On August 20, soccer players of all skill levels gathered at Allan Lamport Stadium to compete in Athletes for Africa’s third annual Rock the Pitch Charity Soccer Tournament. The top eight fundraising teams had the opportunity to go head-to-head against teams made up of celebrities ranging from media personalities to musicians.
Funds from this year’s events in Montreal and Toronto will help “support a number of programs focusing on child and maternal health, HIV/AIDS, and clean water” through the African Medical and Research Foundation Canada, The Stephen Lewis Foundation, and WaterCan. Rock the Pitch Toronto raised a total of $31,329.
The top celebrity fundraiser was none other than former Canadian Women’s National Team forward/midfielder Kara Lang. While in between games (and scoring goals), she was kind enough to chat with All White Kit about participating in charity events, music, her foray into sports broadcasting and, well, life.
All White Kit: How are your games going so far?
Kara Lang: Good! It’s a lot of fun and we’ve won every game so far. We’ve let in a few goals, but we’ve got a really great team. I don’t really have to do anything; it’s nice.
It looked like Daniel Squizzato’s game plan yesterday was to pass it to you, let you do your thing, then victory.
Yeah, I think that’s what he said, that he was just going to stay out of the way. But he’s actually done a really great job. He’s a way better goalkeeper than he let any of us know and he’s saved us a few times.
We’ll just pretend he’s wearing #15 for you.
I didn’t even notice he had #15 on. I’m going to have to rib him for that one!
Did you and your A4A Soccer Scribe teammates all know each other before this?
I knew people like Ben Rycroft and Ian Clarke. I know some of the people on the other teams. On my team, I’m meeting a lot of them for the first time.
I know there are some indie rockers and other artists competing today. Did you meet any of them or maybe you already know them.
Yup, there’s a guy from Grand Analog here today, a local band. And a guy from Bedouin Soundclash was supposed to be here, but I’m not sure if he made it.
You’re definitely a huge indie music fan.
Yeah, I love music in general, but indie music especially. I’m a big music fan; it’s a big part of my life. It’s exciting to be here and meet some of these people.
Name some good bands.
Good bands? Right now I love a band called Grouplove. They’re kind of mellow, but awesome. Band of Skulls is one of my favourite bands. This guy, Hanni El Khatib, he’s got a two person band and it’s total ’60s rock and it’s awesome. I love that guy right now. Who else? Lissie.
Oh, my gosh, I love her!
Isn’t she awesome?
I just saw her in concert. She always takes a shot of tequila right before she does a cover of “Pursuit of Happiness”. Drunk rocker chicks are awesome.
Yeah! In another life I think I was in a rock band.
You still could be.
I was just telling someone, now that I’m settled in Toronto it’s my goal to learn to play the drums. I’ve always wanted to do that, but with the schedule while playing soccer I was never able to pick up another hobby on top of all the other things I was doing. Now I think I’ve got a little bit of time. Maybe I can start my rock career.
You should have a show at Phoenix Concert Theatre or something. I’m sure all your fans would show up.
Yeah? [Laughs] I don’t think very many people would show up.
You never know! So how did you get the call up to Rock the Pitch?
Through Twitter! It’s actually amazing, some of the things you can accomplish through Twitter now. Honestly, social media is just blowing my mind. I got the invitation for this [through Twitter] and a lot of other really cool opportunities to get involved in things that I wouldn’t otherwise hear about. As soon as they contacted me, I did a little bit of research on the organization and I absolutely couldn’t say no. It’s such a cool event and such a great opportunity to have an impact.
Another thing is that you don’t get to do these events very often. You have to turn down a lot of these opportunities when you’re on the road and when you’re playing soccer fulltime. It’s hard. I know so many of my former teammates would love to be able to do this kind of thing, but they just can’t because their schedules are just so intense. Now that I’m not playing, I would like to take every opportunity I can to do stuff like this.
You’re definitely making a difference. You killed your fundraising goal. It started off as $300 and you ended up with $1,380. You were #1 in celebrity fundraising.
To be honest, it got to a point where I had tapped out all of my resources. It’s funny, as much as Twitter was great for letting people know about the event, but at the end of the day, it was still all of my friends that were sponsoring me. I was like, “I can’t ask my friends and family for any more money after this.”
