INNISFAIL/OLDS – The national celebration over the Canadian women team’s stunning gold-medal victory at the Tokyo summer Olympics has joyfully spilled into hope for local soccer’s future.
Minor soccer officials in both Innisfail and Olds say the thrill from Canada’s unprecedented win over Sweden on Aug. 6 will give a needed huge boost for the young, especially for girls.
“Any Olympic win for Canada is amazing and like for any sport, especially a women’s sport, it just gives our young people some real role models to look up to,” said Courtney Ukrainetz, president of the Innisfail Minor Soccer Association, whose association is co-ed up to U12.
She said this past season, which ended at the end of June, was the first time in more than five years the association had enough kids to have a U12 team and only a “few” girls signed up.
“Hopefully this will pique some interest for more girls to participate in our leagues,” she said, noting registration was down overall for the COVID-impacted 2021 season, with less than 100 kids registered compared to the typical 200.
“In our younger divisions they are typically pretty evenly split. As we get older, I do believe we have more boys.”
Kristy Hartt, vice-president of the Olds Minor Soccer Association, called the gold medal game between Canada and Sweden “amazing”, adding it was an event to prove to the young that dreams can come true.
“With any sport, I think the dream of winning gold on the world stage just solidifies the reality of dreams coming true. It inspires athletes to believe that no goal is too large and that it can be accomplished with hard work and dedication,” said Hartt, whose association's 2021 season was shortened to four weeks. “It is my hope that it ignites drive and passion among players in Olds to continue playing soccer, not just for the glory but also for the love of the game.
“The players on the women's team started in their own hometowns just like our players, so it creates a likeness for all players that they too can dare to dream big as one day it might be them celebrating a gold medal.”
With files from Doug Collie