Tag Archives: Kara Lang

Interview with Kara Lang: Being inspired by Street Soccer Canada

 

Canada's 2011 Women's Homeless World Cup Team. This image is courtesy of Paul Gregory and Street Soccer Canada.

I spoke to Kara Lang in April about Street Soccer Canada for a project outside of AllWhiteKit and RedNationOnline. Upon the eve of the 10th Annual Homeless World Cup in Mexico City October 6-14, it’s a perfect time to revisit her insight on the women’s program in Toronto. Here’s a condensed version of the conversation.

Since September 2011, weekly indoor soccer matches in a western Toronto recreation centre have become a solace for women living in the local shelter system. They are some of the most marginalized individuals in the city, battling poverty, mental health concerns, various forms of addictions and abuse, and/or other socioeconomic effects. In spite of their circumstances, they’ve developed a familial bond with fellow players brought together by Street Soccer Canada (SSC), “a grassroots program with sport as social inclusion as its focus. Its aim is to engage and connect with marginalized shelter users and individuals that have been isolated and are on the fringes, using the positive power of sport to enrich and empower.”

Paul Gregory, who founded SSC in 2003, meshed his interest in soccer with his 16 years of experience in the public and non-profit sectors tackling issues of homelessness and poverty. What started with a men’s team that later represented Canada at the 2004 Homeless World Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden now has programs in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, in addition to women’s teams in the latter two cities.

Among the coaches in Toronto is Kara Lang, a nine year veteran of the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team, who is also the SSC technical director. Following a successful national team career that includes representing her country at the 2003 and 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cups and 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kara is currently a soccer analyst at Rogers Media Inc. and passionately volunteers her time with SSC.

Melissa Tan: How are the sessions going?
Kara Lang: It’s a little bit tough because we have to depend on the holiday schedule of the community centre. For the most part, other than Christmas, New Years and Easter, we’ve been every Mondays since September [2011]. We’ll run a session whether it’s one person that shows up or eight or whatever.

MT: Do you usually start off with drills and then head into a recreational game?
KL: Mhmm, it’s always a bit of a warmup. A lot of the women aren’t physically active at all throughout the week, or some of them had never been physically active before, certainly not any part of an organized team. We’re trying to get them into certain habits of being healthy and safe. They get warmed up, then some drills, some first touch. We work on whatever they want to work on.

A lot of the time it’s finishing that they like to do; they like to shoot. We usually put Billy in net, he’s the men’s team coach; they love shooting on Billy. He’s quite the trash talker, too, so it makes for a lot of fun.

Then we divide up the teams depending on numbers and we just play a scrimmage for an hour, hour and a half. We always have to be cautious to take breaks because everyone’s at different fitness levels and some of the women’s health isn’t the best. When one person needs a break, everyone needs a break. We’re trying to instill that idea of team, which is also new for a lot of the women. It’s basically two hours of fun, two hours of freedom.

MT: It’s like there are two parts to the equation: trying to instill healthy habits in their daily lives and also building trust because it’s difficult to break down their personal barriers.
KL: Absolutely, there’s a huge difference between the first few sessions and now where the women are totally comfortable with us and talking about their outside lives and sharing their stories with us. And, accepting advice from us even about soccer.

In terms of healthy habits outside, for some of them it’s not just that one day a week anymore. It was only a few weeks ago when some of them were asking to take some soccer balls home to go to the park and train on their own. They want to get better, especially with those who haven’t played before; it’s that learning curve that they’ve seen and how quickly they’ve started to get the hang of it. Then they just wanted more and wanted to get better. They’re goal setting and recognizing that they’re good at something that can be fun. I think for a lot of them, it’s extremely encouraging.

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The CanWNT Year in Review

For better or for worse, many things happened over the course of 2011 for the Canadian Women’s National Team. Let’s take a look at what transpired:

Kara Lang’s Retirement

A promising career came to an end when Kara Lang announced her retirement from club and international soccer [watch here] on January 5. The then 24 year-old had suffered two ACL tears in her right knee, first in 2006 and again in 2009. Lang weighed her options for managing the pain in her knee in order to continue playing, but the ultimate decision was the best choice for her long-term health as knee replacement surgery, a lifetime of arthritis and continual use of anti-inflammatory drugs were potential aspects of her future.

