CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 10 . . . .January 20, 2006
Like the little engine that could, Canada's national women's soccer team has proven that steely determination, intensive training, and a positive mind-set can accomplish much. In Goals and Dreams: A Celebration of Canadian Women's Soccer, Shel Brødsgaard and Bob Mackin identify the coaches, players, and competitions that have contributed to the team's success on the international field and to the game's current popularity in Canada. Goals and Dreams is sure to score big with soccer fans, especially girls who play the sport themselves.
The authors briefly track the history of women's soccer from its inception in England, and subsequent adoption by North Americans in the 1920s, to the present. In the early years, soccer was considered "quite unsuitable for females." Such opinions gradually switched in the 1970s, notes Mackin, as the U.S. legislated equal funding of athletes regardless of gender, and Canadians sought a viable alternative to hockey. Even with these changes in attitude and opportunity, a Canadian breakthrough at the national women's level was still a long way off. In fact, it was 1986 before Canada's women's team reached an important crossroads: following a Winnipeg tournament, players were trundled off to the U.S. for their first international game. Soccer in Canada gained momentum from thereon in, although, for Brødsgaard and Mackin, one event above all others signals the upturn in fortune for the national women's team: the arrival from Norway of Head Coach Even Pellerud in 1999/2000.
Under Pellerud's tutelage, Canada's women's team improved dramatically. The underdogs going into the 2002 FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championships, Team Canada advanced game by game to the finals against the U.S. Despite a heart wrenching loss in overtime, the Canadian women's team demonstrated that they had the motivation, the technical and tactical skills, and the perseverance to excel. The team further developed competence and confidence under pressure throughout the CONCACAF qualifier and the various other stages leading up to the 2003 World Women's World Cup. Although they did not win the Cup, Canada's national women's team ranked the fourth-best in the world - quite an accomplishment for so young a team in so short a time. Brødsgaard feels that this showing bodes well for the future, specifically for the three important competitions on the horizon: the U-20 FIFA Women's Youth World Cup in 2006, the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2007, and the Olympics in 2008. With this book, the authors clearly intend to rally support for the Canadian women's soccer team.
After the standard Table of Contents and Acknowledgements pages, Goals and Dreams features an introduction by Andrea Neil, "the Canadian women's team longest-serving midfielder." The rest of the book then falls into a rhythm, alternating titled but unnumbered sections penned by Brødsgaard, Canada's national goal-keeping coach, with those penned by Mackin, a sports journalist. Mackin writes "A Brief History of Canadian Women's Soccer" and all 12 "Profiles," while Brødsgaard documents the logistics and outcomes of competitions in sections such as "The Road to the 2003 Women's World Cup." Essentially, Brødsgaard constructs the narrative while Mackin specializes in character development. As one might expect, given his perspective as a member of the team, Brødsgaard writes in the first person (singular and plural); Mackin, on the other hand, writes in the more distant and distancing third person. Yet Mackin allows his interviewees to speak for themselves, in a sense, because he incorporates direct quotations without inserting signal phrases. The way the book hitches together the Brødsgaard and Mackin pieces by turns plays up the paradox inherent in portraying a unified team and simultaneously the uniqueness of its many members.
Just as the book's organization reflects the tension between a group and the individuals it comprises, so too do the visual images. Stationed at intervals between the shot of Kara Lang ready to strike the ball on the front cover and the picture of the entire team mugging on the back cover are 45 riveting black and white photographs by Dale MacMillan and Michael Stahlschmidt. These photos take up anywhere from a quarter of a page to a full page. The images capture team members as they leap, run, kick, block shots, appeal penalties, mark opposing players, celebrate victories, and congratulate each other. Captions beneath the photos complement the book's journalistic style and establish context. For example, one caption reads, "Canada celebrates its U-19 victory over the US in the World Championship qualifying tournament." Together, the photos and captions serve a functional rather than decorative purpose in that they communicate the team's athleticism and competitiveness. Yet not only do they showcase the team as a cohesive unit, but they also repeatedly match names to faces so that readers begin recognizing each of the players separately.
Julie Chychota lives, works, and dreams (but not of soccer) in Winnipeg, MB.
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other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.