Webisode IV - National Training Centre

Facebook - The MSA moving forward

Next week, myself and the MSA will be meeting to discuss ways to ramp up their social media presence even further by creating a solid Facebook page.

It is vitally important to all of us involved with the MSA to be able to communicate effectively with our members. Without this ability, we are powerless to try and improve the game in Manitoba.

New MSA president Christine O'Connor used Facebook effectively in her election campaign and has identified it as something for the organization to get involved with.

The goal is to create an advanced looking Facebook page that can be used as a means to provide our members with information on what we are doing as an organization. The page, like the blog, would be an extension of the website. It will feature news, video content and direct messages from MSA executives. The ultimate idea is to allow our members to feel more involved with the operations of the MSA so that they can help us come together to make soccer as strong as it can be here.

We are eager to here any feedback or ideas that can be provided about what should be featured on the page. Content? Design? Is it something good? Let us know!

Stay tuned for the page to be up sometime over the holidays. Also, check back on the blog tomorrow for a new webisode and all your latest MSA news.

MSA Annual Awards Banquet - Call for Nominations

The annual awards are a time to reflect on the past season and recognize those who have made an outstanding contribution to the sport of soccer in Manitoba. The awards are presented by Patrons of the MSA to players, coaches, referees and volunteers who have significantly contributed and excelled in soccer.

Below, are the nomination forms for players, referees and volunteers. If you know someone you think is deserving of an award, please nominate them. It is important to the MSA to reward those who are deserving of recognition.

Player Nomination Form

Referee Nomination Form

Volunteer Nomination Form

Webisode 3

Hey Everyone,

Here is the third of our five webisodes for the blog. This one focuses on the MSA themselves, with a particular look at the WSF Indoor Complex, where MSA offices are based.

Reminder: You can check out all the webisodes in the section on the side of the blog. Enjoy!

You Need to Know - PT I

For the next little while, my goal here on the blog will be to fill readers in on some things that the MSA does that they probably don’t know about.

Let’s start with something that everyone can get excited about…free money!

Every year, the MSA, in association with Sport Manitoba, hands out a number of scholarships to people involved in soccer here in Manitoba.

This past week, Brandon University student Adam Rocan received the association’s flagship award, the Archie Nunn Scholarship. The scholarship is given to someone who has been involved in MSA sanctioned programs for three or more years and is currently involved in soccer.

The scholarship is named after Archie Nunn, who was a dedicated volunteer within a number of soccer associations for years. Nunn’s dream was to bring the sport to as many kids as he possibly could.

Rocan has long been one of the top young players in Manitoba and also won the WYSA scholarship for this year. The MSA blog has been in contact with Adam about an interview so watch for a profile on him coming soon…

While the Archie Nunn Scholarship is the MSA’s flagship award, members of the soccer community are always considered, and often win, Sport Manitoba endorsed scholarships here are a few of those scholarships available through the MSA:

Manitoba Foundation for Sports ScholarshipAwarded to young athletes who have participated at a provincial level in amateur sport, shown high academic standing and are involved in volunteering/coaching in amateur sport. Students must be entering post-secondary education and can win between $500-1000.

Male and Female Youth Athlete of the YearEvery year, the MSA nominates one girl and one guy for this award. This nominee will get to attend the Sport Manitoba Sports Awards night and receive a cheque for $500 dollars for their achievements.

Coach of the YearSoccer coaches are commonly nominated for this award, which is split into three categories. The Vince Leah Award is given to a coach working with grassroots athletes at any level. The Jack Hunt award is given to a coach working with athletes preparing to play at higher levels. An example of this would be coaches involved with the Provincial Programs. Finally, the Peter Williamson award is given to coaches working with national caliber athletes.

Dave Eggertson Award for Community ServiceThis award is given to someone who takes the time out of their lives to help out in their community. This could be coaching or volunteering while maintaining a high academic level and participating actively in sport. The MSA nominate one athlete for this award and the winner will receive $500 for the North West Company.

Portrait of a President

Being president of the Manitoba Soccer Association is arguably the biggest role you can have within the sport, here in our province. Despite knowing that, new president Christine O’Connor wasn’t even going to run.

“I had done every other position on the board before and I wanted to take time out to spend time with my youngest son,” she said.

It wasn’t until various members of the community asked her, that O’Connor finally decided to throw her hat into the ring.

She was clearly the perfect candidate for the job as her resume in the sport is basically unrivaled, within Manitoba.

O’Connor was a founding member of the Winnipeg Women’s Soccer League and was the manager of the inaugural Manitoba All-Star women’s team. She also acted as an administrator for the national women’s team, director of women’s soccer for the MSA, ran the provincial programs and was even the event manager for women’s soccer at the highly successful Pan Am Games.