Arguably one of the most well known figures of the CanWNT, Lang initially gained recognition as a 15 year-old on Canada’s U-19 Women’s World Cup team that finished in second place in 2002 and as the youngest player to suit up for the senior national team. She went on to represent Canada at the 2003 Women’s World Cup where they achieved their best ever result finishing fourth overall, as well as at the 2007 WWC and the WNT’s first Olympic appearance in Beijing 2008. With her apt for scoring goals from distance, the midfielder/striker rounded out her career with 34 goals in 92 caps.

Lang continues to have an active post-soccer career. She’s appeared as an analyst on Rogers Sportsnet for the 2011 WWC and hosts Rogers TV’s Your World This Week. Lang is also a yoga instructor at Shunyata Yoga, while being the Technical Director of Street Soccer Canada and coaching Toronto’s Street Soccer women’s team.

All White Kit caught up with Lang in August as she helped to raise money for Athletes for Africa’s Rock the Pitch Charity Soccer Tournament.

Yongchuan Cup Four Nations Tournament

The 2011 season began in China January 21-25. Late heroics by a tandem of veteran strikers made Canada’s opening match against the host country one of the most exciting of the year. After trailing by 2 goals through the first 45 minutes, Melissa Tancredi cut the score in half in the 56′ before assisting Sinclair’s equalizer in the 80′. The duo combined again in the 94′ for the game winner by Sinclair.

In the following game, the CanWNT’s 11 game unbeaten streak (9 wins, 2 draws) came to an end with a 2-1 loss to the USWNT. Lauren Cheney opened the scoring in the 54′ while Tancredi answered back just two minutes later. Lindsay Tarpley’s goal in the 71′ would prove to be the difference maker [watch here].

The tournament concluded against Sweden where Sinclair proved that she’s gotten leaner and faster within the past couple of years. Latching on to a clearing header by Emily Zurrer, Sinclair outran three Swedish defenders to slot in her third goal of the tournament [watch here]. With Canada and the US tied in wins, the latter was awarded first place for holding the head-to-head advantage, while Sinclair claimed the MVP award.

Carolina Morace vs. the CSA: Round 1

Well, on the bright side, at least this bit of news appeared on the front page of The Globe & Mail’s sports section, right?

On February 4, Carolina Morace announced her intentions to resign as head coach of the CanWNT upon the conclusion of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, citing differences in her vision for the program from that of the Canadian Soccer Association’s. One such disagreement stemmed from Morace’s desire for greater budgetary control.

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Catching up with Kara Lang

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.

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Disputes between the CanWNT & the CSA

On February 4, news broke of Carolina Morace‘s intentions to resign from her duties with the Canadian Women’s National Team upon the conclusion of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, which takes place from June 26 to July 17.

19 days into the whirlwind situation and there has yet to be a resolution. Over the course of this period, a lot has been published on the topic (headlines conveniently assembled by Jenna Pel) and a number of related debates have taken place on various discussion boards, podcasts, comments sections, and the like. Let’s take a look at what’s known thus far and some of the major talking points.

What’s Frustrating Morace?

In the leaked internal memo sent to media, Morace vaguely revealed that, “The Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) has a strategy to achieve their goals that differs from my strategy”. Further reports later divulged that friction between Morace and the CSA were born out of disagreements over budgetary control.

Morace isn’t seeking budget increases; rather, she wants more autonomy in using available funds when and where she deems appropriate. For instance, “when South Africa withdrew from a second friendly, Morace wasn’t able to schedule another game, or use the money elsewhere, as it was redistributed by the CSA.” CanWNT midfielder Carmelina Moscato told Anna Maria Tremonti of CBC Radio’s “The Current”:

“A lot of the details aren’t disclosed, obviously for contract reasons in terms of respecting her contract. But, as far as we know, it has to do with budget, having a little more control over the money that is available to her, being allowed to, basically, spend at her discretion, and ultimately make decisions that are for the betterment of the team without having the CSA or the organizing body resisting her requests.” [1:48]

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Canada Puts Away 8 Goals Against Guyana. And Sinclair is All Sorts of Awesome.

