2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Sometimes, sporting fans have the opportunity to witness a potentially memorable, positive and significant event.
On January 27, 2012, 22,954 vibrant and anxious fans of diverse ages and cultures filled BC Place for a key soccer match. The attendance broke the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament record.
The stakes were high. The winner moves forward to the Summer Olympics in London (2012); 1the vanquished goes home.
The atmosphere was electric and tense: “All the chips were on the table; the winner takes all!” As expected, the match between Team Canada and Team Mexico was extremely competitive. Team Canada was very respectful of Team Mexico; the latter had defeated worthy opponents in past qualifying tournaments. In spite of a partisan Team Canada crowd, Team Mexico supporters were definitely visible and vociferous.
With Canada leading 2-1 at the 75th minute mark, the match was still within reach for Mexico. At the 76th minute mark, Captain Christine Sinclair found herself, alone, facing the goalkeeper, Cecilia Santiago. Showing great skill and patience, Sinclair gently lofted the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper. In hindsight, the goalkeeper, caught in “no man’s land,” made the right play. Had Sinclair tried to manoeuvre the ball with her feet, the goalkeeper, Santiago, who could move quickly to her left or right, would have a good opportunity for a save. But Sinclair’s lofted ball was the stroke of a maestro, piercing the keeper’s elusive, exposed area. With Canada leading 3-1, a great sigh of relief was felt by Team Canada and its many fans and supporters.
On the field, the Canadian Team had much to celebrate. Recovering from a harsh experience at the World Cup in Germany, 2011, the team needed a fresh start and rebuilding. The Australian Women’s Head Coach, John Herdman, became Canada’s new Head Coach.
With his positive attitude, human relation skills and coaching acumen, Herdman worked at getting the best out of his players. Herdman, realizing that he was working with skilled, athletic players who had received many years of professional coaching, acknowledged that fact and showed respect. Then Herdman, with his coaching staff, observing, reflecting and assessing, initiated alterations, changes and modifications. At the Tournament, it was quite clear that Herdman was not hesitant to make line-up changes. He chose players that were the most skillful at their positions who adapted to his strategy and philosophy.
Significantly, Herdman helped shape a new mindset, that helped release the potential (creativity) of the players (The Star, Feb. 24, 2012). Like a bird in flight, when the heat of battle is felt, the flight must continue. The higher state of urgent activity is to be considered a normal part of the flight. Turbulence must be confronted. There is no sense of panic, retreat, surrender or despair. In full flight, the player will then fight to find space, balance and control, in the face of adversity. Constantly aware of the proximate player(s) (defending and attacking), the player will then struggle, shift, stabilize and manoeuvre to make a penetrating move.
To the Canadian soccer aficionados (players, coaching staff, administrators, support workers, fans, partners and government officials), winning a berth to the Summer Olympics in London this summer affords a cornucopia of benefits; social, economic and political. A loss to Mexico would have been cataclysmic.
On Sunday, Team USA defeated Team Canada, 4-0, finishing first and winning the Gold Medal; the latter, winning the Silver Medal. Perhaps, a positive view of the game is that it provided Team Canada with a measuring stick, prior to the Summer Olympics in London, 2012.
Interestingly, the micro view, “on the field,” tends to dominate our attention at sporting events. It is natural to experience joy and ecstasy as fans celebrate a major victory. Indeed, these moments of euphoria are valuable and should be treasured.
But the macro view, “off the field,” looking at the “big picture” may afford the fan a broader, deeper, learning experience. As observers, we may need to focus on the sidelines and beyond to fully understand and appreciate the eight competing soccer teams in the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament held at BC Place, January 19-29, 2012: Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, USA.
To the astute fan and observer, the notion of a “level playing field” certainly does not apply to this tournament. On the sidelines, social, economic, cultural and political factors, have always entered the “field of play.” These variables result in differing support systems for the eight competing teams. It is a fact, that a strong support system, with resources, food, water, soccer equipment, medicine, medical staff, professional coaching, soccer fields, residency and financial aid would be an asset to a team.
Recovering from a disastrous earthquake (January, 2010), Team Haiti, ranked 62nd by FIFA, struggled to field a team. Four players, with Haitian roots, left the stability of the USA to join the team in Haiti: #15 Kimberly Boulos Midfielder/Defender New York, #14 Samantha Brand Forward San Francisco, #12 Ednie Limage Goalkeeper Miami, #16 Tatiana Mathelier Forward New York (Yahoo Sports Jan.19, 2012). BC Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Association donated uniforms and equipment to Team Haiti. The local community contributed food, funding and supplies
In spite of adverse conditions, Team Haiti qualified for the Tournament. In its final game, Team Haiti defeated Cuba 3-0. Team Haiti, Head Coach Ronald Luxieux and Assistant Coach Toussaint Coissy, are to be congratulated.
Reflecting, sport fans observing the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament at BC Place in January, 2012, are offered two viewpoints.
With a micro view, we salute the winners, Team USA and Team Canada, who have gained berths to the Summer Olympics in London, 2012.
With a macro view, we salute the remaining six teams for their participation. Having knowledge of the differences in a “level playing field,” we move on in our daily lives, armed with a better understanding of what it takes to be a ‘winner”.