The past few years, O’Connor has been busy running Sweat Shack, a soccer store that she has owned for thirty years. She said she was moved to return to the MSA fold because of one particular issue.

“The one thing that really ticked me off was the kids and that some players who wanted to play on provincial teams couldn’t play because their parents couldn’t afford it.”

“Sometimes the decisions came down to whether or not the parents could write a cheque,” she said, angrily.

O’Connor said she believed playing for Manitoba should be an honour open to everyone and that she was actively helping set up a fund to pay the fees for players who could not afford it.

With that as her central campaign issue, O’Connor was chosen as President at the MSA’s Annual General Meeting on Nov. 6. While she said she was bogged down in paper work right now, she will be flying out to Vancouver next week to participate in the bid process for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. She said her ultimate goal was to have Manitoba chosen as one of the host provinces.

It’s been a big couple of months for O’Connor, who was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame not long before taking this position. She struggled for words in trying to describe her honour.

“I found it very humbling, I’ve never had a feeling like that. It’s just indescribable really,” she managed.

Despite all the accolades, O’Connor is keeping her feet on the ground and is committed to helping move soccer forward.

When asked what would make her two-year term as president success, she did not mince words.

“If you go in and you don’t make any changes and you don’t make things better, then you don’t deserve to have been elected in the first place.”

For more on O’Connor and her accomplishments, check out her “Christine O’Connor for MSA President” profile on Facebook or head over to the MSA website.

A New Face at the Helm

The Manitoba Soccer Association has an exciting new president.

The MSA held their Annual General Meeting this weekend and one of the main features of the meeting is to elect a president for the organization. The president is the highest ranking official in the MSA family and we could not have hoped for a better person to lead us into the future than Christine O'Connor.

O'Connor has been a leader of the soccer community in Manitoba for a long time and, as I tweeted, was recently announced as a 2010 inductee into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

Christine has been busy this week but I have arranged to meet up with her to conduct an interview with her covering everything from her soccer filled past to her ideas for the future of the MSA. Look for that post in the coming days.

To wet your appetite, here is Christine's bio as shown on the program for the 2010 Manitoba Sports HOF induction ceremony.

Born in Manchester, England, Christine O’Connor began her soccer building career in the early 1980’s with the founding of the Sweat Shack Women’s Soccer Team. Since that time she has served numerous roles provincially including MSA Director for Women’s Soccer, Provincial Teams Director, Director of Senior Soccer, and Vice- President.

Nationally she has been named Administrator for the Canadian Women’s
Team from 1986-89, organizing the team for numerous international matches and a member of the CSA’s Competitions Committee and chaired the national Club championship in 1996.

On the international scene O’Connor was heavily involved in the
1999 Pan Am games in Winnipeg. O’Connor currently resides in Winnipeg.

It's clear that the future of the MSA is in more than capable hands.

Regional Training Centre - A chance to be the best

Earlier this year, soccer in our province made a huge breakthrough when Winnipeg was awarded a Regional Training Centre as part of Canada's National Training Centre program.

The premise is simple. The Canadian Soccer Association set up a number of the regional centres across the country where the best players from that region train as a group in order to move their games forward. The best players from these centres go on to national centres in hopes of earning sports on youth national teams.

It is hoped that this program will provide the kind of breakthrough that our national teams need to step up to that elite level.

Here in Winnipeg, the centre is run by Rob Gale (for more information on Rob and his work, check out an earlier post) and has been very successful in unearthing the top young players we have.

The 48 players in the program are from a wide variety of age groups and are judged on a number of things, from their soccer skills, to their teamwork on and off the field, to their intellectual and social skills.

When the program began, Hector Vergara told Free Press soccer writer Jerrad Peters that it was "a very exciting project" and he has recently told me similar things, saying it was a massive step forward for soccer in our province.

As of now, several Manitobans are involved in National team programs, including Alison Clarke who played for Canada's winning team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup recently. The win ensured the team a spot in the World Cup.

Clearly, the program has the potential to move Manitoba to the very forefront of soccer in our country and that can only be a good thing.

The centre has been running out of Glenlawn Collegiate but is moving inside for the winter and will now be held at the WSF complex on the campus of the University of Manitoba.

Stay tuned for a webisode on the centre coming up by December. To learn more about the program now and how you can get involved, check out these links:


Manitoba's Finest

Going to the BMO National Championships is a major honour for any soccer club. Coming back home knowing you finished as the best team from your province is even better.

That’s exactly what happened for FC Northwest’s U16 boys team as they brought back a silver earlier this month. It was Manitoba’s only medal from national competitions this year.

Jorge Carreiro is a coach with the club. He said they are happy with the result, but a bit disappointed they didn’t go one step further.

“We were happy with the silver medal but at the same time, we know we could have won the gold.”

“We didn’t go there just to say we’re happy to compete, we went there to get a gold and that’s the message I gave to the players,” he added.