It was sort of “Operation Beat Michael Grange”. I think he finished in 3rd place in celebrity fundraising.
Exactly. I think that was definitely a little bit of it. We had a competition going on and I just couldn’t lose to him. He was stoking that competitive fire in me.
How did that start? Who started the beef?
I think it’s because we were both at the top of the leader board, so he knew that I was probably his #1 competitor for raising funds. And because we know each other and he knew that he could tease me about it. I think he knew it wouldn’t take very much to get me rallied up.
You did some analyst work with Rogers SportsNet for the Women’s World Cup. How did that come about?
When I retired and had my press conference, I think one of the biggest questions people had was, “what am I going to do now?” I’d always wanted to get into broadcasting and I hoped that that’s what I’d do when I was done my career. Obviously, I ended a lot earlier than I’d hoped. I expressed [my desire to work in broadcasting] and I was very fortunate to have a few networks get in touch with me and give me some opportunities. SportsNet for sure was a great one. I get to pursue a second dream right now and it’s very exciting. It’s very scary at the same time, but it’s fun.
It must have been difficult to watch particular games, like after the France [vs. Canada] match where you had to analyze it objectively following such a loss.
Absolutely, it was very hard. I knew that I wouldn’t have a problem when the team was doing really well. I knew that it wouldn’t be hard for me to be objective because I figured I don’t need to talk them up. They would do it themselves and it would show in their performance.
I would be able to be objective, but it was hard having to criticize them. The fact of the matter was that they underperformed, so for me not to recognize that and acknowledge that then I wouldn’t be doing my job. That was definitely a bit of a struggle for me, but I also know that there wasn’t anything that I said or anything that I could have said that they didn’t already know themselves. Playing with those girls, I know that they hold themselves to a very high standard and they knew that they didn’t perform. Nothing that I said was going to be news to them.
Clare Rustad is also in Toronto. She was an analyst over at CBC for the Women’s World Cup. Have you guys been able to catch up or anything?
Yeah, we went for coffee a few weeks ago. She was helping me out with my apartment search. She’s been living here for a few years now and I really don’t know the city too well. It’s nice to have a former teammate in the city.
So you came from Oakville, then adopted Vancouver and LA as your other homes for a time and you’re in Toronto now.
Yeah, for now, for sure. There was a part of me for a while that thought LA would be my home base for a long time; if I’d continued playing that would probably be the case. Once I retired and once it was time to get a real job and be a grown up, I realized that I needed to come back to Toronto. Like I said, there are a lot of great opportunities here and I’m very happy to make this my new home.
Do you have any upcoming plans or projects?… in case your fans want to see you and bring cupcakes. [Editor’s note: an AsianGnome brought Kara a box of vegan cupcakes today!]
[Laughs] Well, a few speaking engagements in the next month. I’m hoping to be back doing some broadcasting work by mid-September, so if everything works out I should be pretty busy with that. As always, I’m teaching yoga. My family owns a studio in Milton, so a few days a week I’m out there. I’m also hoping to take a group out for a surf and yoga retreat this Christmas and maybe over spring break to Costa Rica. So there’s a lot of stuff on the go.
Do you maybe know if you’re covering CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers in Vancouver in January?
That’s the goal. Nothing is finalized, but that’s for sure in the plans.
I’m not quite sure if this is “one of those” questions, but is there anything on [Carolina] Morace that you can talk about?
I’m happy to talk about it. I think it’s a sad situation for sure. While it was unfortunate the way things ended, I respect her so much as a coach and as a person and so does the team. There isn’t anything that anybody can do but to look forward at this point. You can’t really dwell on the past at all, just like the team can’t dwell on the result of the World Cup.
There’s still definitely a bright future for the program. As far as the new philosophy that was brought in [by Morace], the players aren’t going to stand for anything other than a standard of that level, so I don’t think that they’ll take any steps backwards in terms of philosophy and playing style. They’re only going to continue to go forward, so whoever comes in as a coach will sort of carry on that new direction.
For more information on Athletes for Africa, please visit http://www.athletesforafrica.com/ and follow them on Twitter @Athletes4Africa. Be sure to check out their upcoming Rock the Court event on September 10.
A special thanks to Kara and Eva Salinas.