I am sure most of you are with me in rejoicing over the Canadian women's soccer team's triumph; it's been a long time coming, and sweet vindication from the disaster that was just a year before. But as the Olympic flame in London slowly fades into our memories, I want you to remember a few things. Hear me well, for these are important messages that I would like you to take away.
To the fans who have joined us, thank you. Your support for the women's team has been unprecedented -- but we are going to need you to stick around for a little longer: we have a little thing called the World Cup in three years' time, and we'd love for you to stay tuned, and come to the games. They're going to be across the country (except for Toronto, who will be busy with some Pan American Games), and we're going to need people to take up those seats across the country. The more people in those seats cheering for Canada, and supporting the game, the better it will be.
To established fans, let's keep this going. Unlike the men's team, this women's team has shown us the way in how we can persevere. We now must DEMAND that the men start playing at the same level as the women; forget those who would waver in their decision to play for the maple leaf -- and for the women, every time they play, we must be ready to support them all the way. Criticize wrongs, but praise the rights. Just make sure that the women don't fade away from the Canadian psyche like the men did after winning the Gold Cup in 2000.
To the media, don't let up. We still need your attention to keep the women's team in the national limelight. Look at what additional coverage of women's hockey has done for that sport -- it's brought stars like Hayley Wickenheiser into the limelight. Christine Sinclair is waiting in the wings; she's already a hero to thousands of kids across the country, and with more media attention, her star power could inspire even more to greatness. The worst thing to do would be to just say, "congratulations on Bronze, now we've got bigger things to cover". That's the old way of thinking for any sport besides hockey; and we need to rip that out of our collective psyche.
To the young kids, don't give up. This win was the result of never giving on your hopes and dreams. The path to glory is always littered with roadblocks of all shapes and sizes; and to give up when the going got tough -- well, that's just not the Canadian way. Not according to the Canadian women's team. So what are you waiting for? You may not have won that competition today, or you might have felt like you were cheated by some referee who seems completely out of his/her range, but keep your chin up, and fight again. There was no quit in that team, and neither should there be in you -- no matter what you do.
To the decision makers, open your wallets and pay up. Most countries have proper, well funded training programs and centres available to their athletes. While we don't need to go to the same level as China, what the Australians have in their Institute of Sport would be excellent. Not only can we tie all sports into one training facility, but would pool resources between all the national federations. Not only that, but we will also need funding to get the women's teams on the best footing as possible, from now on to the end of time. Developing and fostering talent isn't cheap -- but we can't have our cake and eat it too; we can't try to scrimp and save, and then ask for miracles.
But for the near future, Canada needs to invest in the soccer -- both men's and women's. And what better way to start than to invest in the 2015 World Cup. For those cities who are hosting, improve your stadiums. For those who are not (like Calgary), get involved. Improve your facilities, make your cities attractive to the participating countries to have as their bases of operations, or at least host some warm up friendlies. There's no better way to inspire a new generation, than to have the current generation do so.
Get the women as much face time with the kids as possible: host games across the country (and even if it is just Toronto, make sure it gets prime TV coverage), bring in the quality opposition that's needed. And if it needs a bit of cash, then so be it: it will be all worth it in the end. It's certainly working for the United Kingdom (except for their soccer -- but that's a whole different story) and other countries, who are raking in the medals while we're in the middle or the back of the pack. We whine about being left behind -- it's time we put up the cash, or shut up.
To our American friends, congratulations on your gold medal -- but remember this: while we may forgive, we will not forget. It may not happen today, or tomorrow, or for years. But we will avenge Manchester.
These Olympics have been magical for me just on the bronze medal alone; seeing the women on the pitch at Wembley receiving their medals, and the flag rising to the rafters. These are memories that will last a lifetime, and I'm sure you are like me in wanting more. Yesterday is the start of a new era in Canadian soccer -- and it's every Canadian's duty to make sure that we can foster this golden age into even more memories that we can cherish forever.
Let's do our part, support the team, pressure local politicians, make our voices heard: the women's team are awesome, and they NEED to stay that way. Let's make sure they are able to take down and own international opposition for years to come.