CBC Digital Archives

Kara Lang, teen soccer sensation

It's been called "the beautiful game." Soccer, the most popular sport in the world, draws an unwavering devotion from its fans. Yet soccer as a spectator sport has never quite caught on in Canada, despite growing youth participation rates and a series of professional leagues. Still, we've had star players and tasted World Cup play, and many immigrant communities have imported their passion to Canada. CBC Archives looks at soccer in the Great White North.

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Ever since she was five, Kara Lang has been dominating the soccer field. She's now 16, and she's still dominating - although the playing field is much bigger these days. Oakville, Ont.'s Lang first caught the public's attention as part of the silver medal-winning Canadian team at the 2002 Under-19 Women's World Championship. She's now considered "one of the rising stars of international soccer." This 2003 CBC radio clip explores the world of this teen soccer phenomenon, on and off the field. 
• Soccer wasn't always deemed an "appropriate" sport for women. In 1921, the Football Association (F.A.) in England banned women from playing on any fields affiliated with F.A. clubs.

• 1998's Keeping Score: Canadian Encyclopedia of Soccer described a 1922 meeting of the Dominion of Canada Football Association at which the appropriateness of women's soccer was debated. One member from Saskatchewan said he was opposed to it because "a woman was not built to stand the bruises gotten in playing football."

• Women's soccer began to grow in popularity in the 1970s and 80s, but it wasn't until 1991 that the first Women's World Cup took place in China. This was 61 years after the first World Cup for men's soccer.

• The first Under-19 Women's World Championship was played in Edmonton in 2002. Canada surprised everyone by making it to the gold-medal game. Canada lost in overtime to the U.S. with a score of 1-0, but the silver-medal performance was enough to elevate Canada's international status in the world of women's soccer.

• That 2002 performance led to an increased popularity of women's soccer as a spectator sport in Canada. A 2003 Maclean's article described a women's game between Canada and Brazil as having the excited atmosphere of a hockey game. "People cared if Canada won," it said. "Vendors sold shirts bearing names like Kara Lang and Christine Sinclair, who are now playing for the senior squad after starring on the team that won the silver medal at last year's Under-19 World Championship."

• A Guelph Mercury article from 2003 also declared, "Thousands of young girls who play soccer across Canada now have Canadian idols instead of American imports like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain." These idols included Lang, B.C.'s Christine Sinclair and Ottawa veteran player Charmaine Hooper.

• Lang holds the world record as the youngest player to score a goal in a full (senior) international game. At 15, she scored against Wales in Portugal's Algarve Cup. 

• Lang continues to make a splash in women's soccer (2006). In 2005, she was recruited to play for UCLA, where she is studying broadcast journalism. She still plays for the Canadian national team. And during the summer, she plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the W-league (a division of North America's United Soccer Leagues).

Medium: Radio
Program: The Inside Track
Broadcast Date: Sept. 14, 2003
Guest(s): Kara Lang, Brian Lang, Carly O'Sullivan
Host: Robin Brown
Reporter: Teddy Katz
Duration: 14:54
2002 Under-19 World Championships audio: Rogers Sportsnet
Photo: Canadian Soccer Association

Last updated: January 17, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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