To call Canadian soccer a rudderless ship isn't entirely accurate. There is a rudder, one that points in a vague direction. And there are plenty of oars in the water trying to push the Good Ship Soccer forward. But what is really lacking, or rather what has been missing since Stephen Hart relinquished his role as technical director in 2009, is a leader.
The Canadian Soccer Association recognized that this week and, after the position sat vacant for three years, finally announced that it is looking to fill the role once again.
It won't be an easy sell. The technical director is a largely a faceless, mostly thankless, role.
It requires someone who will able to bring a number of areas together -- from the grassroots to the provinces up to the pro clubs -- then overhaul them and get these largely opposing forces working in some kind of a harmonious nature. It's a massive undertaking and one that will likely never be fully reflected in their paycheque. But for Canadian soccer to move forward, it needs someone to step up and take the wheel.
For his part, Hart isn't interested in the job. He left it in 2009 to focus full-time on the head coaching role and, for what it's worth, his reasoning for not wanting the job again is sound.
"Me, I don't think it's wise to have your head coach as the technical director," Hart told CBC Sports. "Your head coach is going to be judged on every game that they play.
"And the work of a technical director is long-term, developmental, working in various aspects of the game and helping to grow the game."
But as someone who has seen the lay of the land before, he does give some pretty good specifics on what it requires.
"I think you're going to need somebody with a lot of experience and background with what actually happens in Canada," Hart said. "And potentially, what can happen with the pro clubs coming on line and, of course, the various aspects of coaching.
"It's going to really require someone who really has no ambition to get back into coaching and more into development programs and education."
The Canadian soccer world has changed a lot in the last three years. Hart left a Canada where Toronto FC was the lone professional club still barely on its feet and with Vancouver and Montreal just starting to think about a move to MLS.
Today, whoever steps into the role of technical director is looking at a much more complicated situation. All three cities now have MLS clubs. All three are pouring resources into their quickly expanding academies. And all three academies are now largely taking away the role of developing players from provincial associations.
For their part, the provinces, which still wield tremendous power, are slowly starting to realize this and are struggling to maintain and redefine their relevance.
It all adds up to what Canadian soccer has been dealing with for a generation -- one big power struggle, one fiefdom not wanting to go along with another's program for fear they'll lose control of their own.
'An enormous job'
Hart doesn't downplay what awaits his successor.
"It's a huge job," he said. "Mainly because of our structure and how we're made up.
"It's a different landscape that's coming on board. You don't just have the province, you have the pro clubs and someone has to tie all that in together.
"It's an enormous job and it's going to require a lot of cooperation -- and from all the parties involved -- in order for that to work."
The CSA is accepting applications until Aug. 3. But two people, both with the know-how and political capital to move these mountains, immediately jump to mind.
The first is Tony Fonseca. He is head coach of the Canadian men's U-23 side, a national team staff coach and someone who has experience at the club level with Vancouver as a coach and director of their academy. He has played at the national level for Portugal, played club soccer for Benfica and has a great background in development.
The second just may have the best understanding of the perils and pitfalls facing Canadian soccer today. Unfortunately, for Canada, he also just left a similar technical director's post at Oakville soccer, the largest youth club in North America, for a television job with TSN. And he did so, I'm told, in large part to be able to spend more time with his family.
Jason deVos, a former national team captain, has been on the forefront of discussion and debate in how to reform Canadian soccer more than anybody in recent years. He helped push through massive reforms at the CSA board level and his vision for development is fully thought through. More than that, given his history, he commands the respect across the country needed to affect change.
But the big question remains: would he want it? At this point in time, probably not.
Whoever it ends up being, though, Canadian soccer has spent the last decade trying to right its ship. It has been done with the help of deVos, Fonseca and many others. Now it's time to get the oars working together and finally point that ship in the right direction.
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