Things are a happenin’ on the soccer fields of Regina
Author: Stephen Hodgson — contributor
Pushed to choose my favourite sport, the answer is quickly and unequivocally simple: soccer. Having played the sport in one form or another for as long as I can remember, and hailing from a continent where it is by far the biggest game, it has been extremely interesting to see how the sport grows here in the Queen City, and how differently developments abroad are interpreted and digested. It has only been a few years since I first set foot in the country, but even in this short space of time there have been developments. Allow me to take the time and traverse some of the minor details of a sport in its Canadian infancy.
One of the most recent developments in local soccer has been the advent of the one club program for junior soccer. As an objective outsider, I was initially a little confused by this development. Surely a number of teams competing over a city-wide league would only promote inclusion and the development of skill in the city. However, once I saw the outline for the one club model, and came to better understand the sporting mentality in Regina, it developed into an understanding of the new models necessity.
The old model operated under the assumption that every team would have a coach with some experience in the sport, experience that could be handed down in training sessions and games. Unfortunately, this was not enough to encourage the sports growth.
Under the new model, teams can now collectivize what expertise they have, and harness this coaching ability over a number of age groups. Outside guidance can also be hired in from neighbouring provinces in order to nurture future development. Maybe at some distant date, when the sport has had time to develop to a good cultural appreciation to the same degree as ice hockey or baseball, with enough people having played the sport, there will be enough ability in parents for the city-wide model to be introduced in some degree once more. However, the culture is still not large enough to support such a model at this time.
As for the growth of the sport, the media’s coverage has been mixed. Whilst the majority of people recognize the simple beauties of the sport, the facts that the sport involves a lot of physical exercise and that you do not require thousands of dollars in order to play it, there is still a great push back against the sport’s growth.
It is somewhat understandable that people may not wish to risk damaging the interest in the sports that already exist in this area of the country, but sometimes it is hard to believe some of the statements made surrounding the sport.
One recent article titled “Headed for Trouble: Soccer’s concussion problem,” based out of CTV in Montreal, involved studies into concussions in sport, with the claim that ‘[soccer is] as bad as severe as that of hockey or football.’ It would be unprofessional and misleading of me to say that concussions do not take place in soccer, as accidents do happen.
However, in this case, it is truly astounding that such a statement can be adjudged to hold water. Both of the sports quoted involve extreme physical contact, whether that be fighting in ice hockey, or the hunt for the illusive ‘sack’ in North American football. Almost all concussions suffered in the game of soccer stem from contact off of the ball, colliding heads in the air, or taking a hit on the ground for example, and are not sought after elements of the sport.
If the game is taught in the correct manner, respecting the rules of the game and the opposition that you face, it is very rare that you will come across such head injuries. This obviously does not apply to goalkeeping, where extra precautions should be taken in order to protect oneself in certain scenarios. For further clarity, research the experiences of Petr Cech, a world renowned goalkeeper who wears protective headgear following a collision with an opposing player.
The last point of interest that will be covered in this piece is the recent scandal that is continuing to unfold in FIFA, the world governing body of the beautiful game. For many years now there has been speculation that the governing body has been rotten to its core. The recent awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup venues has come with its fair share of corruption claims, and the state of working conditions on these venues has raised more than a few eyebrows internationally. With a sport that has a reputation for simulation on the field of play, it appears that those at the top of the game have been simulating good and proper governance for quite some time.
With all of this suspect behaviour at the top of the sport, it’s easy to understand why people might be reticent about becoming involved in the game, or having their children actively partake in the sport past elementary school age. I encourage these people to take the time to try out the sport for themselves. There are a number of opportunities in the city to do so, whether this be signing up to play in one of the city leagues as a guest player, or a co-ed team with a partner or friend.
A cheap pair of cleats can be found at most major supermarkets across the city, as I found out for myself after leaving my own back home, and there are a number of entry-level teams that will be happy to give you the opportunity.
In closing, soccer is a sport that has forged a good foundation in this city, with a great deal of potential for growth and the development of new talents. It remains up to its citizens whether or not some of its future residents will forge an international legacy in this new sport. Dip your toes in, and judge if the sport is right for yourself.