It comes as little surprise that Tony Fonseca is being installed as the new technical director for the Canadian Soccer Association after the news leaked out yesterday. He fills a position that has been vacant since Stephen Hart left it to become the head coach of the Men's National team in 2009. Filling the position was one of the main issues in the recent CSA presidential elections and that is now taken care of.
As the technical director Fonseca "will be responsible for the overall management and direction of the technical growth and development of soccer in Canada. As such, he will be in charge of setting a vision for all aspects of the game, including coach education, long term player development(LTAD), elite player development, and all other technical-related or sport specific initiatives." It is certainly a challenging position as the TD needs to have a hand in a lot of different areas of soccer in the country.
CSA General Secretary Peter Montopoli commented that "The Canadian Soccer Association is excited to have an individual with the experience, knowledge and respect in domestic and international soccer take on this crucial portfolio with the organization. We look forward to having him lead the development of our sport based on his long standing commitment to Canadian soccer."
It is his time working in Canadian soccer that sets him up well for this position. Having coached the Vancouver Whitecaps, worked with Hart on the national team, and been the head coach of the U23 men's team, he has a wealth of experience at more than one level. He also boasts a strong record as a professional player in Portugal where he rose to the level of playing at Benfica and taking part in the UEFA Champions League competition. The resume is clearly there for him to do a good job and now the CSA has hopefully given him the keys to try and enact some changes.
Fonseca commented on his hiring in the official release saying, "Having spent my whole life in the sport of soccer as a player, coach and administrator, becoming the Canadian Soccer Association's Technical Director provides me with an incredible opportunity to apply this experience to further grow and develop the sport in this country. My priority will be to maximize the largest participation sport base in Canada by identifying current strengths as well as gaps and collaborating with the expanding network of soccer organizations in this country to create and enhance programs to ensure we are a successful soccer nation." He has set a very lofty goal for himself but if he does get the full backing of the CSA and the Canadian soccer community then he might just stand a chance of living up to the task that has been set out for him.
On Tuesday afternoon Fonseca spoke to the Canadian media highlighting several key areas of his plan for his new. It was clear that his first task was to sit down with Canada's three professional clubs and work on that relationship. He stressed the need to have defined roles for the clubs and to sort out how that relationship will work with the CSA, the provinces, and the grass roots levels when it comes to player development and furthering the game in Canada. It is also important to work with the clubs to define their roles so that their is no duplication in the development structure and resources are being used efficiently. His other priority was to work at the grass roots level and take advantage of all the kids that are playing soccer in this country. Part of that will be to work towards developing a national curriculum for all the provinces to follow.
He also addressed the potential to create a national division 2 league saying that he does think it is feasible but they will need to look at the study which was conducted and find a way to implement that league. He also commented that if such a league does take place they will have to figure out what to do with existing D2 clubs in Edmonton and Ottawa who may prefer to stay in the NASL.
Montopoli was also on the call and he took some time to explain why the position was left vacant since Hart left in 2009. He said that the job was still being done by a number of people within the organizational structure but it was in an informal manner without a technical director in place. The CSA has been working on reforming itself at a number of different levels, including the leadership and financial structures which meant that reforming the technical side of things was left to wait while other pieces were put in place. Montopoli feels that now they have done enough to reform the other areas that it was time to move on to the technical side and that they now have the resources in place to make it work.
It was also confirmed on the call that over 30 candidates applied for the initial job posting but there was no word about who was on the shortlist for the position along with Fonseca. It seems that the CSA were happy to go with someone that they know and who understands the current soccer landscape in Canada quite well.
Fonseca also mentioned that he sees Stephen Hart as a resource with a wealth of knowledge about soccer in Canada and it would be a shame not to take advantage of that, which is no surprise considering that the two have long had a close working relationship. While speaking about Hart, Fonseca stressed that the one result in Honduras should not shape how we look at the state of soccer in the country but instead should be viewed more as a one off.
It all sounded very good in theory as Fonseca seems to be coming in with a clear plan for his new job and with the full backing of the hiring ups in the CSA. The real challenges will not come until he sits down with the clubs and provinces and tries to get the rest of the country on board with the plan.