Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Soccer business is about to pick up, official predicts

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IS your kid suddenly dreaming of being the next Desiree Scott?

Yours and maybe a few thousand other soccer players around this province.

The Manitoba Soccer Association expects more kids to be playing soccer and current players to be even keener after watching homegrown Scott and the Canadian socccer team win bronze at the Olympics.

Canada's 25-year-old star holding midfielder played for Phoenix club teams in the city's northeast, for the University of Manitoba, for Winnipeg South End United as an adult and for provincial teams before landing a spot on Canada's national team.

"It's greater than anything we've had before in a player having an impact," MSA executive director Hector Vergara said Monday. "She's essentially a homegrown talent.

"It's going to be a fantastic motivator. Des is a fantastic inspiration," said Vergara. "It's going to be inspirational for young athletes. It's all great for Manitoba soccer. Whether it's competitive or recreational level, I think a lot of kids may be inspired."

The MSA has 5,512 girls aged 9 to 18 playing outdoor soccer this year, of whom 4,594 play in Winnipeg. There are many more playing community centre house league aged 5 to 8.

"Des always has a smile on her face. She's a fierce competitor, but you can tell she's enjoying herself," said Vergara.

Players on Scott's former Phoenix team were at a clinic at Anderson Park on Monday, ecstatic over her success.

"I'm a huge fan of Desiree Scott. Just watching her play and getting the medal is amazing," said 13-year-old defender Maria Albo of Phoenix's U-13 premier team. "It's for sure made me more excited to play.

"A lot of girls want to be her," Maria said. "They're my role models, they really are -- I want to be like them."

Friends who've never played soccer are talking up the sport, Maria said: "They said, 'Wow, I really know what you mean when you say you love the game,' " she said.

Phoenix U-13 premier defender Kyra MacFarlane found out Monday morning she and Scott share a Phoenix heritage, and it's now clear to Kyra her own dreams can be limitless.

"That's very cool -- anything can happen," said Kyra.

Winnipeg will be among six Canadian cities hosting the 2015 women's World Cup, and Vergara expects Scott and most of her teammates will still be in their prime, though he pointed out Canada has under-18 and under-20 teams whose members are eager to win a spot on the starting 11.

Winnipeg won't likely know until sometime in 2013 whether we'll be seeing Canada play here, he said.

There will be six groups of four teams each in the initial round robin of the World Cup, and it's still uncertain if each city will host the same four teams for all their first-round matches, or if they'll move around. After that come knockout rounds, a total of 52 matches.

Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton are also hosting. Toronto will be busy with the Pan-Am Games.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 14, 2012 A3

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