Many challenges await new CSA hire Tony Fonseca | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerMany challenges await new CSA hire Tony Fonseca

Posted: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 | 11:23 PM

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Newly hired CSA technical director Tony Fonseca, centre, has some major challenges ahead of him in his new role. (Mark Humphrey/Associated Press) Newly hired CSA technical director Tony Fonseca, centre, has some major challenges ahead of him in his new role. (Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)

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Newly hired CSA technical director Tony Fonseca has built a reputation as a problem solver apt at breaking down issues to their root, and then demanding nothing less than the necessary change. That being said, a long road is ahead for Fonseca, writes Ben Rycroft.
You could be forgiven if you looked at the timing of Canadian Soccer's announcement Tuesday and concluded they were hoping to bury the news. 

After all, who in their right mind would plan to introduce a major new hiring on the same day as the U.S. presidential election, if they weren't expecting it to fall through the cracks of the ink-stained pages? 

This is the day when sports reporters and lifestyle editors everywhere are asked to pull double duty and chip in on what is easily one of the busiest times for any newsroom. 

But, in all likelihood, despite the hiring having been made weeks ago, the Canadian Soccer Association's ill-timed official unveiling of its new technical director, Tony Fonseca, was probably just a detail overlooked. 

However glaring, the slipup did provide an interesting contrast to the man they've hired to help build the next generation of Canadian soccer. 

Like many former professional players, Fonseca isn't one willing to suffer fools lightly. 

Serious and analytical, he has built a reputation as a problem solver apt at breaking down issues to their root and then demanding nothing less than the necessary change. 

He's also someone who doesn't mind standing slightly out of the limelight. He played that role during his time under former national team head coach Stephen Hart. Fonseca was responsible for combing through hours of match videos and often doing the pre-scout of upcoming opponents. 

Thankless task

He'll play that role once again now under general secretary Peter Montopoli. Often a thankless task, a technical director spends years planning, mentoring and molding on the youth levels in the hopes of one day developing a handful of players who can contribute to the senior national teams. 

Last year, he impressed the Canadian soccer decision makers when, as the high performance director, he presented a plan for elite level soccer in this country that challenged some of the realities that Canada faces, without being naively optimistic about what can be done. 

Back then, as just a director, he didn't have the clout to clear a lane for the major financial projects that would come with such a needed overhaul. But now, as a technical director, he has a mandate to do just that. 

As it is with most change in Canadian soccer, this kind will be met with the usual kicking and screaming. 

Fonseca is likely to face major opposition from the provincial soccer bodies as he rolls out his agenda over the next few years. Ultimately it will mean further marginalizing the province's place in developing players on the elite levels. 

Sounding very much like a politician Tuesday, one that is seemingly aware of the fights that lay ahead, Fonseca peppered his teleconference with phrases like "consensus-building" and "working together," when asked about how he plans to transform the youth ranks.  

Despite the pandering, today's announcement should force Canadian soccer as a whole to ask some very difficult questions of itself. 

Questions that are desperately needed in the wake of Canada's latest failure to get to the Men's World Cup and at a time when this country continues to fall further and further behind at developing players of a world-class caliber.   

Provincial programs

Do the provincial programs have a purpose anymore? Are they really interested in creating a competitive pool of the best players? Or are they just there to keep people employed? 

Every province is different. And it has been said by more than one person that Canadian soccer is a region with 10 provinces, three territories and ultimately 13 different countries. 

But these types of things need to be asked if Canada is ever going to leave the business of recreational soccer and actually move towards something that resembles a fully functional national program. One that not only competes in the region but regularly qualifies for World Cups.  

On a day when the U.S. election dominated the headlines, Canadian soccer has set in motion something that if successful, will help to reshape the way we develop players in this country. 

Fonseca wasn't elected but how his legacy will be defined is directly tied to how well he can navigate the politics of change.

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