The club went 15-1 during the league season, giving Carreiro a right to be bullish about his club’s performance. He said the trip to nationals was not a surprise and that they had gone to provincials expecting to win.

They did eventually take the crown, despite some spoiler style tactics from the opposition.

“Every game we played, the other team just sat back and played defensively so that made it hard to get goals but we ended up figuring out ways to beat these teams and it worked out well in the end,” said Carreiro.

Known as the Lions, Northwest went to Ontario for nationals reflecting the confidence of their coach. Carreiro said he told the Free Press that he would be disappointed with any less than a spot in the gold medal game.

The players held up their end of the bargain before falling to powerhouse Ajax, an Ontario club playing close to home, by three goals to one in the final.

Despite the tough loss, Carreiro said he was most proud of the way his team fought right to the end, even hitting the post in the final minutes of play. He said that while being the top club out of Manitoba was a massive honour, he would be happy with his kids either way.

“No matter what, I am always proud of the players. They’re a great group who never quit. They have a lot of passion for the game and they love the game.”

“Of course we’re proud to come home with the silver medal because not a lot of Manitoba teams do that so it is a great feeling,” he added.

A part of the Northwest culture his whole life, even playing for past incarnations of them when he was young, Carreiro will be leaving the club next week. He is moving to Toronto to be with his son Dylan, who is playing with Toronto FC and the national team for his age group.

Carreiro said he was leaving behind a province where the game was making great strides.

“There are some really, really good soccer people who are working with these kids at a young age and they can really do some special things.”

He said that at the end of the day, positive thinking is key.

“The big thing is that coaches have to make their players believe that they can compete against the bigger provinces. If they believe that and work hard, then good things can happen for Manitoba teams in the future.”

For now, Northwest can be happy with their title as Manitoba’s finest but with their rich history of winning, you can be sure that they won’t rest until they come home next year with a medal of a different colour.

Rob Gale - A chat with Manitoba's soccer guru

Rob Gale has pretty much seen it all in his soccer career. He played professionally over in England before moving to Winnipeg, where he is now considered one of the top soccer coaches in Canada.

Four years ago, Rob took the full time position as Technical Director with the MSA. He is in charge of all on field activities and has the express goal of making soccer better in Manitoba.

This week, I chatted with Rob about the state of the sport here, and he had some pretty interesting things to say. These are some of the highlights of my interview with the man in charge of trying to take soccer to the next level in our province.

So Rob, what is your official role in the MSA? Can you describe exactly what you do?

I am responsible for all player and coaching initiatives within Manitoba. That includes running all coaching development clinics at all levels throughout Manitoba. On the player side, I run the clinics and my role is obviously to run the provincial programs and the regional training centre here as well.

Obviously, you’ve had a pretty long career in the game. Describe your journey before ending up here in Winnipeg?

I was a youth professional with Fulham Football Club. I signed there on my fourteenth birthday and after playing with them I went to Wycombe Wanderers Football Club while studying at university. Then injury forced me out for a whole season so I stopped to do my coaching licensing in the States and ended up playing in the States for a while and then eventually came here with Lucania FC.

How important are elite level programs like the provincial program and the regional training centre in terms of developing the game here?

It is vital for development here. Anytime you have a province the size of ours, no one region can provide the same level of development because you can’t have the top players playing against the best competition on a regular basis. So the provincial program brings them all together and that’s when development really occurs when you’re playing against elite competition on a regular basis. It’s all about testing yourself at the top level.

How has soccer changed in this province since you took over? Has it really moved forward?

Fortunately, we’ve been very successful. If you look at the twenty years before these past four years, Manitoba had not won any medals in provincial competition and we had only three players involved with national teams.

If you look at the last four years, we’ve won three medals in national competition, including a gold medal at the Western Canada Games in 2007. We’ve had 15 players on various national teams so we’ve really blossomed in that.

It’s funny, when I used to go around the country Manitoba was laugh of looked down upon. They used to laugh and say ‘when are you going to send us a male player?’ Now the last three squads we’ve had boys on the national teams and the way with youth now is completely different. We’re taking the major provinces right down to the wire game in game out now.

With that said, what can we do to keep things moving ahead and take soccer to the next level?

The key is the infrastructure. We have to work closely with the clubs to give their players a better technical level before they come up to the provincial level and that’s where we’ve really made good strides in the last four years is working with the clubs.

If had more money we would do a lot more. We would certainly try and take more tours and get more competition for our players. The biggest problem here is our top players just do not face the competition level that the other province’s players do, on a regular basis.

Be honest, where do you hope to see Manitoba soccer in the next few years?

If you look at where we’ve been in the last couple years, we’ve hovered around third and fourth place and I would love us to move up.

