British Columbia

Olympic bronze could bring golden age to women's soccer

The future of women's soccer in Canada took a positive turn Thursday after the Canadian women's Olympic team, led by Burnaby's Christine Sinclair, beat France to win bronze.

B.C's Christine Sinclair and the Canadian women's soccer team are creating excitement around in the game

Canada's women's soccer team poses with their bronze medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

The future of women's soccer in Canada took a positive turn Thursday after the Canadian women's Olympic team, led by Burnaby's Christine Sinclair, beat France to win bronze.

"Canada's hosting the next World Cup. With this medal, the expectations are going to be on us and I can't wait," Sinclair told reporters following the win.

And Roger Barnes, president of B.C. Soccer, said the association wants young girls to dream about accomplishing what players like Christine Sinclair have done.

Barnes said that women's soccer in B.C. has a ton of potential, as its numbers have only been growing over the past decade.

"We have 120,000 soccer players in British Columbia. Over 40 per cent, 43 per cent, are female. We have about 50,000 girls and women from the ages of five up to 50," he said.

Michael Findlay, director of development for B.C. Soccer, said the association has a grassroots program meant to attract players and allow more opportunities for those players to improve their skills.

"We hopefully will create a much better player both for retention in the game, but also those players that you saw today in England representing Canada in the Olympics. So the basis of it is to provide all those coaches with the appropriate teaching skills," Findlay said.

Positive feedback

Findlay said getting more girls into soccer at an early age pays off at the elite level, and success at the elite level pays off in drawing girls to soccer.

He said Canada's Olympic bronze could help bring a golden age of soccer to B.C. by creating a new excitement around the sport and inspiring future Christine Sinclairs and Diana Mathesons.

Canada's Diana Matheson scored the game-winning goal against France in the bronze medal women's soccer match at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. (Jon Super/AP)

And with the Olympic bronze medal, the Canadian women are now even bigger role models.

Nicole Tulis, who teaches youth soccer in Coquitlam, said that growing up, she had to look across the border for soccer idols.

"As a child, I didn't have too many Canadian girls to look up to. I had the American girls like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain — but to grow up now to have Canadian girls to look up to is awesome for the girls," she said.

Officials say sports funding is also becoming more evenly balanced between boys and girls at the club level here.

But at the Olympic level, there are still some things that raise objections, such as the fact that Japan's men's soccer team, who will play for bronze on Friday, flew to the Olympics in business class, while the silver-medal-winning women's team flew economy.

With files from the CBC's Tim Weekes, Chad Pawson, and Leah Hendry