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Free friendly displays women’s program’s change of direction

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What a difference a year makes for the Canadian women’s soccer program.

This Thursday, the Canadian women will take on the Vancouver Whitecaps’ women’s team in an exhibition match that is not only open to the public, but admission is, well, free.

Imagine that. The Canadian women playing a friendly on Canadian soil (albeit against a local club, but one that hatched the careers of many of the women playing for Big Red) and making the event as accessible as possible to the public.

It’s another example of the marked difference in the ways that coach John Herdman wants the program to be run compared to his predecessor, Carolina Morace. Playing a friendly against the Whitecaps — and making it accessible to the community that did such a wonderful job hosting the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers — may seem like a small gesture. But, think back a year…

The Canadian women’s team was preparing for the 2011 Women’s World Cup under Morace. And, Morace had decided to whisk the team away to Europe and play a series of closed-door friendlies. The women’s team was off the radar here in Canada, even as the squad prepared for an event as massive as a World Cup.

In that way, Morace broke an unspoken social contract that exists between fans and teams. That, for teams to exist, they need to play matches that fans can actually watch. Closed-door matches may serve strategic purposes, but they should be used sparingly. Teams exist so supporters can cheer them on.

Now, as the team qualifies for the Olympics under Herdman, we find practices that are open to the media. A friendly is planned which is open to fans and the press. Instead of shuffling off to a gated European camp, the team had made Vancouver its training base. All of a sudden, there is transparency in the women’s program.

Canada’s national women’s team has rediscovered the fact that it is, well, the Canadian national women’s team. It’s a refreshing and needed about-face for the program.

The match is set for this Thursday at South Surrey Athletic Park (1925 148th St, Surrey). Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. PT. What better way to spend a Thursday afternoon?

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