CBC.ca/sports

With a convincing 8-0 victory over Guyana, Canada has officially qualified for the semi-final stage of the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifiers. The first ever match up between the 2 nations featured a quadruple by Sinclair and a line up that proves head coach Carolina Morace isn’t afraid to have her youngest players on the field at the same time.

-Morace made 6 changes to the starting line up that faced Trinidad and Tobago on Friday night. Canada started off against Guyana with Stephanie Labbé* in goal, Chelsea Stewart*, Sophie Schmidt, Candace Chapman and Rhian Wilkinson (Robyn Gayle, 46′) in defence, Desiree Scott*, Kaylyn Kyle (Brooke McCalla, 54′) and Carmelina Moscato* in midfield, and Kara Lang*, Christine Sinclair and Christina Julien* (Jonelle Filigno, 39′) up top. This was Labbé’s second cap and first ever start. Schmidt, who normally plays as a central midfielder for Canada, was shifted to the left side of central defence in order to rest Emily Zurrer, who required stitches after taking an elbow to the side of the head. Diana Matheson, an integral part of Canada’s midfield, was also rested and perhaps as a precaution after picking up a yellow card in the first game. With Filigno being subbed on at the end of the first half, both of Canada’s youngest players (age 20 and the other being Stewart) were on the field. All 20 players on Canada’s roster have now picked up minutes during the tournament, while 17 different players have started.  (* Indicates players new to the starting line up).

-With only 1 goal scored in their first game, Canada was looking to pick up the numbers this time around.

  • 15′ into the game, Julien got things going when she ran onto a Wilkinson throw in and placed a left footed shot to the near post for the opening goal. The Guyanese backline never challenged Julien, so she just let the throw in roll across the penalty area before finding her mark.
  • The first of Sinclair’s 4 goals came in the 34′ off a Canadian corner kick. The ball bounced out of the gloves of Guyanese ‘keeper, Catherine Kobelka, as she attempted to make the catch. Lang’s presence prevented Kobelka from smothering the rebound, and Sinclair tapped the ball in with her right foot.
  • By the end of the first half, Guyana had kept the score to a respectable 2-0, but the floodgates would open right from the start of the second half. Just 46 seconds in, Lang ran to the end line as she wrestled her way past a defender and somehow managed to keep the ball in play. She then cut it back to a wide open Filigno to slot in the shot. Interestingly enough, the first 2 goal celebrations were somewhat muted, but beginning with this goal the team finally seemed to be at ease.

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Interviews with Kara Lang and Stephanie Labbé

Prior to Canada’s September 30 friendly against China at BMO Field, several players took the time to speak with All White Kit. Here’s what they had to say:

 

Kara Lang
The former UCLA Bruin entered college as the #1 recruit. She set UCLA freshman records in goals and assists (17g, 6a), both of which were integral to her team’s 22-2-2 record in 2005 and their appearance at the NCAA College Cup Final that year. Her soccer potential was spotted early on as she made her Senior National Team debut at the age of 15 and signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps of the W-League as a 16 year-old. Following several U-19/U-20 Women’s World Cup appearances, Lang has represented the Senior squad at two WWCs, including a 4th place finish at the 2003 tournament, and the quarter-finals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Lang chatted with All White Kit about sponsorship deals, recovering from injuries, World Cup qualifying, and what to expect from China.

 

All White Kit: I’ve noticed that you and Stephanie Labbé have been tweeting about Umbro lately. Talk about that sponsorship and how you’re working with them.

Kara Lang: Recently, a bunch of us actually signed with Umbro and set up a deal, so they’re sponsoring us and giving us free boots. We’re all really excited about it and we’re happy to work with their company. It’s nice to be with a company that’s so enthusiastic about soccer and so supportive of us and our goals as players.

AWK: Do you know who else has signed with them as well?