We have to be realistic. We’re never going to be Ontario and Quebec but I’d like us to be able to compete on any given day and beat those teams.

The ultimate aim for us is not the amount of medals we win, but how many players from Manitoba will go on to make a career out of the game.

We want to continue to build the recognition for the players and coaches that we do have here and take that across the country.

Webisode 2 - Provincial Program

Check out the second of our five webisodes. This one centres around the MSA Provincial Program. Take a look and let us know what you think. Thanks to everyone at the tryouts who took time to help out!

Northstars look on the bright side

Imagine working all year for something only to find that when you get there, you aren’t able to fully experience it.

That was the sad reality this week for the WSA Northstars at the BMO National Championships

WSA is short for World Soccer Academy and the impressive name is not just for show. The club have been one of the premier women’s soccer teams in Manitoba for years are capped off a strong showing this season with a league title and provincial championship to add to the trophy cabinet.

The club is based out of a world-class soccer academy in the city and their status allows them to attract top quality players from all around. Club representative Jim Rurak said this is one of the key reasons for their success, and lead to them going into provincials full of confidence.

“I don’t want to say we were expecting to win, but we certainly went there feeling like we had a good chance. We were one of the two or three teams who really had a shot at winning,” he said.

The Northstars were able to live up to expectations as they got an extra time winner from Aliana Foderaro to beat rival Team United 1-0 in a very tight final.

The win was made all the more impressive by how the team were only able to dress 11 players for the match and, when Cathy Butler went down with an ACL injury, had to play the latter part of the game a girl down.

This was brought about by a problem that affects the club nearly every year as their attraction of top quality players acts as a double-edged sword. The club recruits players from national programs and schools in the states to fill the roster. Players join the club for the summer, but have to return to their American university or Canadian training program teams towards the end of August.

Rurak said this was something that was just part of the fabric of the club.

“We are fortunate to be associated with a number of high quality players so it is a balancing act in having those players but knowing they are eventually going to leave but if we have injuries to it can make it tough,”

“I wont say it’s not frustrating but at the same time, it’s those strong players who make us successful and so we want to keep them involved but we can’t always do that,” he added.

The decimated roster left Rurak needing to call up players as the club prepared for nationals. Strict Canadian Soccer Association rules state that you can only call up players who are younger and from a lower level of play. This left the club forced to call up a 15 and 16-year-old player before going to compete for a national championship.

The Northstars ultimately had a disappointing showing in Charlottetown as they went 0-3 in the round robin. They did bounce back well to win their consolation game and finished in seventh overall.

While Rurak admitted the situation was not ideal, he said the club was pleased with their players showing under the circumstances.

“In the final analysis, we felt that our players gave us absolutely everything they could and we were really proud of their effort.”

Rurak did say that he felt the club could have won the title had they had their full roster, but was quick to compliment the young call-ups on their play.

“The two young ones contributed both on and off the field in a big way for our team. They even scored a couple goals in our last game so they had a fantastic experience.”

In the final analysis, Rurak said some of the blame had to be placed on the system. He said there simply was not enough depth in women’s soccer here to allow their clubs to call up players and still compete.

“When the bottom half of the teams in our league simply don’t compete with the top half, and then we still can’t call of players from those teams, it makes it hard,” he said.

Rurak said the problem existed across the country and agreed that there was no simple fix but that it had to start with coaching.

“We have to get these kids at a young age and work on developing them so that we can stock our women’s teams and give them a chance to really compete at the top level.”

Alliance looking strong

Taking over a struggling, unorganized sports franchise is a massive undertaking, even at the best of times.

Doing it in a market where most people have no understanding of the sport? Some would call it crazy.

That’s exactly what Tony Pesce did though when he took over the fledging Winnipeg Alliance FC.

Alliance is an indoor soccer franchise started up a few years back here in Winnipeg. A mixture of poor management and lack of funding spelled doom for their initial incarnation but the club returned last year to take another kick at it.

After an initial period of uncertainty, Tony Pesce who works in the automotive repair industry by day, purchased the club with the singular goal of getting them on track and establishing the sport here in Manitoba.

He seems to be well on his way.

Admittedly, Alliance did not have the strongest season on the field last year as they finished near the bottom of the standings but that should change this year with more stability and a clear focus.

The club have found a suitable and permanent home in Seven Oaks Soccerplex and have worked hard to foster ties in the community. This summer they formed a partnership with a number of organizations in the city to help inner city kids get out of gangs and into soccer. They staged a two day camp at Canadian Mennonite University and also had a showcase event at the new pitch in Central Park downtown.

That community involvement will be the key if the Alliance is to find a place in the hearts of Winnipeggers and last in this market.

In a clear statement that they understand this basic fact, Alliance is holding open tryouts this weekend at Canlan Ice Sports on Ellice Avenue. All are welcome to come out and play and all players are guaranteed at least two sessions. There is a fee of $15.

