Proposed changes...some thoughts.


It’s a six-letter word that seems to strike fear into the very hearts of this city’s soccer community. Always a passionate, tight knit but fairly conservative bunch, Winnipeg’s fairly small group of passionate soccer supporters have always seemed content with the status quo.

That status quo is being threatened big time by a proposed new ruling from the Manitoba Soccer Association that would eliminate any official competition from the sport of soccer for kids under 12 by the year 2014. Instead of keeping score in league play and awarding trophies and championships, greater emphasis would be placed on actually learning the game. More time would be spent in training sessions, learning skills and getting active. Less time would be spent playing games.

Naturally, much of the soccer community is up in arms over the idea. Claiming that it will set back the development of our top prospects and no longer really be a sport.

That idea is foolish and narrow minded.

For starters, it isn’t as if competition is being removed from the sport entirely, just for young kids under the age of 12. At that age, the competition is often more between wild parents harassing each other, referees and coaches on the sidelines than the kids anyway.

One a child is a teenager and even old enough to stay home alone, they can keep score and win trophies as much as they want.

While age is a factor, the biggest thing we have to face up to as soccer fans is that the current system for soccer in this province just is not working.

Soccer fanatics who know some good players and have friends who they think could play for provincial programs etc might disagree but at its very foundation, our province is producing very, very few top level soccer players. Our men’s national team is ranked below tiny countries most of us have never even heard of.

So let’s try something new. Let’s actually have our players spend time working on getting better, working on becoming skilled and fit and then put them in competitive games. It’s just logical that they will touch the ball and improve more by being out practicing for hours than touching the ball 10 times in a one hour long game.

As MSA Chief Executive Hector Vergara said this week, this is the system used for soccer in much of the rest of the world. Spain uses a similar system and just won the World Cup. In South America you don’t see kids playing in organized leagues, but spending endless hours out with friends on the streets learning their craft.

The bottom line is this, whether you agree with it or not. This plan should be given a chance before it’s condemned as an outright failure.

Sure, we could resist change, stick with the nice little bubble world that we have as a soccer community, but what’s the point? Why not aim for more?

With any luck we might see players from Manitoba on the sports biggest stage one day, instead of just winning a community club tournament.

Stay tuned. I will be speaking with Hector and other MSA executives this week to continue taking a closer look at this story and what it means for soccer in our province.


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