Home Canadian Soccer Men's National Team Canadian HOFers Stalteri and Walsh speak about the need for domestic pro leagues — for men AND women

Canadian HOFers Stalteri and Walsh speak about the need for domestic pro leagues — for men AND women

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Both Paul Stalteri and Amy Walsh believe that Canadian soccer players — be it boys or girls, men or women — need more chances to play professionally.

The duo — who were both announced Thursday as the latest to be inducted into Canada’s Soccer Hall of Fame, talked about why more needs to be done to develop a pro game — and, therefore, more playing opportunities — in Canada.

Stalteri has 84 Canadian caps and captained the team 30 times. He was part of the 2000 Gold Cup-winning squad. He was part of a solid generation of Canadian players who qualified for two World Cups at the youth level; he felt that generation “were just as good as anyone in CONCACAF,” and he admitted that he’s still bitter that the group never qualified for a senior World Cup.

He now coaches the U-17 program, and he said it’s at the intermediate stage — when youth players mature into senior professionals — where there’s a major drop-off in playing opportunities. He hopes that the coming Canadian Premier League, which has received the official seal of approval from the Canadian Soccer Association, comes and fills that need.

“We have a gap where the kids are not playing at a good enough level,” said Stalteri.

Stalteri grew up watching the old Canadian Soccer League, this country’s attempt to cement a pro circuit and the early ‘90s. He said that he watched games through the lens of a child; he didn’t care about the playing level or that it wasn’t Barcelona or Bayern Munich on the field — all he knew that this was a professional game with players he could look up to. He could be inspired by Canadians playing in a Canadian league. And that might be sage advice to those who gripe the CanPL won’t have the quality of a European League or MLS.

“At that time, you didn’t really know what you were watching,” said Stalteri.

Walsh, who represented Canada in two World Cups, one Olympic games and had more than a century of caps for her country, also played for the Atlanta Beat of the now defunct WUSA, the precursor to NWSL. She also played in the W-League for the Ottawa Fury and the Laval Cometes.

Amy Walsh PHOTO: DALE MACMILLAN/CANADA SOCCER

And, she believes that any talk of developing a Canadian pro league from coast to coast should also include the women.

“The almighty dollar has to be there for the women, as well,” said Walsh.

She said that, when she was with the Cometes, she would ask Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo “why can’t there be a female Impact team?”

She said that, when we talk about the Canadian Premier League for men, “the same thing has to be developed for women… People need to get on board with a female league as well.”

She said Canada’s women can’t depend on NWSL allocations, European teams or going to national-team camps in Vancouver. She doesn’t believe regularly bringing the national-team pool together for camps in Vancouver is a good long-term strategy.

“That’s not tenable for a long period of time,” she said.

THE PASSPORT AND THE PLAYER

Stalteri knew that his Canadian passport was going to make it difficult for him to build a career as a footballer in Europe. But he became a regular starter at Werder Bremen and then went onto spells at Tottenham and Fulham.

“That’s part of the difficulties of going over there and playing,” said Stalteri.  “You have to accept it. You are not Brazilian. You are not Argentinean. You are not from the European countries.”

He said a player needs to  “take difficulties on the chin” and not use the “because I’m Canadian” excuse. Coaches are going to pick the best players they have for their matchdays, and a passport isn’t going to stop a player from impressing everyone around him.

And his experience rubbed off.

Current national team defender Adam Straith spoke about the influence Stalteri had on his career.

“He is a player that I looked to when I first came into the national-team program when I was 18, 19,” said Straith. “He and Kevin McKenna (another Canadian who made it to the Bundesliga) were the ones I looked to, the ones I looked to emulate. He’s someone I’ve looked up to and still do. He kind of paved the way in Germany for a lot of Canadian players. He played at a high level for quite a number of years in Germany and in England, too. He’s a fantastic role model and it’s great to see him still involved in coaching.”

Stalteri said MLS has done “great job” of giving opportunities to Canadians who, without that league, would have gone to Europe like he did. And he believes many players could still make the move to a league as lofty as the Bundesliga.

“I still think our top players could be well doing that.”

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One Comment

  1. italk2u

    May 25, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Clearly the groundswell is growing as more and more Canadians(fans and players) get behind the CPL project. make no mistake, this is going to happen and when it does watch for canadian soccer to grow, first at home, and then on the international stage. It won’t be an overnight thing, but it will happen and it is time that we all put differences aside, accept that the product may not be as strong right now, but 5 or 10 years down the line this country will take its rightful place in the game.

    Reply

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