Alliance general manager Robbin Watson said she has seen incredible interest from the community with a swell of players calling the club to signal their intentions to tryout. They expect participants from African leagues and various other divisions to attend.

The tryouts are just the first step in Alliance’s new vision to be more active in our community. You can expect them to be a major player in Winnipeg soccer and act as a key partner for the MSA moving forward.

If Tony Pesce has his way, the team can finally be something for Winnipeg soccer fans to be proud of.

For more information on Alliance FC and their plans moving forward, follow the MSA on twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/manitobasoccer

Or visit their official website at: http://www.winnipegalliance.ca/index.php

Photos taken from the Winnipeg Alliance Facebook page.

Lucania FC - A tradition of excellence

When it comes to soccer in Manitoba, Lucania FC are the gold standard. With 12 provincial championships in the last 22 years, they’ve established themselves as the team to beat in this province. According to president and general manager Mike Nardiello, winning for Lucania is just a way of life.

As a club, Lucania take the pitch with a singular goal for every single season and every single match, they aim to win everything they play in. For them, anything less is just not good enough.

“We want to win nationals every year. That’s our biggest goal every year when we first start training,” said Nardiello, who went on to outline how he wants winning to be an important thing in the lives of every single player he recruits.

The assembly line of players obsessed with winning has lead to Lucania being very successful down the years. That streak continued this season as the club lost just one game all season in league play.

From there, Lucania went to provincials as one of the big favourites. Their solid play through the tournament lead to them reaching the final against archrivals Sons of Italy. The game was one fit to grace any tournament in the world and an instant classic in Manitoba soccer.

Lucania raced out to a dominating 3 nil lead, before allowing Sons of Italy to mount an incredible comeback. They scored three consecutive goals, all from set plays, to tie the game up and send it into extra time. With the crowd in a frenzy, Lucania were able to steady themselves and got a dramatic winner from striker Kenny Sacramento to take the provincial crown yet again.

Nardiello said he was proud of his team, even if it was hard to watch at times.

“We lost three starting players to injuries in that game. Particularly two players that we couldn’t afford to lose in the middle of the park and we kind of stopped playing our game. We didn’t keep the ball and they played desperate. It was great that we could pull it out though,” he said.

Though the win was a sweet cap to a great season, the provincials are not enough for Nardiello or his players. They’ve already started training for nationals, which start in early October.

Although they’ve been given a tough group against top teams from BC, Alberta and Ontario, Nardiello said the goal that has shaped Lucania forever remains in tact.

“The ultimate goal is to win. We feel we’re good enough to beat any team that comes on the pitch against us,” he said.

“When you go to nationals, you need a break here and there though, we hope some go our way,” he added.

While he is happy with his own team, Nardiello said there was room for improvement in terms of soccer in Manitoba. He said the Manitoba Major Soccer League was too watered down, as there are well over 100 teams but only 3 or 4 who legitimately contend for titles.

He said that if the sport wanted to grow here, it had to start with coaching.

“It always starts with coaching, we need better development of coaches at the youth level.”

Nardiello ended with praise for the MSA, but a cautionary word that the work was far from over.

“The MSA have done some great work over the last five or six years. We need more though, it needs to keep growing.”

For more information on Lucania FC, check out this article on the Canadian Soccer Association website:


You can also visit the club website at:


The first webisode is here

Hey guys,

Here's the first of our MSA blog webisodes. As I mentioned earlier in the week, this one focuses on the Provincial Finals. The best of the best in Manitoba, head to head.

Please keep in mind that I am new at this and this is a first attempt. It's not perfect, but I hope you enjoy it! Comments are totally welcome and don't forget to check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

Welcome Aboard

The outdoor soccer season may be coming to a close, but things are just getting started here on the MSA Blog.

Now that the blog is officially linked to the MSA website traffic on the blog is picking up and many of you are new followers. I just wanted to take this chance to fill you in on what’s coming up here on the MSA Blog and what we can look forward to as a soccer community moving forward.

Within the next day or so, our first video webisode will be posted. The webisode will focus on the Provincial Championships, particularly the finals which were held on August 28th at the Soccer Complex. The event was a massive success and I hope the webisode can do justice to what a great day it was, despite the rain. It’s got some great interview footage with Hector Vergara and Braden Hidalgo Massi from the U18 champions Phoenix.

The webisodes will be coming thick and fast through the fall. Keep an eye out for a look at the Provincial Program tryouts, a sneak peek into the National Training Centre program right here in Winnipeg and also get to know how the MSA works and the opportunities they can provide you.

I’ve also lined up some great stories for you guys to check out. We’ll soon be posting a look at senior provincial champs Lucania FC as they prepare for Nationals and we’ll be showing the girls some love as we look at WSA North Stars struggles to get their team in shape after losing so many of their key players.

