________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 10 . . . .January 20, 2006


Goals and Dreams: A Celebration of Canadian Women’s Soccer.

Shel Brødsgaard and Bob Mackin.
Roberts Creel, BC: Nightwood Editions (Distributed by Harbour Publishing), 2005.
120 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 0-88971-205-0.

Subject Heading:
Soccer for women-Canada.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.

Review by Julie Chychota.

**½ /4



The Road to the 2003 Women's World Cup

In May, we played our first exhibition series against England, with games in Montreal and Ottawa. Both results were 4-0 in our favour. Kara Lang scored two goals in each game, Andrea Neil totalled three, and Taryn Swiatek and Karina LeBlanc each had a shutout. I remember a discussion with a member of England's coaching staff after the second game. He mentioned that it was good for them to get games against one of the best teams in the world, as this helped them develop and close the gap that they felt separated them from us. We had been experiencing this same scenario for years as we faced the Americans; yet, here was an outsider giving our team the confidence and respect rarely handed to us before.


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.

     Aside from the photos, the book's only other embellishments are its soccer ball graphics. That is, the first page of each new section sports an image of a single soccer ball beneath its title while subsequent pages are bordered by a string of miniature soccer balls across the top. A minimal approach to graphics and fonts - sans serifed fonts for titles, headings, and captions, and serifed for the body - result in a pragmatically robust, streamlined text.

     Though its topic is certainly timely, Goals and Dreams may find its way into the hands of only a select few. For soccer novices, all the tournament details can be intimidating in their density. To attract a wider audience, the book could include a glossary of terms or list additional helpful resources (Web sites or books) for readers who want to know what acronyms such as "FIFA," "WUSA," and "CONCACAF" stand for, or what contextual definitions are for words like "striker" and "caps."

     By comparison, the profiles are accessible to all. The players on Canada's national women's soccer team do not act like "celebrities"; instead, they are conscious of serving as role models for other young women in sport. That is why it is too bad that the athletes profiled come from the four "have" provinces - Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. If there are players on the national women's team from the other six provinces and three territories, they are missing in action here; perhaps they will play a more conspicuous role in future books on soccer. In any case, the athletes featured in Goals and Dreams will impress readers as extremely likeable, animated, hard-working, caring women who value family, friends, and sportsmanship. Canadians have every right to celebrate them!


Julie Chychota lives, works, and dreams (but not of soccer) in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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