The FIFA Women’s World Cup attracted a huge audience around the world and, despite Canada’s loss, it has helped cultivate a growing interest in the sport that is gaining tremendous popularity in this city. Players and spectators enjoy watching the professionals playing for Cavalry FC at ATCO Field at Spruce Meadows, as well as aspiring players at all levels across the city.
Calgary Minor Soccer Association (CMSA) is the governing body of youth soccer in Calgary, and its huge responsibilities require a dedicated and learned staff. It recently moved into 5,000 square feet of offices in Builders Park S.E., thanks to negotiations by Sean Clark of Avison Young, making it more efficient, being housed in its own location.
Leading the group for the past year is CMSA executive director Carlo Bruneau, who moved with his family from Winnipeg where he was executive director of the Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association. He also served as the event observer for the Canadian Premier League, ensuring all broadcast, team and facilities met with the league’s standards, and four years before that was event and competition manager for the Manitoba Soccer Association and assisted in the bid for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
His experience and passion for the sport made him an ideal choice for the Calgary position.
Today, CMSA represents 33 member clubs, making it the largest sport organization in Calgary, providing year-round activity for youths aged six to 19.
Exercising while having fun for more than 25,000 players in 1,600 teams — plus more than 3,000 volunteers — takes a lot of organizing. Bruneau and his full-time staff of 12 — plus summer students — schedule league games, host post-season play and tournaments, and provide coaching and referee mentorship and support.
Five-thousand games are being played outdoors this summer. They all need a soccer pitch, nets, balls, flags and painted lines all in good condition, plus experienced referees and linesmen to deliver the quality that the Canadian governing body insists on in a safe environment.
An average of 200 games each day takes a lot of co-ordination, but then weather problems — and possibly wildfire smoke — causes cancellations and scheduling starts all over again.
The opportunity for kids to exercise is a big benefit, and soccer is an affordable game for most families. All it takes are a shirt, shorts, socks, shoes and shin pads, and they are set to play.
Participants do pay a club registration fee, which is divided to support Canadian, Alberta and Calgary organizations as well as the host team. One of Bruneau’s responsibilities is to fundraise, and he is most appreciative of support from companies such as Servus Credit Union, Shane Homes, Tim Hortons and South Centre Volkswagen, which recently partnered with CMSA in providing it with a Volkswagen Atlas Community Cruiser.
Soccer is a hugely popular sport, but more indoor facilities are needed so that more youth can enjoy a year-round experience. Bruneau points out that although twice the number of kids play soccer than hockey, there are 20 rinks in the city but only two available facilities for association members — Calgary Soccer Centre in the southeast and Calgary West Soccer Centre in the northwest.
Obviously, more are needed. Infrastructure is essential to accommodate the growth of the sport.
Thanks to the popularity of World Cups, the Calgary Cavalry FC and the televising of MLS (Major League Soccer) games from across North America, young people can enjoy an active lifestyle while dreaming of playing for a professional team.
Alphonso Davies is a star of Bundesliga team Bayern Munich and the Canadian National Team, but he began his soccer career playing as a boy in Edmonton, and by the time he was 14 was on the roster of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
CMSA helps all kids to dream.
Clark Grue has handed over the reins of president of Rainmaker Global Market Access to Adam Joyce, formerly with ATB Financial and vice-president of the Calgary Telus Convention Centre. Grue remains as CEO but takes on additional responsibilities as president and chief commercial officer of ClearSky Global.
David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]