All that plus profiles of key soccer community members, news on MSA events and contests and more are all in store as we kick things up a notch on the MSA Blog!

Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions on what you want to see on the blog, we’re hear to serve the soccer community and provide them with what they want. Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you.

One last thing, don’t forget to join the Manitoba Soccer Association group on Facebook.

You can also follow us on twitter at manitobasoccer.

Now get out there and play some soccer!

Soccer Central in Pictures

The action was intense on the field.

But the party was on off of it!

For more information on Soccer Central and upcoming events you can check out our website or stay tuned to the blog.

Stay tuned for more information on the Provincial Championships, which wrap up at the end of this month.

Soccer Central

The MSA were hard at work this summer with a number of events for young players. With the World Cup going on, there was a perfect tie in opportunity with the Prairie Invitational Tournament.

The MSA put together "Soccer Central" to give players and soccer fans alike a unique and fun opportunity to check our and play in some great local soccer, while also watching the best players in the world do their thing.

I spoke with MSA Special Events Coordinator Carlo Bruneau who had this to say on Soccer Central as an event:

Soccer Central was aimed around creating and promoting the World Cup and the MSA Prairie Invitational Tournament which was a scouting event for the Under 13 to Under 16 boys and girls Provincial Teams. The BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan Provincial Teams joined Manitoba for this fantastic opportunity to be scouted by Dave Benning, Canadian U15 Girls Head Coach, Ray Clark, Canadian U15 Boys Head Coach and Sean Fleming, Canadian U17 Boys Head Coach. Due to this incredible opportunity, four new players have been identified for the National Training Center and are in contention for the Under 15 National Teams.

Along with the Prairie Invitational Tournament, the MSA Special Events and Competitions Committee showed the World Cup Semi Finals, 3rd Place and Finals at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex. There were many great prizes provided by Royal Sports, CBC Winnipeg and Visions that were given away at the end of the World Cup Final.

Thank you South Africa

Well, it was July 11th and the next day I made my way home. We said thank you South Africa for the great show and for hosting us for 44 days or so. Our experiences were great and they will be remembered for years to come.

I want to thank all of those of you who have read the blog and hopefully you found it interesting. Thank you as well for all the support throughout my experience at the World Cup. It is great to be home and see my family and friends.

Life is a bit back to normal, if there is such a thing, but the memories and accomplishments will last forever and as many friends have told me - "Be proud, NO ONE CAN EVER TAKE AWAY WHAT YOU HAVE DONE!" Thank you to all! It has been amazing!!!!

The World Champions celebrating after the medal and trophy presentation were completed.

Our trio enjoying the second last day in South Africa and the closing ceremonies prior to the final game. We had such a great game that we were really having a great time being in the stadium and watching the final live. Not so sure we felt that great after it but Ce La Vie!!!

During the national anthem of Germany played prior to the kick off.

FIFA President Blatter and dignitaries greet all the players and referees prior to the game.

Our trio and the fourth official prior to the playing of the national anthems.

The referees lead out Uruguay and Germany during the walk out prior to the game.

Last player equipment check before walking out for the game.
Concluding our warm up prior to the game.

During our field inspection two hours before kick off.

Home Sweet Home

In the rush to get the story on the blog and post at least one photo, I did not get a chance to post additional photos so you had a better feel for the final days in South Africa. As such, here are more photos.

The net and soccer ball in the middle of the ocean in Port Elizabeth.

The view from our hotel in Port Elizabeth.

Our team prior to traveling to Port Elizabeth.

11th FIFA Tournament - The End

What a game!!!! Lots of goals, lots of action, great atmosphere, rain, tears of joy, fun, pride, excitement and a great performance by our team. We committed ourselves to finishing off this World Cup on a high note and as we, Armando and I, have always done we came through in our commitment to ourselves, our families and FIFA.
Armando and I started our FIFA careers together in 1993 in Japan with the U17 FIFA World Championship and after 18 years on the FIFA list and my 11th FIFA Tournament it is only fitting that we complete our FIFA Tournament career together at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We have travelled a long journey to get to this point and although there was a moment of sadness to see it come to an end we have both accomplished things in refereeing that many in the world can only dream off and this is great satisfaction and joy to both of us. He has tied the record for most games officiated in World Cups with 8, the only referee from Mexico to have such a stellar career. I have done 14 World Cup games, the only referee/asssistant referee, to have done this in the world. In 2006, Armando and I were part of the first trio to ever do five World Cup games in a FIFA World Cup. So after all we have accomplished together and individually it was awesome to finish it together.
Our trio has truly enjoyed this game and as we promised ourselves we have done better in every game that we have had in this world cup. We have given it our all, have left it all on the field of play and we have made our ourselves, our families and friends proud. We leave happy and looking forward to seeing our families to enjoy what has been a great journey. We don't know what the future brings but what we know is that we have had beautiful experiences as FIFA World Cup officials.

