By Andrew Ross
In a bid to stay competitive, the University of Calgary soccer teams are sending their scouts South–way South.
The scouts will be looking at up-and-coming middle-school stars in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina. U of C’s women’s soccer Head Coach Robin Slot explains, "We have good teams right now, but what about five or 10 years down the road?"
"The talent pool in Canada is unreliable," continues Slot. "Everybody up here wants to play hockey, and now that we’ve got pro-lacrosse, they’re gonna want to play that too. But in Latin America, football is king."
Men’s Head Coach Andy Gibbs concurs.
"It’s like in baseball," he says. "The Yankees have a great team, but they’re always trying to recruit the top Cuban prospects. But in our case, we can’t compete with schools like Universidad de Ecuador. So instead of getting them in high school, we’re trying to lure them here before they get to secondary."
The recruiting program is in collaboration with the department of Latin American studies and several local high schools. Recruits will attend high school in Calgary while playing for the high school teams. When they graduate, they will be given full scholarships to the U of C. The department of Latin American studies will be expanding its offerings, and new programs such as Guatemalan Studies will be added. Other faculties will also begin offering courses taught in Spanish and Portuguese.
"It’s a win-win situation," enthuses U of C student Ernie Astete. "Maybe the department of Religious Studies will finally be able to offer that Roman Catholic Studies program they’ve been talking about for years. Plus, they could put Taco Bell out of business and we could see more diversity in the food court."
In a press release, the Canada Olympic Council praised the U of C’s initiative, adding, "if some of these athletes choose to stay in Canada, maybe we can finally show up nations like Zambia and Laos in Athens. They’re introducing seven new sports this time, so if both the men’s and women’s soccer teams win medals as well, we could potentially have sixteen medals."
Luiz Fernando de Athayde, Brazilian Consul General in Toronto, could not be reached for comment. However, a junior official, Iaigo Montoya, quipped, "you Canadians make me sick. You won’t eat our beef, but you’ll steal our footballers. And from middle school, no less. Have you no shame?" Before hanging up, Montoya added, "Your trade embargo killed my father, now prepare to die!"
A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "Latin American Studies, dat’s a Liberal Arts degree, eh? Maybe we finally gonna get some seats in da West now! OK for dat!"