PBHT 51: Women’s Soccer Edition
Following the news that the Laval Comets will not play in 2016, we decided to bring you a women’s soccer special for episode 51. Our guests this week are: Joe Ferrara (Commissioner, UWS), Jorge Sanchez (Head coach, Concordia Stingers women’s soccer)and Helder Duarte (Sporting Director, Dynamo Quebec)
Translation of the Helder Duarte Interview:
TD: How did you know about the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) not letting your team join UWS?
HD: We received a letter from the CSA saying that they refused to let us play in the American league because we found the same level of play in Quebec.
TD: Do you believe this personally?
HD: That it’s the same level in Quebec? No, not at all. It’s not even close. It is without a doubt not the same level.
TD: What is the biggest difference in your point of view?
HD: First of all, the players who played [in the Quebec Elite league] were players that played at the National Centre, if we take the Laval Comets. There are teams that are reserve teams of the American professional leagues. The best players in the region are all in this same team.
I was implicated in this league and I can tell you that it’s not the same thing at all. By the way, the players from Quebec were called by American teams to play there and some of them leave to go play in the United States so if [the UWS] wasn’t this good, they wouldn’t call us.
TD: Did the UWS stay in contact with you though the long period of waiting for the approval.
HD: Yes. [UWS] even put the logos for the Comets and the Dynamo on their website and they announced that we were playing in the league. I don’t know if they’re still there but I checked last week and they were still there. So, I imagine they had to think that we were going to play and that there wouldn’t be a problem. I don’t know what happened, how it happened, and where it happened, but something happened that makes that we end up with nothing.
TD: I can confirm that the logo is still on the site. This must have meant that UWS were confident of having Canadian teams in their league?
HD: Yes because last year we played and it’s been a couple of years that we’re there, last year we made the final of the Final Four so we had an interesting team. We were in the last four team to play in the Canadian/American level so we did well.
To have this brick really slows us down because we find ourselves with nothing when we though everything was fine. We tried to reach the CSA and we weren’t able to get any answers. We don’t know what happened.
TD: Are you still in talks with the CSA?
HD: No, because it’s too late now. The players have already found teams and they’re leaving. So, to make something happen this year it’s too late. We can’t do anything.
TD: It’s been a week already that we know that the CSA didn’t grant you access to the UWS. But the news really fired up when the Laval Comets announced that they wouldn’t play in 2016. Do you have a plan for the short term?
HD: No, we have nothing at all. What we know is that we will try to do something for next year. But for this year, it for sure that there is nothing to do. Nothing.
TD: Even the Quebec Elite League isn’t an option for you?
HD: The players are going to play in the region but in terms of the Dynamo, nothing will happen that’s for sure.
TD: What is the highest level of women’s soccer here now?
HD: Before it used to be the league we played in.
TD: But how about right now? Would it be the RSEQ [Quebec college soccer]?
HD: For sure. It’s much stronger at the college level but if all the players go and play in the Elite League, the level will go up for sure.
The Quebec Soccer Federation has been wishing for a while now that they would like a women’s PLSQ [third division semi-pro league in Quebec]. We’d have a really good level of play there because we would get the best players from Montreal that would be in the Comets, the best players in Quebec City would play with the Dynamo. This would be the highest level of women’s soccer.
TD: Do you believe in a women’s PLSQ?
HD: If there is a good product, I think it could work. It needs to be done well. If we could play with Ontario it could be interesting as well because last year we have a lot of Ontario teams in the W League, only a few American teams were in our division. I think it could be an interesting product.
TD: A few months back, I spoke to League One Ontario commissioner Dino Rossi. He told us that if the Quebec teams did not find anything, he would be interested in having Quebec teams play in his league. Has there been contacts?
HD: It’s the first time I hear about that, I didn’t know Ontario were interested in us playing there this year. There were no contacts though, I don’t think we had in terms of that and they did not contact us either.
TD: Would this be interesting for you while waiting for a women’s PLSQ? Because we know that building a league takes a long time.
HD: It would certainly be an alternative. It would be interesting. What I heard though was that the Ontarian teams did not want to leave Ontario, especially the ones in Toronto. They didn’t want to travel to Quebec.
TD: Travelling was one of the issues Rossi stated.
I need to ask this question even if it’s a difficult one. We see three men’s pro leagues [MLS, NASL, and USL]. Is there a double standard with the CSA when comes the time to give it’s approval to play in American pro leagues.
HD: From my point of view and that’s just me, women’s soccer gets second place. Last year we had a World Cup in Canada, it would have been an opportunity to do something for the future but not only have we done nothing but we eliminate what was already there.
I find this disappointing and paradoxically the head coach of the national team asks his players to go to American universities. He wishes they would go play there but the CSA doesn’t allow two teams from Quebec to go play at a good level. I find that women’s soccer for now is not a priority at the CSA
*TD: *Is it ironic to see the Canadian women’s side being much better than the men’s side on the international stage for more than a decade but the have a second tier treatment?
HD: Yes. By seeing the results we can see it that way. But I think it’s a question of priorities. Do we really do everything we can for the advancement of women’s soccer? They will tell us yes for sure but in light of what we see today, that we don’t want two teams from Quebec to play in a superior league, I don’t think that is what will help develop. It’s not a hint that we will try to help women’s soccer at all cost. We’re stalling this.
And plus, knowing that the players from these teams will still go play in the US, not only will players not stay in Quebec but coaches too. We just lost two of our coaches who are going to the US as well. So we are losing players and we are losing coaches.
TD: Has the dust settled in Quebec City?
HD: Yes. We have no choice eh?
TD: We need to stand back up?
HD: Exactly. We need to find solutions. It’s been two years that we’re doing a youth program because our objective is to work with our younger players that climb our structure. We make meetings with the best players from the region once a month and during the spring break with the clubs that are implicated. The goal is to have the best players when they will get to the senir age group.
TD: But the top of the pyramid is tough to keep when there is nothing to offer?
HD: Exactly. It hurts us right now. We’re hoping to find a solution for next year. We want to get in the PLSQ with the men’s and we want a women’s team so that the kids can look up to them and say that they want to play at that level. For this we need to continue working and we need the people up top to help us too.
TD: Thank you very much for taking the time.
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