One Sleep to Go

Well it is the night before my final WC match and we have arrived in Port Elizabeth. It is a very quiet town from what we have seen and we just returned from a late dinner. We will be getting a good night's rest and make final preparations for the game in the morning. Our host have treated us really well, as has been the case in every city that we have been to for our matches.

The congratulatory e-mails keep flying in so thank you, thank you, thank you! We appreciate your support and encouragement. Tomorrow history will be made and we will do our best to finish this World Cup on a high note.

I hope you really enjoy the match. When you see the walk out please know that I am thinking of all of you who have been so supportive - my family, friends and colleagues in different walks of life - you know who you are and I appreciate that support from the bottom of my heart.

It will be a very emotional moment that, as you can imagine, we will have to cover. But please know, the emotions are also much happiness, pride and joy - those closest to me will feel it too, have fun with it because I sure will, no matter what we will have fun!!! Thanks again.

Our Final Appointment

Today, July 8th, we were informed that our final match for the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be the 3rd/4th Place Final between Uruguay and Germany on Saturday, July 10th. I know that most of you already knew this information based on the large number of e-mails I received with congratulations but also indicating that we should have been appointed to the finals. Since it is difficult to respond to all your e-mails, I wanted to first thank you for your wonderful e-mails of congratulations and secondly to let you know that we appreciate your comments about the final. I know that some of you may find it difficult to comprehend and you are frustrated by the decision. However, please understand that we are fully aware of the complexities that go into the decisions and that it is totally out of our hands. Our trio is very aware of how well we have done and that the rest is not up to us. We were prepared for any decision that may be taken and that is the only way to prepare for the announcement of the officials to do the last two matches. We are now prepared for the game on Saturday and we will do our best to finish the journey in style. As you well know, Armando and I have accomplished things in our 18 year FIFA careers that only a few in the world have ever done and as such we are more than satisfied and happy. You should know we are pleased and proud of what we have accomplished. Our trio thanks our supporters and the people that have stood behind us for so long. Thank you!! Enjoy the game on Saturday, as we sure will make every effort to have a lot of fun!

Last Training Session

The group of referees, 10 trios, left in the tournament take one last photo at the completion of the last session with the players.

Assistant Referees going through some physical drills prior to evaluating incidents near the penalty area.

Offside drills are always part of the sessions and it is very helpful for preparing us for the games.

On Wednesday, July 7th we had our last training session with the players. The athletes that have been with us for the last month or so have been very instrumental in helping the referees in their training sessions. We have had lots of fun and made some good friends. They have worked extremely hard and all referees have appreciated the effort they have put in to be part of the program.
There will be some additional physical sessions in the next few days as referees must continue to stay sharp for the remaining games. We are almost at the end of this wonderful journey and soon we will have to depart. The referee family will always have this strong bond as a result of the last few years of sharing in the awesome experience that this hobby is for many of us. For the referees the FIFA 2010 WC will always be associated with great experiences, which we all know have had some down moments but many more exciting and successfull ones.
Now there is only a couple of games left and as I write this we don't yet know who will officiate them. No matter who gets the privilidge of finishing off the tournament we all wish the referees the best as we want to finish on a high note.

Semi Finals

Today, Monday July 5th, the second set of referees were released and the semi finals were appointed. There are now only 10 trios left for the remainder of the World Cup and many of our family members had to depart today with some leaving tomorrow. As mentioned in an earlier post this is not an easy moment for any of us, but it is our reality. There is a natural sadness for a bit that eventually has to be replaced by the ones that are staying with excitement about the possibilities of being part of the final four matches.

Our trio was not appointed to the semi finals that will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday. Of course that leaves three options for us, including not being appointed to any remaining games. Even though we all have dreams of doing well and going as far as possible in the World Cup, we have been very well prepared for anything that may or may not happen. We understand the complexities of being involved in World Cups as two in our trio have experienced this stage of the World Cup in 2006. We are going to continue to enjoy the experience of the World Cup and take home many fond memories.

We anticipate that the final two games will be appointed shortly after the last semi final on Wednesday. It could be as early as Thursday or may be even Friday. In the meantime, we will continue to get ready for anything and enjoy the journey. For two of us in our trio, this may well be the very last week of a FIFA Tournament and we will continue to enjoy it. How ironic, there are 11 players on the field of play and this is my 11th FIFA World Championship/Cup. Despite all the obstacles we have overcomed much in this wonderful journey. We have not finished playing the 90 or 120 minute game and we will maintain our focus to try and finish strong no matter what the finish may be.

