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.

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