Nova Scotia

Canada's gold-medal soccer game could play 'huge role' in Nova Scotian sports

Young female soccer players in Nova Scotia are looking forward to Friday's gold-medal match up between Team Canada and Sweden.

Canadians challenge Sweden for the top prize Friday, and young female players will be watching

Canadian women’s soccer team inspiring young athletes

6 months ago
Duration 1:39
The success of the Canadian women’s soccer team at Tokyo 2020 has inspired young female athletes across the country. 1:39

Young soccer players in Nova Scotia will be glued to their television screens Friday morning for the women's gold medal soccer match between Canada and Sweden.

The gold-medal game was originally scheduled for the middle of the day Friday in Tokyo at Olympic Stadium, but was rescheduled to avoid soaring Tokyo temperatures. It will start at 9 a.m. Atlantic time. 

CBC News spoke to several young players in the Halifax area about what the match means, particularly for young female soccer players.

Jenna Lileikis, a centre back with the St. Mary's Huskies at St. Mary's University, said Canada has been performing exceptionally well and the players proved it by beating the United States for a place in the finals. 

Canada's Christine Sinclair scores against Japan last month. She's inspired many young Canadians to take up soccer. (Silvia Izquierdo/The Associated Press)

She's hoping that by drawing attention to women's sport, the match will have long-term benefits.

"I think it provides a lot of media coverage that women usually don't get," Lileikis said.

"I also hope it's going to play a huge role in providing more funding ... to provide the support for girls to have that dream and have people behind them knowing that they can reach that goal."

Making soccer a Canadian thing

Her teammate Allie Martin, a striker with the SMU Huskies, is hoping the match inspires young girls to pursue the sport.

Martin said historically hockey has been the sport drawing the most attention in Canada and women's soccer was seen as a more "American thing."

Jenna Lileikis and Allie Martin of the St. Mary's Huskies soccer women's team are hoping the media coverage brings more attention to women's professional sports (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

According to Martin, with more indoor facilities available for soccer and increased media attention, women's soccer is becoming more recognized as a professional sport. 

Developing a Canadian women's soccer league, she said, would be "really crucial" for young players and would give them a goal they could work toward. 

"Here in Halifax we have Wanderers and boys in soccer here are able to want to become a Wanderers player one day," she said, "But we don't have something like that for women."

Soccer sleepover

Keira Leonard, 15, and Anna Godin, 14, of the Under-18 United DFC Soccer plan to have a sleepover to watch the game together.

Speaking at a rainy Cole Harbour field, Godin said she was "super excited" as it wasn't something that happens every day.

"It's just really nice to see like a women's team representing Canada and getting a chance to win gold at the Olympics," she said.

Keira Leonard (left) and Anna Godin (right) of the Under 18 United Dartmouth Football Club say the Team Canada women soccer players have inspired them (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

The pair both said Christine Sinclair is their favourite player on the team.

Leonard said Sinclair's enthusiasm and skill motivates her to be a better player herself.

The young women say the accomplishments of the women of the Team Canada soccer team have given them their own Olympic aspirations.

"It's really cool to see and it makes me hope that I can get there some day," Godin said.

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With files from Chris O'Neill-Yates

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