Wonderful experiences

During our visit to the town on Sunday, we attended church in a town hall as they don't have a church, but are fundraising to build a church and classroom space. There were lots of children present and there was a lot of singing and dancing. The service lasted 3 hours and it was explained that it was very normal for church service to last as much and in some cases 4 hours. The referees and FIFA were able to donate clothing, sports equipment and other items for the members of the church.

We also visited a typical town in the Pretoria area. Here is view of some of the homes.

At the top of the mountain there was this huge fire pit where people would gather.

Here are some of the people that live in the Country Lodge in typical clothing.

We had the opportunity to visit a Country Lodge in a very large estate that had animals and also traditional South African dancers. We were able to learn a little bit about the way things were in previous generations in this great country.

Quarter Finals

The appointments of the quarter finals were handed out last night and our trio (or at least two of us) was appointed as Fourth Official and Reserved Assistant to the Parguay vs Spain match on Sunday a Ellis Park in Johannesburg. The referees for the match will be Carlos Batres' trio from CONCACAF. It will be our first time in this World Cup at Ellis Park although we are familiar with it as we were there last year for the Confederation Cup.

Of course, we must continue to "wait and see" what is in store for us in the next few days. We anticipate that additional referees will be released on July 5th. There are four matches to be assigned with two semis and the third place final and the final. We are ready to accept what ever is in store. We understand that we don't control the future and we know this is part of our game particularly in competitions of this magnitud.

On another note, last night we had a dinner with all the referees and instructors and it was a great time. There was a lot of joy and fun moments. There is so much stress associated with a competition of this magnitud that having some fun at times is quite essential to the well being of the entire group.

It is inronic that great moments are always followed by difficult ones. Today, a few of our family members left for home. Unless you have been a referee at the highest level and have spent over a month and many years of training with the whole group, you probably don't understand how difficult it is to say good-by. In some cases you may never see these family members again and in other cases for a very long time. It actually hurts to have them leave, even if we understand that this is part of the process. We wish all of them a safe journey home and the best of the world for them and their families.

Well, better get to the next meetings and to lift the spirits, as there is work yet to be done!

A sad day!!!!

I took this picture because I found it to be so interesting. You can see the children that have the opportunity to walk out with the players. If you look carefully you can see how small some of them are and although it may not be evident in the picture, they are so happy to be part of the big event. It is so awesome to see the joy that the World Cup brings to the children of the world. I say the world because I know that in my home town of Winnipeg there are children in many areas of the city that, althought they are not at the games like the children in the picture, are really enjoying the World Cup experience.

Here is further evidence that no matter what happens in life the friends you make in the referee world stay with you for ever. In the middle is Mr. Aquino, who was the Paraguayan referee that was at the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan and with whom I did a second round match. He was present at the game as he is now in the Paraguayan Referees Committee. Along with us is Oscar who was also at the 2002 WC. Even though we have not been in touch very often the friendship we established in 2002 was quite evident and it was great to see him again.

Our trio at the Paraguay vs Japan match.

Well, in every large FIFA competition there always comes a day when some referees are released from the tournament and others are kept a bit longer. That day arrived on Tuesday, June 29th for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It is really a bitter sweet moment for many referees and there is a lot of us that feel a bit sad, whether you are staying or leaving the feeling is the same. You must realize that for 30 days, actually even much longer than that, most of us have been a huge family. We have been together in a number of competitions for the last four years, some for 8 years, in which we have had great experiences and at times some difficult moments. We have trained together, supported each other, cheered each other on, had enjoyable times on the field of play, applauded each other's successes and learned much about many cultures of the world. Refereeing has brought us together and given all of us much joy.
Now, we must say good by to many good friends and teammates. Who knows when our paths will cross again, but we know that no matter what we have made friends for life. We now that life will carry on and that there are many family members that will be happy to see their loved ones home again. That does not take away the sad moments so easy. We also realize that even though we may be apart we will continue to support each other and pull for "team #33". Those that get to stay will continue to work hard to represent all referees that are part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup to the best of their ability.
The sad moments will quickly be replaced by the encouragement provided by each referee no matter whether they are leaving or staying. The referee family will always be "a family" that works tirelessly to be the best it can be!

Above, is a photo of the CONCACAF referees that were able to attend the Paraguay vs Japan match in Pretoria. An opportunity for us to be together as a family and to move on from the news of the departure of some of our family members.

We had the chance to see the sun rise while the surfers were out doing their thing in the ocean. It was a great start to the recovery day and our trip back to home base.

Here you can see the surfers early on Saturday morning having fun with the waves as the sun begins to rise. It was kind of crazy for us to go so early in the morning to the ocean when we had a late evening but it was well worth the effort.

A view of Durban from the beach near the hotel. The surfers are actually running to get in the water at 6:30 a.m.!!!

After the game was over we did our regular cool down and had the opportunity for a photo before leaving the stadium.