order to get more media attention, live in anonymity in this country. Canada has produced one of the best female forwards to ever play the game; Christine Sinclair is regularly shortlisted for FIFA Player of the Year and is one of the most dominant players in Women's Professional Soccer (WPS).

And, it prevents the national team players as acting as ambassadors to the thousands of girls who play the game across the country.

"They only see us, if they live in Toronto, once a year," said Matheson. "And if they don't (live in Toronto), not at all. It's hard to reach out."

Canada is ranked No. 13 in the world. China is No. 14. It's an important warm-up for the women's team, who will then head off to women's Gold Cup in Mexico, which also serves as the qualifier to the upcoming World Cup.

At one time, there was a clear hierarchy in CONCACAF; the Americans were elites of the women's game, Canada was clearly No. 2 in the region and there were a bunch of also-rans, countries where women's soccer was regarded as unimportant.

That's not the case anymore.

"A lot of the weaker nations have definitely come up," said Matheson. "Costa Rica has really picked up, and they were someone we would have written off a couple of cycles ago. And, of course, there's Mexico."

Matheson's an Oakville native, so she'll feel at home when she plays at BMO next week. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Sinclair and many of the rest of the Canadian squad; because they hardly ever get back to Toronto.


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