KL: Carmelina Moscato, Emily Zurrer, Diana Matheson, Melissa Tancredi, Stephanie Labbé, and Brittany Timko.

AWK: You’ve recovered from last year’s ACL tear, but then you had a bit of a foot injury during the latter part of the Whitecaps’ season that kept you from playing. Is everything okay now? Back to full training and playing?

KL: Yeah, my foot’s completely healed. The stress fracture healed really well, so that’s good. I’m still kind of going through the recovery process with my knee. I’m about 100%, but now I’m kind of getting used to being back on the field and doing my best to crack the starting line up.

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Canada vs. China: Match Preview and Notes

(Scroll to the bottom of this post for some exciting news)

Canada is facing China tonight at BMO Field in Toronto. The match kicks off at 7:30 EST/4:30 PST and will be broadcasted live on Rogers Sportsnet East and Rogers Sportsnet Ontario.

This is a rare opportunity to play at home. Prior to 2008, Canada didn’t play a home game in over two years. Since then, one home game a year has been the norm, all of which have been held at BMO Field.

China has brought a really young team to face Canada and the US. 11 of the 23 players are from the 2006 U-20 WWC Russia and/or Thailand 2004, winning silver at both tournaments. That means that about half of the team was born on or after 1985. (I’ll give you better stats in another post). Veterans Bi Yan and Han Duan did not make the trip due to injuries.

The team is being revamped after a disappointing result at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup that meant China failed to qualify for the Women’s World Cup for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1991. Shang Ruihua took over as the head coach in 2008 after the team’s rocky relationship with Frenchwoman Elisabeth Loisel (2007-2008). Shang was replaced by Li Xiaopeng (not that Captain Obvious should butt in, but it’s the footballer Li Xiaopeng and not the gymnast, although that would be interesting =)) earlier this summer. Li is a former defensive midfielder for the Chinese National Team, and made a rare World Cup appearance in 2002.

Canada has been training since camp opened in Rome on August 25. After winning two exhibition games against Italian club teams in early September, Canada lost 5-0 to Germany in front of a raucous crowd of 20,431 in Dresden. The team relocated to Alliston, Ontario for more training on September 21 and played a closed door scrimmage on the 26th against China with a 1-1 result.

Following tonight’s match, China will face the USWNT in Kennesaw, Georgia October 2 at Kennesaw State University Soccer Stadium and in Chester, Pennsylvania October 6 at PPL Park. China is preparing for the 16th Annual Asian Games in November and is targeting a gold medal finish. Canada will return to training after a short break. Camp will resume at Nottawasaga Inn & Resort in Alliston, Ontario on October 4 and go until the 14. They will have open training sessions, so both fans and media are invited to attend. Continue reading

Match Preview: September 15 Canada vs. Germany

Canada’s head coach Carolina Morace has announced a 25 player roster for the September 15 international friendly against Germany in Dresden. Twenty-one players were selected from an 18 day camp held in Rome, Italy from August 25 to September 12, and the arrival of four others from Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) rounded out the squad. The match against Germany will take place at Rudolf Harbig Stadion at 6pm local time (12pm EST/ 9am PST), and will be broadcasted live on ARD in Germany.

The team held its first full training session in Dresden, Germany on September 13 at the Dresden Dynamo practice field. They will train again on the morning of the 14th. Morace, along with captain Christine Sinclair and co-captain Diana Matheson, will take part in a pre-game press conference the same day (1:30pm local time).

The roster is a mixture of veteran and youth presence. As noted on the Canadian Soccer Association website, 11 players from this roster have FIFA Women’s World Cup and/or Olympic experience. On the other hand, 7 players only recently debuted on the Senior National Team in 2009 or 2010, including Kendra Flock, Christina Julien, Alyssa Lagonia, Brooke McCalla, Caley Miskimmin Desiree Scott, and Chelsea Stewart. Additionally, 2 players, Gurveen Clair and Bahar Sansar, are yet to be capped at this level, and 12 of the 25 players have 10 caps or less. The eldest is Karina LeBlanc at 30 years of age and the youngest is 18 year-old Clair. The mean age of the roster is 24, while the average age is 24.32.

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